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1995: Akaka Bill Begins With Clayton Hee and Casino Gambling
By Selected News Articles @ 10:23 PM :: 6425 Views :: Energy, Environment

The "Native Hawaiian Vote": The Deception Continues

by Jose Luis Morín In Motion Magazine, November 14, 1996

The next phase of the State's electoral scheme to deceive the Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiians) is under way. Despite embarrassingly low voting results for the State's July - August 1996 ballot question, "Shall the Hawaiian people elect delegates to propose a Native Hawaiian government?," the State-created Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council (HSEC) still intends to proceed with a constitutional convention to form a 'Native Hawaiian government" without a mandate from the people.

Over 60% of the nearly 85,000 who were sent ballots in the mail, refused to participate in the State government's "Native Hawaiian Vote." Adding, 8,129 'no' votes, over 70% rejected the HSEC process. These figures demonstrate that a clear majority of the Kanaka Maoli people were not fooled by this attempt by the State to undermine their right to self-determination.

Despite every attempt by the State legislature and two State agencies, HSEC and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), to rig the election in their favor, only a minority vote "yes" (26% or 22,294). The 85,000 who were sent ballots were mostly persons on the OHA voter registration comparison to the 73% ballot return in the 1994 OHA elections, only 36% of the ballots were returned for the ''Native Hawaiian Vote " This points to the enormous success of the boycott.

HSEC was required by law to 'build consensus,' but failed. There is no consensus and no majority in favor of the HSEC process. However, HSEC now insists that 22,294 votes should decide the future of over 300,000 Kanaka Maoli people around the world.

Indeed, the "Native Hawaiian Vote" makes a mockery of democracy and fairness;

  • The HSEC law was created by the State legislature, not by the Kanaka Maoli people.
  • HSEC members were not democratically elected, but appointed by the governor.
  • Only one question, determined by the State government, was on the ballot. One option is not a choice.
  • The 85,000 who were sent ballots were automatically registered from OHA's list without their consent and there was also no process to verify 'Hawaiian ancestry. ' In fact, the OHA list contained many non-Kanaka Maoli who received ballots, including local TV News reporter Stacey Low.
  • The "vote" was not conducted in an impartial way, as required by law. HSEC, through its videos and through public statements by HSEC members, shamelessly urged people to vote 'yes ".
  • The State government's exemption of HSEC from the State's conflicts of interest law gave OHA and members of other state agencies an unfair advantage to advance their own interests.
  • The State and HSEC stated that this was a vote to "restore a nation," but then replaced this language in the law with "self-governance". "Self-governance ' is a term the U.S. government uses to describe 'Indian tribes ." It can also describe a State entity with its own board of trustees, such as OHA.
  • Two weeks before ballots were mailed out, the State government and its agency, HSEC, changed the State "plebiscite" law requiring "a majority of qualified voters" for approval of the ballot question to "a majority of ballots cast" in order to railroad a constitutional convention even without a majority of the Kanaka Maoli people.
  • More than $2 million in State funds were wasted for a disgraceful 26% "yes" vote, yet HSEC intends to go forward with a constitutional convention through the use of a new ploy; a nonprofit corporation called Ha Hawai'i.

What importance is the "Native Hawaiian Vote" to the State government? The HSEC process positions two State agencies, OHA and HSEC, to become the 'Native Hawaiian government." It is an important first step to creating a "puppet" government that will negotiate away Kanaka Maoli lands claims over to the State and Federal governments.

OHA has tried for many years to become recognized as the "Native Hawaiian government." ln 1989, OHA released its "Blueprint" to become the Hawaiian nation and again in 1992, OHA proposed a bill to federally recognized OHA as the Native Hawaiian government. These attempts were roundly criticized and defeated by the Kanaka Maoli who refused to have an arm of the State government become their government.

In 1995, without any notice to the Kanaka Maoli, two Federal Bills (HR 671 and S 479) were introduced in the U.S. Congress to recognize Native Hawaiians as an "Indian tribe" Under these bills, OHA would have most likely met the law's requirements as an "Indian tribal government." As an Indian tribe, Kanaka Maoli would become wards of the Federal government with very limited sovereignty. Congress would have plenary or absolute power over Kanaka Maoli lands and people in accordance with the U.S. law over "domestic dependent nations." Under U.S. law, most Indian tribes have been forced to live on the worst lands, suffer from high rates of unemployment, poverty, alcoholism and suicide, and have no choice when the U.S. wants to exploit their lands for nuclear testing and toxic waste dumps.

