by Andrew Walden
In the December edition of Ka Wai Ola, house organ of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, OHA Trustee Oz Stender urges Hawaiians to “Fight Cultural Annihilation.” He would better serve native Hawaiians if he were to concern himself with physical annihilation.
Earlier this year, OHA officials, led by Trustee Don Cataluna, blocked Kauai County from building a residential drug treatment facility for juveniles on a former Humane Society site about a half mile from Kauai’s Hanapepe Salt Pond. This as young Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians are literally dying from methamphetamines and other drug abuse.
According to the County of Kauai Web site:
- 80-90 percent of all crimes committed on Kauai are drug-related.
- Of the island’s population of 58,463, 1,085 adults and 195 adolescents receive some level of treatment for drug abuse each year.
- Over 17 percent of adolescents report exposure to illicit drug use in school and community.
8About 750 individuals who are on probation, parole, drug court, or awaiting sentencing need help to re-integrate into the community, but services are fragmented or not available.
OHA claimed “runoff” from the treatment facility would somehow damage the Salt Pond. Yet, as a result of a two-day rainfall Dec. 6 and 7 the Salt Pond is now under several feet of water. Wooden frames used to collect salt are floating away. The Salt Pond has indeed been damaged by runoff—not from any drug treatment center, but from the natural lay of the land which channels water down to the Salt Pond from several miles around. Cataluna argued the issue was “cultural” not “environmental.” Based on this “cultural” claim, OHA was successful in ensuring that the treatment facility would not be built. This is why Stender speaks of “cultural” annihilation. But OHA’s “cultural” power means “physical” annihilation for native Hawaiians. On Kauai, their toll may be soon measurable in lives lost to drugs.
The trustees’ power to say “No” to property development is a source of revenue for OHA and its associates. On Hawaii Island OHA’s Native Hawaiian Legal Corp, activists, and attorneys demanded millions of dollars in personal and organizational payments from the Hokulia luxury resort developers in exchange for “settlement” of their lawsuit blocking construction. One leader of the effort, Jim Medeiros, is accused of elder abuse and theft by his own mother.
Saying “No” to geothermal power in Puna got OHA ownership of Wao Kele O Puna -- over 22,000 acres of Puna land -- for about $350,000 from the OHA trust fund (and $3.5 million from the U.S. treasury). The leader of the protests was a two-time convicted felon, drug dealer and thief named Ralph Palikapu Dedman. Once again, power over land is more important to the trustees than keeping Native Hawaiian kids off drugs.
Dedman is now spearheading efforts by Hawaii County Councilman Bob Jacobson to take control of the Punaluu black sand beach area of Kau. OHA may ultimately become the beneficiary of this as well.
Stender complains, “Hawaiians cannot be allowed to live according to their culture and the ways of their ancestors.” But when hundreds or perhaps thousands of pre-contact Kauaians lived near the Salt Pond, they lived without flush toilets and kept dogs, pigs and chickens. Cooking fires burned constantly, coating the area in soot. When the rains came, all of that material ran off downhill to the Salt Pond. But somehow a modern residential drug treatment facility with modern plumbing is supposed to create such problems that it must be blocked. Does blocking this facility uphold “the ways of their ancestors?” No. But it does uphold OHA’s ability to use “the ways of their ancestors” as an excuse to exert modern power.
Stender mentions a movie which he calls, “Bury Me a Wounded Knee.” The correct title is “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” a movie about the 1890 massacre of Sioux Indians which marked the end of armed Indian resistance to white colonization. Stender claims that Hawaiians are faced with the same challenge the Indians faced in 1890 at Wounded Knee, SD: “assimilate or be annihilated.”
Wounded Knee is the right place, but the year people should be thinking about is not 1890 -- it is 1973.
For 71 days beginning Feb. 27, 1973, activists from the American Indian Movement (AIM) engaged in armed battles with tribal police backed by federal agents. Their anger was sparked by the reservation’s allegedly corrupt President, Richard "Dick" Wilson.
According to then-Senator James Abzourek (D-SD) AIM accused Wilson of:
- "Mishandling tribal funds"
- Conducting a Tribal election which the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights said was "permeated with fraud"
- Ruling over the reservation with the Guardians of the Oglala Nation (literally GOONs) which AIM called Wilson’s "official terrorist 'goon squad'"
In Kau, goons are threatening and intimidating the community in an effort to put Punaluu under the control of an OHA-funded group, Kau Preservation, Inc. http://www.hawaiireporter.com/story.aspx?bfa78325-c5d4-49bb-a911-1f7bd5ab16cf
In 1995 the corrupt trustees of the Bishop Estate commissioned ex- Governor John Waihee’s consulting firm to evaluate locations outside Hawaii to re-settle the corporate HQ of the Bishop Estate. Twenty-two years after the second battle of Wounded Knee, Waihee’s choice was the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. The motivation? Cheyenne River is the most “sovereign” of all the Indian reservations. Ironically, the Cheyenne River reservation had been created in 1889 as the destination for the last band of fighting Sioux massacred the next year at Wounded Knee.
The people of Cheyenne River live in abject poverty. Drug and alcohol abuse are rampant and 20 percent of teenage Sioux girls have considered suicide, but that’s all acceptable because the trustee’s ability to loot Princess Pauahi’s $6 billion estate would have been well protected by properly enriched tribal police, tribal courts, tribal legislature and a tribal president. State law does not reach the reservation and recourse to federal courts is severely circumscribed. Is this the fate which awaits average Native Hawaiians under the Akaka Bill?
Relocation of Bishop Estate HQ out of Hawaii in 1995 was politically impossible. Five years later the trustees were finally ousted under threat from the IRS. The trustees’ backer, Senator Dan Akaka, then took up an idea devised by faculty from the UH Hawaiian Studies Department. Instead of moving Kamehameha Schools HQ to an Indian reservation, his Akaka Bill would create an Indian reservation here in Hawaii. Cheyenne River is the “sovereign” model. On Kauai, we are seeing a small example of the price Hawaiians would pay for living under the trustees’ authority. It is just one step down the road Indians have already traveled.
“Cultural” claims are a tool for trustees to enact a policy of corruption protection contributing to physical annihilation. Native Hawaiians “assimilated” into the trustees’ game plan are literally being “annihilated” by methamphetamines.
Much of the opposition to the Akaka Bill has focused on what it would do to non-Hawaiians. The truth is that most Hawaiians would pay a far higher price.
It is time to adopt a policy based on education, free enterprise, the rule of law, and human development, not a land development policy based on trustee grabs for money and power.