by Andrew Walden
(Originally published February, 2007--republished after Sovereignty activists attacked a meeting at which Curtis was speaking August 22, 2010.)
Results in a pilot study "Native Hawaiian Perceptions of Violence as a Means to Attain Sovereignty" show a sharp contrast between the number of Native Hawaiians interviewed who believe violence is justifiable to achieve sovereignty -- 6 percent -- and the number who believe "the desire to gain sovereignty will result in violence in the future -- 53 percent. Only 24.8 percent felt that violence would definitely not occur.
According to the study conducted by University of Hawaii at Hilo Associate Professor Dr. Thom Curtis, "Many of the subjects responded to this question with great emotion." One Native Hawaiian interviewed in the survey responds: "If you go to my militant friends when I listen to them I think it (violence) is an option for them, and option on the table. You know individuals, it they feel angry enough, can resort to violence, can use that option."
Other study responses gathered during interviews conducted in Hilo in 2005 hint at violence among Hawaiian sovereignty groups stifling free speech among Hawaiians:
- "A lot of people who are in these groups are now teaching their children to become involved in the sovereignty movement and the children, the generation of today is a lot more militant than they were of say, my generation."
- "I believe it already has (caused violence). You know that there have been violent acts, not well publicized and, um, it's not out there, it's not, um, well-known but there has been violence and it's sad because the Hawaiians are the ones who go hurt."
- "It's happening in front of our eyes, that you have Hawaiian fighting Hawaiian"
- "That's the thing. They fight. They do, like you said, they (the groups) fight constantly."
- "We need more aloha and people are taking advantage of our aloha."
- "some groups do use extreme measures to get their voices across"
With a pilot study, it is difficult to assess the overall attitudes of Native Hawaiians towards the sovereignty movement. It is possible that many of the 94 percent who reject violence feel intimidated by the 6 percent who claim that violence is "an appropriate way to achieve sovereignty." There is also a big difference between telling an interviewer that violence is appropriate and actually carrying out an act of violence.
The results show that only 32.7 percent favor some form of sovereignty while 27.4 percent oppose and 39.8 percent are neutral. Asked whether they are actively involved in the sovereignty movement, 16.8 percent responded in the affirmative.
According to Curtis, "The research has gone through the scientific vetting process at a number of levels. The project was approved by the University of Hawaii Human Subjects Committee and Institutional Review Board. That is a process required to ensure that a research project meets Federal scientific ethics standards. It has also been reviewed by three different professional organizations for scientific soundness, a process called refereeing."
The project was selected based on its merit for public presentation the following research conferences:
- International Conference on Social Science Research in Orlando, FL December 2005
- 27th Annual Meeting of Hawaii Sociological Association in Honolulu on April 1, 2006
- International Academy of Linguistics, Behavioral and Social Sciences Huntington Beach, CA, November, 2006.
The study results are in line with a groundbreaking 2006 telephone survey of Hawaii households by the Grassroot Institute which asked about support for the Akaka Bill, and support for Hawaii statehood. Of Native Hawaiians responding to the automated survey, 38.57 percent indicated they would vote against Hawaii Statehood if the question were put before them today. These numbers stand in sharp contrast to the 1959 Hawaii statehood referendum in which 94 percent of the electorate supported statehood. On Molokai, the most Hawaiian of all the major islands, support was 97 percent.
Says Curtis, "After the university sent out a press release regarding this research last spring, I received numerous contacts from people interested including a Honolulu newspaper, university administrators, legislators, lobbyists, and employees from various government agencies.
"There were several interesting reactions. Some thought that the research could cause 'problems' and it may be best not to be associated with it or to publicize it. Others expressed an interest in using the findings to support particular causes or positions. Some people appear to actually fear talking about the potential of a sovereignty-related violence.
"The feeling I've been left with is 'If we don't talk about it, maybe it will go away'. It's almost as if some think that public discourse on the topic might be the cause of violence. In a presentation to administrators at UH Manoa, I referred to it as 'the elephant in the room' that nobody wants to recognize exists."
Responding to questions from Hawai’i Free Press, University of Hawaii Vice-President for Research, Dr. James Gaines denies that any "outside pressure" was brought to bear in his decision not to provide funding for further research.
According to the study conclusions: "Because no evidence was found that this topic has been analyzed by researchers, law enforcement or other agencies in either the public or private sectors, the dangers inferred from this study should stimulate interest in developing a clearer appreciation of both the risks involved and possible means to address them."
The study conclusions point to the damage done to Hawaii's tourism industry by the 9-11 attacks, considers the potential damage done to the tourist trade by a home-grown act of terrorism and concludes, "it is imperative that further research of this topic not be delayed."
PDF: AN INVESTIGATION OF VIOLENCE AS A MEANS TO ACHIEVE NATIVE HAWAIIAN SOVEREIGNTY (2006)
More on intimidation by Sovereignty activists: 2007 Ka`u Listening Project Report (see pages 76-94)