"If all of this seems long ago and far away, it is worth remembering that the past is never past." (Faulkner cited in Ellison, P.274)
Many different groups today are seeking the sovereignty of Hawaii. The reason being that these mostly Native Hawaiian groups feel that they suffered a severe injustice when they were annexed into the United States against their own free will. They feel that since they were treated like objects rather than human beings with rights and emotions, they now deserve reparations. The intentions of the different groups vary. Some only want reparations in the form of money and acknowledgements of the inhuman acts that were committed against them and others want it in the form of independence for the island. However, restoring sovereignty to Hawaii would cause great injustices toward the non-natives living on the island today. So these groups should not be granted the sovereignty they are seeking.
"When we have pleaded for understanding our character has been distorted, when we have asked for simple caring, we have been handed empty inspirational appellations, then stuck in the farthest corner."(Walker, p. 698). When the United States managed to annex Hawaii in 1898, they did break the law and the human code of conduct. A joint resolution of Congress produced the annexation rather than a two-thirds majority vote, which is required under the United States Constitution. (MacKenzie, p.24) Also, the Native Hawaiians were vastly opposed to the annexation because it violated a treaty the U.S. had with Hawaii stating that they would not interfere with Hawaii's right to self-government. (Castanha, p.2) So when the U.S. held a vote on whether or not Hawaii should become a state, many Hawaiians did not vote because their only choices were statehood or staying a territory of the U.S. and they did not want either of these. Many people today question the validity of the statehood because of the legal violations of long ago. Also, as human beings there is a naturally agreed upon law that we share with one another and that is to treat people with respect and dignity. The U.S. did not do this when they disregarded the treaty and the law to annex Hawaii. These are the reasons that Native Hawaiians are presently seeking reparations.
Prior to 1778, about 600,000 people, mostly all Native Hawaiian, inhabited the island of Hawaii. Currently, the island's population is about 1.2 million and only 200,000 of those people have Native bloodlines. (Jovek, p.408) So in reality, there are only a small percentage of people living on the island seeking reparations. Right now, there are two main models of self-determination requests: the first being a Hawaiian Nation within the U.S. and the second one having complete independence from the U.S. The first group wants recognition of Native Hawaiians as indigenous people and reparations in the form of money. The problem with this is the difficulty of determining who should pay and who should receive compensations since most people with native bloodlines are only descendents of those who had their land and culture taken away. It is hard to track down those with native bloodlines because so many ethnicities have intermixed in Hawaii and records have not always been well kept. The second group is advocating the return of lands and self-government. They believe that only full control over their language, schools, health care, cultural practices and particularly their land let Hawaiians regain their traditional ways of living. The dilemma with this is that these groups feel that since Hawaii was a self-sufficient nation once before that it can return to the way it was. Currently though, Hawaii's economy relies heavily on the U.S., especially for imported goods. The young and still premature Hawaiian Nation would be extremely vulnerable to other nations and very susceptible to attack. There is a chance the non-natives living on the island would either be forced to leave or have to become legal citizens of this new Hawaiian Nation. Also, the citizenship of people who became U.S. citizens in Hawaii would be in question and they would maybe have to move to the continental part of the country and start all over again with the legal processes. Basically the reparations that they are seeking today for injustices and human rights violations that happened 200 years ago would be committing injustices and human rights violations to a different group of people.
According to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom."(World Book, p.678) The United States has an agreement with the United Nations to uphold all of the articles listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at present, but when Hawaii was annexed into the U.S., they did not have any such agreement. The U.S. has publicly admitted guilt to taking lands from the self-sufficient nation and apologized, but no further reparations were discussed because Hawaii did not accept the apology. (MacKenzie, p.24) In Article 12 of the declaration, it states that no one shall be subjected to interference with his home and in Article 17, it says that no one shall be deprived of his property. (World Book, p.678) If the United States granted sovereignty to Hawaii, they would be violating these articles and would therefore lose credibility with the United Nations. They would also be helping to further along a process that would cause great injustices to many human beings. This is not something the U.S. can possibly do without causing immense distress and chaos. The only way to get around this problem is for the Hawaiian Natives to seek reparations in a different form.
