Hawaiian cultural practitioners, community leaders and activists who speak for Hawaiian rights and the protection of Mauna Kea, send letter to Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, in advance of a congressional proposal for Hawaiian reparations.
News Release from Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, April 16, 2021
In a letter to Secretary Haaland, Kealoha Pisciotta, a cultural practitioner who, for more than two decades, has led efforts to stop new construction of telescopes on Mauna Kea, congratulated Haaland for her historic role at the Department of Interior. The letter also addressed Hawaiian trepidations over federal legislation to be proposed regarding the Hawaiian people. Issues raised stem from reports in the press that Congressman Kai Kahele, along with Congressman Ed Case, plan to seek reparations for Native Hawaiians. Many, including Pisciotta, view this move as another way to enact legislation similar to the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, known as the Akaka Bill.
Written on behalf of several Hawaiian rights groups, Mauna Kea Moku Nui 'Aelike/Consensus Building 'Ohana, Mauna Kea Anainahou, and the Mauna Kea Hui, the 6-page long letter calls upon Haaland to take a deeper look at the Hawaiian people’s history.
It states, “The theft of our land and sovereignty has been ceaseless since 1893,” and includes a list of historical events that have been detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the Hawaiian people, starting with the U.S. backed overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The list also includes the 1959 “statehood” vote and the 1993 Apology Resolution, and mentions the Obama Administration’s 2014 DOI hearings in Hawai‘i, when “thousands of Hawaiians testified in person and were opposed to becoming a tribe, like our kupuna who signed the 1897 petitions were opposed to becoming American.” The Kūʻē Petitions were signed by more than 90% of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s citizenry, and successfully helped Hawaiian advocates in Washington, DC stop the second attempt to pass a Treaty of Annexation through the U.S. congress.
Ku Ching, a Hawaiian kupuna, lawyer, and longtime activist, who is also a member of the Mauna Kea Moku Nui ‘Aelike/ Consensus Building Ohana, was asked why the petitions matter. He said, “Hawaiians never agreed to be part of the United States or become American citizens. The Hawaiian Kingdom was an internationally recognized nation on par with the U.S. Although the U.S. took control of our country in 1898, they did that against the will of the people. Those petitions are proof of that. There never was a Treaty of Annexation, and under international law, that means Hawai‘i remains an independent nation that is illegally occupied by a foreign power.”
Hawaiian challenges to U.S. claims of jurisdiction over Hawai‘i date back to when the U.S. took control, but have been taken to the United Nations and The Hague in recent decades. And the question of whether or not Hawai‘i is an occupied State or part of the U.S. has been a main component of the sovereignty movement during the 21st century. It is a serious issue for Native Hawaiians, who face federal and state attempts to erode their rights and find themselves embroiled in political and legal battles over the Crown and Government lands of the kingdom. Many of the sacred sites that people, like Pisciotta, spend their lives protecting, such as Mauna Kea, are part of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Crown and Government lands.
When Pisciotta was asked why she thought sending a letter to Haaland now, instead of after Kahele and others propose legislation, she answered, “If it were only that simple. But it is anything but [simple] because 2 Hawaiians are inundated with state and federal attacks on our sovereign rights as a Native people, and as a nation, with every successive administration. And Kai [Kahele] isn’t in Washington, DC, to represent the lahui (Hawaiian Nation). He is there as an American who is of Hawaiian ancestry, not as a Hawaiian national. Our rights to self-determination are directly related to our rights to be our own nation. We are Indigenous, yes, but we are also descendants of kingdom citizens. Congressman Kahele swore an oath to the U.S. constitution, not the Hawaiian Kingdom. But more than that, so many generations of Hawaiians have spent their lives fighting, whether to protect our sacred sites or to stop the American government from enacting legislation aimed at dissolving our aboriginal title to our land base. So, the groups I am speaking for thought it best to be proactive rather than reactive. We know what is coming because Congressmen Case and Kahele said as much in the press.”
Pisciotta’s sense of urgency echoes an attitude that is prevalent among many Hawaiian activists. After years of protests and court battles to stop the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) from being built on Mauna Kea, Hawaiians are weary of the government’s refusal to acknowledge their rights. Citing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Pisciotta said, “The United States is a signatory on the UNDRIP. The U.S. also knows that it has no provable legal jurisdiction over Hawai‘i or the Hawaiian people, because if that country did have jurisdiction it would provide us with a copy of documentation proving it. Now is the time for Hawaiian rights to be acknowledged and respected, not covered up with more federal and state so-called legal machinations, like the fake annexation. Hawaiians cannot afford to wait and see what the United States is going to do. We need to decide what is best for us. It is our deepest, most humble hope that because Deb Haaland is a Native woman, she is willing to hear the truth about what has happened to Hawai‘i and the Hawaiian people.”
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