Through the HSEC process, OHA has one of its trustees as a member of HSEC, Kinau Boyd Kamali'i, and has invested $900,000 to promote the "Native Hawaiian Vote." OHA's interests in using the HSEC process to become the new Native Hawaiian government has already been described by OHA/HSEC legal consultant, U.H. Law Professor Jon Van Dyke. In a 1995 article, Van Dyke wrote that the "Native Hawaiian Vote" followed by federal "recognition would allow HSEC and OHA to deal with state and federal governments on a government-to-government basis." Noelle M. Kahanu and Jon M. Van Dyke, Native Hawaiian Entitlement to Sovereignty: An Overview, 17UHaw D. Rev. 427, 462 (1995). As a paid legal advisor to both OHA and HSEC whose wife also works as OHA legal counsel, Van Dyke also stands to benefit directly from OHA becoming the Native Hawaiian government.

True to the Van Dyke script, it has now come to light that OHA chairman Clayton Hee and Van Dyke's wife, Sherry Broder, met in August (1996) with the Washington lobbying firm of Patton Boggs, L.L.P., to seek assistance in passing federal legislation to recognize OHA as the Native Hawaiian government as well as to "quietly" explore casino gambling. Although the "Native Hawaiian Vote" does not authorize OHA to seek Federal recognition, Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr. writes to Hee about how the Native Hawaiian "referendum results" advance OHA's strategy. (Editor: a letter detailing these strategies and proposals was recently released by OHA Trustee Billie Beemer). 

If the State can create a "Native Hawaiian government?' of its own choosing, it can control Kanaka Maoli claims to the land. As Marion Kelly, noted expert on land tenure at the University of Hawai'i has pointed out, 95% of all lands controlled by the State of Hawai'i are lands that were illegally "ceded" to the United States with annexation in 1898 following the overthrow of the Hawaiian government in 1893. These lands rightfully belong to the Kanaka Maoli.

The "Native Hawaiian Vote" results are being manipulated to legitimize the State's control over the formation of a so-called 'Native Hawaiian government." As the representative of the State government, HSEC is now controlling the process for "selecting" rather than "electing ' delegates. They are setting the agenda and discussion for the convention to insure approval of a puppet government. Once a puppet "government" is created, State and Federal governments can then recognize that 'government' as the 'legitimate' government of the Kanaka Maoli people and "negotiate" to keep Kanaka Maoli lands in the hands of the Federal and State governments and maintain Kanaka Maoli as subservient wards.

Establishing puppet governments obedient to the United States is not new. In 1923, over the objections of the Navajo people, the U.S. Department of Interior handpicked "The Navajo Grand Council" as the "legitimate" representative of the Navajo nation and proceeded to negotiate a deal permitting Standard Oil Company to drill for oil on Navajo land. In an "election" to reorganize the Hopi, 85% of eligible Hopi voters boycotted the election, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs still proceeded to impose its own government as desired by the United States. Even though less than 50% voted for "commonwealth" status in 1952, the U.S. Congress approved legislation to impose that political change for Puerto Rico. In the Pacific the U.S. repeatedly pressured the people of Palau into "plebiscites" to accept a constitution that allows U. S. control over their economy, the use of the use of their lands for U.S. military purposes and U.S. nuclear weapons on Palau.

The taro-roots organizers of the successful boycott of the "Native Hawaiian Vote" have it right. Everyone who truly believes in justice and in the Kanaka Maoli people's right to self-determination must oppose HSEC/OHA/Ha Hawai'i's constitutional convention to create a State-controlled puppet government.


Jose Luis Morín is an attorney specializing in international human rights, indigenous people's rights, and civil rights. He is past executive director of the North Star Fund, a former Board member of the Funding Exchange, a former staff attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Related: Reservation for a Broken Trust?

Text: HR 671, S 479


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