Prominent leaders of the Hawaiian community are leading an important initiative to declare 2018 as the Year of the Hawaiian beginning with a Legislative Resolution. The initiative is expected to manifest itself throughout the year in various forms of political and cultural Hawaiian activism. So, the Year of the Hawaiian 2018 is expected see Hawaiians raise the bar on the politics of Hawaiian self-determination.
By the time this column is published an initial shot across the bow will have occurred at the opening of the state legislature as hundreds of Hawaiians are expected to rally in a show of unification that is expected to center on the theme of an OHA sponsored video-documentary titled Justice Delayed is Justice Denied which by now will have been broadcast on all of Hawai’i’s major television media as well as widely circulated on the internet. The video calls the state to task to honor its trust responsibility to Native Hawaiians, to stop the foot dragging on long overdue re-calculations of the 20% of state ceded land trust revenue due Hawaiians, which by most calculations finds the state millions of dollars in arrears.
While the ceded land trust revenue issue is critical to any resolution of the larger objective of reconciling the controversy of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, there are a number of other bridges to cross. The list is topped by the hotly debated question of federal recognition juxtaposed between two other options: re-establishing an independent Hawaiian nation, or the status quo which is already laden with hundreds of federal entitlements and Hawaiian-friendly federal and state policies.
There is a fourth path to consider besides federal recognition, independence, or status quo. I suggest we give some serious consideration to pursuing state recognition, a government-to-government relationship between the State of Hawai‘i and Hawaiians. This is not a new idea. There are already long-standing models of a government-to-government relationship between Native American Tribes and their states. The state recognition experience has discovered that “State governments and tribal governments have far more in common than they have in conflict. Both have a primary interest in protecting the health and welfare of their people. Both want to promote the economy, provide jobs, protect natural resources and the environment, and provide governmental services.” (Excerpt from Understanding State and Tribal Governments published in 2000 by National Conference of State Legislatures).
Regardless of which of the four models of self-determination Hawaiians pursue, I don’t believe we can succeed without the support of all of Hawai‘i. I also strongly believe that there are more than a few folks from the ranks of talented non-Hawaiian political and community leaders who are ready, willing and able to help us navigate an inclusive and intelligent path to self-determination that would make Hawai‘i a better place for everyone.
The Year of the Hawaiian is an important opportunity for Hawaiians to reach out to the rest of Hawai‘i in pursuit of state recognition and its strategic value of inclusive public dialogue which brings both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians to the table, here in Hawai‘i – not in Washington, D.C.
Hawai‘i Loa Kū Like Kākou – All Hawai‘i Stand Together.