Hawai’i Needs You

The Nation.

Hawaii Needs You

This article appeared in the April 28, 2008 edition of The Nation.
April 8, 2008

An open letter to the US left from the Hawaiian sovereignty movement.

The confluence of two forces–a massive military expansion in Hawai’i and Congressional legislation that will stymie the Kanaka Maoli [Native Hawaiian] sovereignty movement–will expand and consolidate the use of Hawai’i for US empire. We are calling on the US left to join our movement opposing these threats and to add our quest for independence as a plank of the broad US left strategy for a nonimperialist America. If you support peace and justice for the United States and the world, please support demilitarization and independence for Hawai’i.

Since 1893, the United States has malformed Hawai’i into the command and control center for US imperialism in Oceania and Asia. From the hills of the Ewa district of O’ahu, the US Pacific Command–the largest of the unified military commands–directs troops and hardware throughout literally half the planet. Since the late nineteenth century, the US military has multiplied in our islands, taking 150,000 acres for its use, including one-quarter of the metropolitan island of O’ahu. Moreover, the National Security Administration is building a new surveillance facility nearby, not far from where urban assault brigades, called Strykers, will train for deployment throughout the world. The US Navy is also increasing training over the entire archipelago, including populated areas and the fragile northwestern whale sanctuary. This militarized occupation has a long history. Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa–known now as Pearl Harbor–became one of the very first overseas bases, along with Guantánamo, around the time of the Spanish-American War. We still hold much in common with prerevolution Cuba–a sugar plantation economy and status as the playground for the rich of North America.

We have suffered from the effects of being the pawn for US wars on the world. Our family members languish from strange diseases brought by military toxins in our water and soil. Our economy is a foreign-run modern plantation serving multinational shareholders and decorated generals. We salute a foreign flag, and the education system instructs us to yearn for a distant continent called the Mainland. Tourists imbibe in sunny Waīkikī, while the beaches in the native-inhabited regions are littered with chemical munitions.

But amid our suffering, we have survived. Our tenacity and resilience have historical roots: in 1897, 95 percent of the Kanaka Maoli population signed petitions that helped to defeat a treaty to forcibly annex Hawai’i to the United States.

The last forty years have seen remarkable change for our people, through the advancement of a grassroots struggle against the political occupation and mental colonization of our homeland. We have been successful in several campaigns: in stopping the bombing of Kaho’olawe Island and Makua Valley, in revitalizing the Hawaiian language and culture in our schools and families, in returning to our indigenous spiritual practices and in making Hawaiian sovereignty a dinner-table topic and an actual possibility. These hard-fought wins are successes in the movement for self-determination and also a threat to America’s use of Hawai’i as the purveyor of its empire.

It is against this backdrop that the Akaka bill (the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act) is being discussed in the halls of Congress. Named for US Senator Daniel Akaka, the bill is being promoted by Hawai’i’s corporate and political elite as a vehicle for racial justice. Yet the bill would turn back one of the most important victories of the last four decades–the rise of Hawaiian self-determination, including independence, as a political possibility–replacing it with the extinguishment of our historic claims to land and sovereignty.

Our conundrum puts us squarely in opposition to the middle ground of American politics, which has arrived at a consensus that Hawai’i will remain a military colony of the United States. Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye is a major purveyor of pork barrel spending for military appropriations and defense contractors. All three presidential contenders have signaled their support for the Akaka bill. And while the far right wing of the Republican Party opposes the Akaka bill, both major parties have no quarrel over the continuance of the empire’s use of our homeland.

In light of this American consensus on Hawai’i, we turn to our nearest political allies, US progressive movements, and seek your solidarity for our independence because it is congruent and essential to your hope for a better world. Please join us in opposing the Akaka bill and the militarization of Hawai’i, and please support Hawai’i’s independence as part of your vision for a more humane United States and a more just world.

Ikaika Hussey, convenor, Movement for Aloha No ka Aina

Terrilee Keko’olani, Ohana Koa/Nuclear-Free and Independent Pacific

Noelani Goodyear-Kaopua, assistant professor of political
 science, University of Hawaii, Manoa

Jon Osorio, director, Center for Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawaii, Manoa

Kekuni Blaisdell, convenor, Ka Pakaukau

Andre Perez, Hui Pu

Kelii “Skippy” Ioane, Hui Pu

Kai’opua Fyfe, director, The Koani Foundation

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