Hawai’i at the 50th Year of U.S. Statehood

EDITORIAL, 24 Aug 2009

#76 | Poka Laenui

1959 “Statehood” was a time of excitement in Hawai`i over the notion of this territory and the people within it becoming “Equal American Citizens” with all others.  Bon fires lit the night along with firecrackers, blaring music, and all forms of celebration.  20 years and a new generation later, the conversation began to change, asking, “what happened to the option of returning Hawai`i to its status as an independent nation-state, as we had been prior to the U.S. military invasion in 1893.”  37 years since Statehood, a television dialogue was held, including the last Hawai`i Territorial governor (U.S. Presidential appointment), William Quinn.  When asked why the options for Hawaiian Independence and Free Association was not also included in the plebiscite question for the Hawai`i voters, the former governor laughed at the idea, saying he had never heard of such a requirement until that very moment.(1)

Today, 50 years later, the international standard of affording a people under colonial like conditions the choices of independence, free association, or integration with the colonial (administering or metropolitan) state is a matter of wide knowledge.(2)   That Hawai`i’s plebiscite question in 1959 failed to present those options are also widely known.(3)    A growing number of people are demanding the full and proper exercise of self-determination, making no secret that their definite preference is for an Independent Hawai`i.  The State of Hawai`i, recognizing the change in awareness and mood of the people recently switched from a celebration to an observance of the 50th anniversary with a conference and a dance, while protesters outside the convention center cut the last star out of the U.S. flag.(4)     One of Hawai`i’s foremost jurist, Walter Heen, on the 50th Anniversary, says, today there is no question in his mind that the Statehood vote was unfair.(5)

A people’s rally of over 300 supporters was kept outside the convention center, watched by security officers to assure the numbers would not overflow & disturb the conferees.  Rally organizer, Pōkā Laenui said, “we call upon the United States & the international community, to bring about our full exercise of self-determination, following legal mechanisms already established by the United Nations.”

“We call upon the people who are now the residents of these islands, to become engaged in the liberation of these islands from U.S. colonialism,” he concluded.

When asked what is this engagement of the people, Pōkā replied, “it is the engagement of community dreaming, of community conversation, of reconsidering and restructuring a foundational platform, upon which we can build anew our nation containing all of the highest and finest principles of humanity we can create!”

“Proper decolonization among a colonized society should follow five phases, 1) recovery & rediscovery, 2) mourning, 3) dreaming, 4) consensus, and 5) execution.(6)   If we depend on decolonization being merely the departure of the colonial authority, leaving us the colonial structures and patterns of behavior, we will not have become decolonized.  We will merely replicate what we are today, a people pretending we are the colonizers, perhaps even looking for others to colonize!  If we do not take the time to “dream” and build among ourselves the values we aspire to live by, and rethink how to formulate our social, economic, environmental, political, and national security structures upon those values, we will fail ourselves in the full promise of decolonization.”

“Hawai`i today,” he said, “is much like many large cities and towns in the rest of the world, operating its formal structures, its rules of economic, social, political, environmental, educational, religious and national security, on the basis of three principles – Domination, Individualism and Exclusion (D.I.E.).  This is a selfish, mean, and dehumanizing set of values, and there is no reason why we need to continue these principles.  It has set all of our formal structures into a downward spiral, killing the humanity in these structures.”

“Are our principles of `Oluolu (non-confrontational, pleasant), Lokahi (group mindfulness) and Aloha (loving, caring, inclusive) (O.L.A.) not able to operate in the formal as well as in our informal systems?  Why can we not build new ways of interacting along these principles, whether it is in our religious approaches, our environmental approaches, yes, even in our national security system,” he asked?

“’Dreaming’, in our decolonization process, is just as important as how we separate politically and militarily from U.S. colonization.  Hawaiian Independence is not only our human right as a consequence of historical events and principles of decolonization, but it is our sacred challenge to lift our society to a higher order of social and spiritual development,” he concluded.


(1)  DIALOGUE: Statehood & Sovereignty,     HAWAII PUBLIC TELEVISION, August 16, 1996  Transcript, page 5 at http://hawaiianperspectives.blogspot.com/ or http://www.opihi.com/sovereignty Revisiting Statehood & Sovereignty.

(2)  U.N. Charter, Article 73, G.A Resolution 742 (1953), G.A. Resolution 1514 (1960), G.S. Resolution 1541 (1960), Grounds for Hawai`i Self Determination, http://hawaiianperspectives.blogspot.com/

(3)  The ballot question posed was, “Shall Hawaii immediately be admitted into the union as a State?”

(4)  Honolulu Advertiser, Saturday, August 22, 2009, p. 1

(5)  Hawai`I Public Radio morning news report, 21 August 2009

(6)  Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision, Processes of Decolonization, Chapter 11, Edited by Marie Battiste, UBC Press, 2000; http://www.opihi.com/sovereignty/colonization.htm

I welcome comments, critiques, and further conversation on this paper. My email address and telephone number, plaenui@pixi.com, 1(808)697-3045. –Puka Laenui

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Aug 2009.

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