Winona LaDuke: More Land For The Military Than For Hawaiians

From Indian Country Today and

Homeless In Hawaii

More Land For The Military Than For Hawaiians

Part One of Two

By Winona LaDuke, Guest Columnist

August 3, 2004

It’s summer in Hawaii, the state is considering another generous land donation to the military and has made homelessness a crime. Under the cover of the term “Military Transformation” and with the blanket of 9/11, the military is taking a wide berth in land stealing. And, recently enacted Act 50 makes criminals out of people who have been displaced by the military itself, many of them Native Hawaiian.

“They bombed the houses in the l940s and took over the entire valley,” explained Sparky Rodrigues, one of many Makua residents still waiting to move home. “The government moved all of the residents out and said after the war, you can move back – and then they used the houses for target practice. The families tell stories that the military came with guns and said, ‘Here’s $300, thank you,’ and ‘You’ve got to move.’ Those people remain without their houses, and for years, many lived on the beaches in beautiful Makua Valley, watching the bombing of their land.

“Tomorrow morning they’re going to detonate a 1,000 pounder, a 500 pounder and a 100 pound bomb,” Rodriques mused. Such detonations are part of the military cleanup of the site before, apparently, any new maneuvers. “We’ve gone in and observed them detonate those bombs,” said Rodriques. More than once, live ammunition has washed up on the beaches at Makua.

Malu Aina, a military watchdog group from Hawaii reported:

“Live military ordnance in large quantities has been found off Hapuna Beach and in Hilo Bay. Additional ordnance, including grenades, artillery shells, rockets, mortars, armor piercing ordnance, bazooka rounds, napalm bombs, and hedgehog missiles have been found at Hilo airport in Waimea town, Waikoloa Village, in North and South Kohala at Puako and Mahukona, in Kea’au and Maku ‘u farm lots in Puna, at South Point in Ka’u, and on residential and school grounds. At least nine people have been killed or injured by exploding ordnance. Some unexploded ordnance can be set off even by cell phones.”

Since the end of World War II, Hawaii has been the center of the United States military’s Pacific Command (PACOM), from which all U.S. forces in the region are directed. Hawaii serves as an outpost for Pacific expansionism, along with Guam, the Marshall Islands, Samoa and the Philippines. PACOM is the center of U.S. military activities over more than half the earth, from the west coast of the U.S. to Africa’s east coast, from the Arctic to Antarctica, covering 70 percent of the world’s oceans.

The military controls more of Hawaii than any other state, including some 25 percent of Oahu, valuable “submerged lands” (i.e. estuaries and bays), and until relatively recently, the island of Kaho’olawe. The island was the only National Historic Site also used as a bombing range. Finally, after years of litigation and negotiations, Congress placed a moratorium on the bombing, but after $400 million already spent in cleanup money, much remains to be completed.

The U.S. military controls 200,000 acres of Hawaii, with over 100 military installations and at least 150,000 personnel. Among the largest sites is the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), a 108,793-acre bombing range between the sacred mountains of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in the center of the big island, Hawaii. At least seven million rounds of ammunition are fired annually at that base alone. The military proposes to expand the base by 23,000-acres under the “Military Transformation Proposal” and plans to bring in Stryker brigades to the area. The military is hoping for up to 79,000 additional acres in new land acquisition. Pohakuloa has the “highest concentration of endangered species of any Army installation in the world,” according to its former commander Lt. Col. Dennis Owen, with over 250 ancient Hawaiian archeological sites. Those species and archeological sites are pretty much “toast” under the expansion plans.

Hawaiian military bucks and the homeless

There are some benefits to being a senior senator like Daniel Inouye. The $l.5 billion dollar pork-barrel proposal to expand Hawaii’s military bases would include more than 400 Stryker vehicles (eight-wheeled, 19-ton, armored infantry carriers), new C-l7 transport planes and additional arsenal expansions.

Adding more military personnel and bases is always a good way to boost a state’s economy. After all, a recent Hawaii Advertiser article featured Pearl Harbor businessmen lamenting the number of troops “sent out” to Iraq, and the downswing in business at the barbershops and elsewhere. The message: “New troops needed to fill up those businesses!”

Inouye, who is the ranking member of the Defense Appropriations Committee has been a strong advocate for more military in Hawaii. Yet, in his vice chairmanship of the Indian Affairs Committee, he has been a stronger advocate for diminishing Native Hawaiian sovereignty, rights and land title. New proposals (the so-called Akaka Bill) would strip Hawaiians of long-term access to land, and follow the suit of the infamous Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act, barring future recourse for justice.

In the meantime, the 2 million acres of land originally earmarked for Native Hawaiians (under Hawaii’s statehood act) are being transferred to private interests and to the military. Some 22,000 Native Hawaiians remain on waiting lists for their homestead awards, and an estimated 30,000 have died while on the list awaiting their homesteads. The Hawaiian lands end up with the military or developers. “We can barely pay house rent, and they build apartments,” said one Hawaiian from the Wai’anae coast. “With inflation now, its hard to buy tomatoes, carrots … You cannot eat ’em, those buildings.”

