Settlement is unlawful sell-out

J. Kehaulani Kauanui

Although the Honolulu dailies have been touting the recent settlement agreement between Governor Linda Lingle and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a "land and cash deal worth over $200 million dollars," let's be clear: this is no victory for the Hawaiian people. Because the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and state had been in dispute over what the payments should be, and over which lands and what revenues are covered, OHA filed a lawsuit against the state that reached the Hawai'i Supreme Court. The state court instructed the state government to negotiate with the state agency of OHA. If the state legislation passes, the state government would continue to pay OHA about $15.1 million annually and transfer some lands from one arm of state to the other.

The whole thing is a charade! This recent maneuvering within the state is simply an attempt by OHA to collect as much from the state legislature in anticipation of the Akaka bill passing, so that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs portfolio will be worth more when transferred to the proposed Native Hawaiian Governing Entity. This is the sell-out deal that would follow in the immediate wake of the passage of the Akaka bill, if it makes it out of the US Senate. OHA is working in unison with the federal representatives; they have sold us out time and time again, and now reps are trying to work their way into becoming US recognized leaders of a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity under US domestic law. Or worse, it also works as a "plan B" scheme for OHA to work their way towards a global settlement with the state in case the federal bill fails again. OHA says it wants the "return" of the lands or compensation for the loss of the lands as a result of the overthrow and annexation. Unlawful sell-out!

Given that former Governor Ben Cayetano refused to allot the revenues according to the court ordered formula in the past, we have to ask why Governor Lingle is so willing now. Don't forget that Lingle's State Attorney General relentlessly continues to get the Hawai`i courts to affirm that the state has the right to sell our national lands. The Hawai`i Supreme Court's order for an injunction to bar the sale of the land until claims are resolved has people focused on the stalled Akaka bill in Congress, which could create "a third party" to resolve claims on the ceded lands—but we already know who would constitute this so-called third party: the trustees of OHA.

Whenever any state government supports federal recognition of the indigenous peoples residing without the boundaries asserted by the state, we must ask why. What will the state government of Hawaii gain from passage of the Akaka bill? And why does the state support federal recognition in this case, when states almost always oppose the federal acknowledgement of Native Nations? It's simple: because the state has a lot to gain—the 1.8 million acres of land to which the Hawaiian people and other descendants of citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom still hold collective title. Even the US Apology Resolution passed by Congress in 1993 affirms that these are our national lands: "the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum."

As everyone knows, and yet so many still want to deny, the Hawaiian Kingdom never ceded these lands to the provisional government, nor the so-called Republic of Hawai`i, nor to the US government. The new Republic seized these lands then ceded them to the US in 1898. The Hawaii Admission Act transferred them from federal to state control, then the Hawaii State Constitution asserted that the lands shall be: "held by the State as a public trust for native Hawaiians and the general public" (Article 7, Section 4). Different branches of the state can swap, scheme, and swindle, but those of us who hold true to our history of resistance to the US "annexation," and our unabiding claim to nationhood under international law will hold fast and hold firm; we will not settle.