Testifiers sound off on sovereignty at Waimea, Kona meetings


As the United States celebrates its declaration of freedom from Britain’s tyranny this Independence Day, it continues to illegally occupy Hawaii — an independent nation that deserves self-determination and restoration by its people — testifiers said Thursday.

Hundreds of people attended public meetings in Waimea and Kailua-Kona to listen and provide testimony to the federal panel, tasked with gauging the reaction to the proposed re-establishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community. A standing room only crowd spilled into the hallway at the Waimea Community Center, a venue deemed too small and not pono by attendees. At Kealakehe High, there was more than enough room for the estimated 160 people in attendance.

Rhea Suh, an assistant secretary with the Department of the Interior, said the federal agency is asking “dense” questions that the Native Hawaiian community needs to define the answers to. The department wants to know whether the Obama administration should facilitate the re-establishment of a government-to-government relationship with the community and help Native Hawaiians reorganize their government.

In two words: No thanks.

That was the response of many who spoke up at the meetings, saying the validity of the Hawaiian nation has never been in question.

“We never lost our sovereignty,” said Micah De Aguiar, speaking at Kealakehe High. “We lost our government. We never lost our identity as a country.”

Testifiers said they were not American Indians and didn’t want to be treated as such.

“The United States has broken nearly every treaty they have ever signed, including ours, but they also left the Indian people in poverty, in war with one another,” said Kaimana Freitas. “They continue to steal their lands and destroy their natural resources, and that is exactly what they intend to do with us.”

When asked, Suh did not provide a legal interpretation or definition of Native Hawaiian. Several testifiers mentioned there was an important distinction between Native Hawaiians, Hawaiians and those who are not U.S. citizens. The Department of the Interior was also accused of dividing the community. Other repeated requests were to have Secretary of State John Kerry weigh in on the legal standing of Hawaii’s sovereignty under international law and to have the Hawaiian Kingdom represented by a delegate to the United Nations.

Pomaikai Brown wore the name of Charles Peleiholani, his great-grandfather who signed the Kue Petition in 1897. He identified himself as a kanaka maoli and Hawaiian national from Waikoloa. Like most testifiers in Waimea, his answer to the posed threshold questions was no. After watching testimony from the previous public hearings, Brown said kanaka maoli and Hawaiian nationals have a lot to be thankful for.

“Your being here allows us to gain more knowledge about your intent to keep us enslaved by way of your brochures; see which Native Hawaiians, your definition, have no desire for true independence; remain unified as a nation and to keep mindful that being a Hawaiian national is not race restrictive; rally together to further the cause of U.S. de-occupation; and hear again indisputable evidence that the U.S. has no legal jurisdiction over these Hawaiian Islands,” Brown said.

Many testifiers wanted the federal government to create a process for de-occupation.

“Our beloved Queen Liliuokalani set a foundation under the Law of the Nations for our people and I want to say to you that she prepared the way for us to reinstate and continue to live independently in our Hawaiian Kingdom. However we work it out, it is our kuleana, and your understanding of all the hurt and distrust would be appreciated,” said Kohala resident Gale Kuulei Baker Miyamura Perez. “Someone said we are the people of aloha, I say, do not mistake aloha for weakness. We are fully capable of carrying out leadership roles under our Kanawai laws and terms. We may have disagreements, but one thing is sure, I and my ohana want to remain what we are — a sovereign independent nation, not a tribe or nation within a nation.”

Aole means no, and that is the answer to the federal government’s questions, said Kini Kaawa at the Kailua-Kona hearing.

“What we want is for the proper steps to be taken to provide justice, equity and reparations so that the Kingdom of Hawaii may be restored,” she said. “We can trust that our people can once again manage our own resources and lead our government in righteousness.”

After two and a half hours of testimony from those wanting to create their own government without America’s influence Thursday morning, Kailua-Kona resident Brucella Halani Hopkins Berard gave another perspective. She wants to re-establish a government-to-government relationship with the U.S.

“I am in favor of having the Department of Interior assist us by facilitating the process. I believe it will help greatly by saving us a good amount of time in guiding us to stay within the boundaries of the law,” Berard said. “Facilitate is a friendly word to me. It means ‘to make easy; to lessen the difficulty.’”

The Kailua-Kona hearing was still ongoing at press time.

The public has until Aug. 19 to submit comments online at regulations.gov or via mail to Office of the Secretary, Department of the Interior, Room 7329, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240. Include Regulation Identifier No. 1090-AB05.

Email Carolyn Lucas-Zenk at clucas-zenk@westhawaiitoday.com and Bret Yager at byager@westhawaiitoday.com.com.