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Return to the year 1993

Hawaiian sovereignty movement

While the Hawaiian sovereignty movement got its start in 1893 with Queen Lili'uokalani pleading for a restoration of her kingdom, the modern movement which had been percolating at low levels for years got an infusion of energy and inspiration when the hundredth anniversary of the overthrow arrived. The movement's disparate groups agree on the illegality and injustice of the overthrow but offer widely varying solutions. 1993 marked a time of increased discussion and debate, greater public visibility for the issues, and heightened the possibility that a solution could be hammered out within a time frame of years or decades rather than generations.

While the goals and strategies supported by the various sovereignty groups differ, the types of scenarios they offer for the shape of a sovereign entity fall into four basic categories:

1. State-within-a-state model - similar to the current county system, this model would operate something like OHA (Office of Hawaiian Affairs) currently does. Adherents see this model as a transition phase on the way toward greater independence.

Principal supporters include Kina'u Boyd Kamali'i and William Mehuela of the Native Hawaiian Bar Association.

2. Nation-within-a-nation model - similar to the U.S. government relationship with American Indian and Alaskan groups. An independent Hawaiian nation would have a direct relationship with the federal government and be treated on an equal footing with other states, including the state of Hawai'i. Ceded lands, Hawaiian homelands and land from private trusts could provide a land base for this sovereign entity.

This format is most popular with Ka Lahui Hawai'i.

3. Free association model - based on United Nations Resolution 1541, this model exists already in the Pacific region, including the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Belau. While these states are self-governing and set their own domestic and international policies, they maintain strong ties with the United States in areas of security, trade and other economic activity. Political legitimacy is not dependent on shared statutes. The association is based instead on shared interests and can be dissolved at any point by either party.

This arrangement is favored by the Hawaiian Home Rule Party for Free Association.

4. Independence model - this model would involve complete withdrawal from the American governmental system, including a formal separation of part or all of the Hawaiian Islands and the establishment of a sovereign state within the larger community of nations. While this model has the largest number of adherents, it has also inspired the greatest amount of opposition, from other Hawaiian groups and also from the many non-Hawaiians who feel threatened by the possibility of no longer being welcome where they live.

Such a separation is supported by the Nation of Hawai'i, Kingdom of Hawai'i, Ka Pakaukau, and the Institute for Advancement of Hawaiian Affairs.

The debate is far from over but momentum continues to build toward resolving sovereignty issues. While some groups focus on legislative efforts, others take a grassroots approach. Recent court rulings have increased debate concerning not only sovereignty but also the rights and privileges of the landed ali'i trusts, including Kamehameha Schools. While Hawaiians have suffered some apparent legal setbacks, gains have been made on other fronts, including native Hawaiian gathering rights and access rights to land and water.

 Sites for further information

Why Congress Must Reject Race-Based Government for Native Hawaiians (Republican Policy Committee)

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