As we re-group and rethink our next steps to achieve political sovereignty, perhaps we should re-focus the considerable resources held by the collective Hawaiian community toward a goal that does not require a congressional act or asking anyone’s permission to achieve. Let us pursue the path of a Hawaiian future that is totally within our control to navigate. Let us turn our attention toward the notion of Economic Sovereignty. We don’t need political sovereignty to achieve economic sovereignty.
If one were to tally up the lands and cash assets that are already under the direct control of the major Hawaiian institutions, that is the collective institutional wealth of the Hawaiian community, we have, at our command, a staggering economic capacity. The major players are the Kamehameha Schools, Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust, Queen Emma Trust and Land Company, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Then there are millions of dollars in federal entitlement programs that continue to accrue to the Hawaiian community.
Consider the compelling picture that emerges. The collective wealth of these Hawaiian institutions includes hundreds of thousands of acres of land in fee simple title as well as billions of dollars in cash assets. Hawaiians have emerged collectively as the single wealthiest ethnic group in the history of Hawaiʻi. Our collective economic base is bigger than the Big Five! I wonder what might be possible if we tried to connect the institutional dots and rise to the kuleana (responsibility) of forging a common vision of a Hawaiian economic future, one that serves Hawaiians in ways that would also lift the economy of the entire state in a sharing of the wealth. What would it take to assemble our institutional economic leaders into a puwalu or collective to forge a Hawaiʻi nation economy? Why do we need to beg for the right to exercise nationhood? We are a nation. All we have to do is to behave and act like one.
I am cautioned that flaunting our collective wealth will only fuel the fire created by those who challenge the constitutionality of and need for government-sponsored entitlement programs. But this is not a reason to not act like a nation. Sometimes we are our own worse enemy when we posture ourselves as professional victims and cling to the government-dependent models that keep us disenfranchised. Let us defend the entitlements as justice earned in settlement of our claims for reconciliation.
Meanwhile, we have tremendous capacity. We can become major players in shaping Hawaiʻi’s growth. All we have to do is laulima–work together. The time has come. The opportunity is here. We have but to seize it.