Things to Consider for the Upcoming Native Hawaiian Convention
From OHA Trustee Carmen Hulu Lindsey’s Column, Ka Wai Ola, October, 2015 (pg 25)
Trustee note: This column is guest written by Noelani Goodyear-Ka'opua, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa:
This November thousands of Kanaka will receive ballots from Elections America, the company running the election for the upcoming Native Hawaiian convention. Unfortunately, millions of dollars have been poured into establishing the roll for this election, but only a fraction has been put toward real education about what's happening. When slick PR is prioritized over community dialogue, this violates kapu aloha.
The protectors on Mauna a Wakea and Haleakala have shown us a kapu aloha is not a command to be nice in the face of harm. The kapu aloha compels us to confront difficult political issues, to speak truth to power, and to have empathy for those with whom we disagree. In that spirit, I humbly offer three things to consider about the upcoming election and convention:
1) When you enter the lion's den, have an exit strategy.
Proponents of the Native Hawaiian roll and convention have not been forthright about the genealogy of rolls and reorganization in U.S.history. The establishment of Native rolls goes back to the 1887 General Allotment Act, aimed at assimilating the "Indians." This act resulted in massive land loss for the· original nations. Rolls have also created destructive and divisive ways of verifying Native identity. The term "reorganized governing entity" goes back to the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, which allowed limited tribal self-governance under US plenary power. In contemporary times, the settler state pushes for a roll and reorganized governing entity so that it has someone to negotiate with. The occupier wants to quiet Hawaiian claims to land and natural resources. The entity created out of the upcoming reorganization process would enter negotiations with the state and federal governments from a subordinate position. When the settler state pushes that entity to settle our sovereign claims in exchange for the Hawaiian homelands, OHA’s assets and Kaho'olawe, how will the entity respond? What will be the exit strategy?
2. Process is as important as product.
Numerous Kanaka have pointed out how exclusionary the Kana'iolowalu and Na'i Aupuni process has been. The current roll does not even include half of the Hawaiian population, and not all people on the roll will vote in the elections. A recent study, published in the American Political Science Review, looked at 138 countries that adopted new constitutions between 1974 and 2011. These constitutions resulted in more democratic societies less than half of the time. The researchers found the process was the most important determining factor in increasing the power of the people, even more important than the text of the constitutions produced. Governments should be built from the ground up. ‘O ke kahua ma mua, ma hope ke kukulu. The existing process was not built on a solid foundation of support from the lahui. The settler state initiated this process with Act 195, and the Roll Commission was appointed by the governor, not the Hawaiian people.
3. In light of all this, what might the delegates do?
A solid constitution cannot be drafted in only forty days, and the forty delegates who gather will not have the authority to speak for the entire lahui. Instead, the 'aha delegates should consider:
• Declaring that they do not have the authority to represent all Kanaka; or the Hawaiian nation;
• Proposing an inclusive, community-controlled process for engaging all Kanaka in strategic-planning toward building a government;
• Offering some guiding principles to consider for such a process;
• Stating that the Hawaiian nation will settle for no less than the return of all of our national lands.