Hawaii has now adopted one of the nation’s severest penalties to discourage individuals from living on public property. Act 50, a recently passed law, bans individuals for an entire year from the public areas where they are given a citation. The act stipulates that people found illegally occupying public property such as beaches and parks are subject to ejection, and if they return within a year they face arrest, a possible $1,000 fine and/or 30 days in jail. Many Hawaiian families live on the beaches and in public parks. The Beltran family, among others, has lived on the beach at Mokule’ia for 12 years, claiming the right to live there as ancestral, but each week they must get a permit to camp. “We have a right to be here, because our ancestors were from here,” Beltran explained to a reporter. “I cannot go to the mainland and say that’s my home. I cannot go to Japan and call that my home. This is my home, right here. I will never give this place up.”


More land for the military than for Hawaiians (Part Two of Two)

Posted: August 03, 2004 – 8:24am EST by: Winona LaDuke / Guest Columnist

Special to Indian Country Today (Part Two of Two)

“Except as required for defense purposes in a time of national emergency, the government shall not deliberately destroy any object of antiquity, prehistoric ruin or monument …”

– Makua lease provision held by the U.S. Military

The new Stryker/Military Transformation proposal by Senator Inouye will exacerbate the already desperate situation of many Hawaiians, who comprise a good portion of those without permanent housing and at least half of the present prison population.

“All of the Hawaiian poor come to Wainaie, all of the homeless come to Waianae,” said Sparky Rodrigues. “If the military comes in here with their cost of living allowance with the Strykers’ new expansion, then rent will go up, and they’ll bring in 30,000 people. Property values will go up. More Hawaiians will be forced onto the beach as homeless, and they are going to be criminalized.”

The system is already poised to worsen the problem and serve as a drain on the state’s social services Rodrigues explained. “Child Protection Services is looking at homelessness as child abuse. So they’re not going to build schools, and there is an oppressive environment, they can’t get jobs, can’t pay for the house.”

Rodrigues and his wife, Leandra Wai Rodrigues, were arrested in l996 on Father’s Day at Makua. Their family and others were all evicted. “Everything that was left behind was bulldozed and destroyed. Actually they took all our good stuff, and gave it to other people,” Leandra lamented.

“It was a huge community of homeless, about 60 families and we ended up creating our own self governance,” explained Sparky. “The welfare office was sending families that couldn’t afford rent to Makua because it was a safe place. Our goal was to look for long-term solutions to homelessness. Our goal was to go there, and then go back into society. They [social service agencies] aren’t interested in a long term solution, their solution is to pass laws and arrest people.” He added, “calling the folks on the beach ‘squatters’ changes the whole way of looking at it. If they are traditional practitioners or want to live a traditional lifestyle, they are Hawaiians. The use of the word ‘squatters’ makes it okay for the government to bring in the bulldozers and arrest them.”

Clean up and the Range Readiness Proposal

Clean up is not the military’s strongest suit. Of the whopping federal defense budget of $265 billion, only a fraction will be spent on cleaning up exploded ordnance at test sites, let alone sites in the process of decommissioning, like Wisconsin’s Badger Munitions Plant, in which the Ho-Chunk Nation seeks some part in its recovery. An Associated Press news story of Jan. 16 stated that according to congressional auditors “removing unexploded munitions and hazardous waste found so far on 15 million acres of shutdown U.S. military ranges could take more than 300 years.” The clean up cost is now estimated at $35 billion and climbing rapidly from an estimate of $20 billion a year ago.

In the present environment and with leadership like Senator Inouye, it looks like the reverse: Build up, not clean up, is on the horizon. Under a bill called the “Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative”, the Department of Defense is pushing Congress to give more waivers to the military for clean up. Last year, the Defense Department succeeded in gaining exemptions for the U.S. military to the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammals Protection Act. The Defense Department now wants exemptions from the Clean Air Act, Superfund Laws and others, all under the premise of national security.

At hearings this spring on the Range Readiness proposals, U.S. Representative Edward Markey, D-Mass., said, “There is no reason to incur ‘collateral damage’ to our public health while meeting our military needs,” referring to the present problems with military contamination.

All told, the Department of Defense is the nation’s largest toxic polluter with over 11,000 toxic “hot spots” on 1,855 military facilities nationwide. If we are to look at Hawaii’s prospects as to what is in the pipeline, there may be some cause for concern. Sparky Rodrigues noted the irony. “They spend billions making Weapons of Mass Destruction but pennies on clean up.” In short, being homeless in Hawaii isn’t as glamorous as being sleepless in Seattle, and by the next millennium, and the next conflict, there may be more Hawaiians in prison than on the beaches.

Winona LaDuke, Ojibwe from the White Earth reservation, is program director of Honor the Earth, a national Native American environmental justice program. She served as the Green Party vice presidential candidate in the 1996 and 2000 elections. She can be reached at

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