The Native people of Hawaii were violated...200 years ago. They cannot possibly expect to be granted sovereignty with no strings attached. This is something that may cause violence and harm to innocent people who want to remain on the island if it does become independent. There would be so many hard feelings between the U.S. and Hawaii for years to come. The Hawaiian people with native bloodlines do deserve some sort of reparations, but they are not willing to compromise at this point. When the U.S. offered an apology to the native people, they were taking a step forward to try and mend a broken relationship. When they did not accept the apology, the natives were only harming themselves by moving away from some sort of an agreement. The U.S. was wrong in taking the land from an indigenous group of people. However, it has been too long to think about returning the land when the people who were the immediate victims and those who took the lands from them are already dead. If Hawaii really wants some form of true reparations and to be taken seriously, they should compromise and think of more efficient ways to resolve the issues at hand. They are being selfish in thinking that the land is rightfully theirs and no one else's. A successful nation must be made up of people with open minds and who can let go of bitter feelings. If Hawaiian Natives want to grow as a cultured group of indigenous people, they must concentrate on themselves and their customs, but there is no reason they cannot do this while still being a part of the U.S. Many people immigrate to the U.S. while still practicing their customs and language, it is just a matter of how dedicated people are to their heritage. If the Hawaiian Natives compromise, some form of redress will be awarded to them. It just a matter of what should be done.
These groups have not even considered some suggestions that have been brought up to resolve the problem. The main plan to redress the issue is very similar to the arrangement the U.S. has with Native Alaskans. The people of Hawaii with native bloodlines would be considered an indigenous group of people and would receive free dental and health care. There is also a suggestion to give them all a small tax break, but that part is very unclear still. The indigenous group would receive funding for schooling to help keep alive the language and culture of the people. In my opinion this is a wonderful plan of redress. This would give the natives a great opportunity to define themselves as a well cultured indigenous group. It would be the start to a trusting relationship that is much needed in the world today.
In Desmond Tutu's words, "I would not know how to be a human being at all, except I learned this from other human beings. We are a network of relationships, of interdependence."(Jaffrey, p.18) Similarly, Hawaii is a small group of islands that cannot stand alone just as human beings cannot. To be human means to works together to make life more bearable and to strive for happiness for all people, not just one group. Despite what has gone on in the past, Hawaii is now part of our nation and should remain so. Sovereignty should not be granted to Hawaii, but reparations for Native Hawaiians should be decided upon because the past cannot be erased with time, it can only be forgotten. But this is something that should not be forgotten because it should never happen again. Only after it has been redressed, can the wound start to heal and people start to learn from this injustice committed against human beings.
Castanha, Anthony. (1996, August). "A History of the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement." The Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement: Roles and Impacts on Non-Hawaiians, Chapter 3. <http://www.hookele.com/non-hawaiians/chapter3.html>[10/14/00]
Ellison, Ralph. (1986). "An Extravagance of Laughter." Ways of Reading. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, p.274.
"Human Rights." The World Book Encyclopedia, 1997 ed, p.678.
Inouye, Dan. (2000, September 14). "U.S. Relationship with Native Hawaiians." FDCH Congressional Testimony. Online source: Academic Search Elite. [10/25/00]
Jaffrey, Zia. (1998, February). "Truth and Reconciliation Commission Interview." Progressive, Vol. 62 Issue 11, p.18.
Jovik, Sonia P. and James O. Jovik. (1997). "History." Atlas of Hawaii. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, p.408.
MacKenzie, Melody Kapilialoha. (1991). Native Hawaiian Rights Handbook. Honolulu: Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation/ Office of Hawaiian Affairs, p. 24.
Walker, Alice. (1974). "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens." Ways of Reading. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, pp. 694-701.