International Forgiveness Day—7 July 2023


Pōkā Laenui – TRANSCEND Media Service

“A thief in judgment of itself.” — Puanani Burgess, 1977

`Ano `ae me ke aloha e na hulumanu like `ole.  `O wau no `o Pōkā Laenui, He Hawai`i au.
(Yes, with love for all the different types of animals. I’m Pokā Laenui, I’m Hawaiian.)

The Theft of the Hawaiian Islands Kingdom by the United States of America

Welcome to this beautiful valley of Lu`alu`alei.  Notice how the mountains of Ka`ala surround this valley from what we know locally as Pu`ea or the Wai`anae valley all the way to the major part of Nanakuli.  If one could lift the island of Kaho`olawe, one could place it in this valley, given the size of Lu`alu`alei.  But perhaps we could discuss the geography of this place on some other occasion.

Our topic for today is Forgiveness.

I borrow from a story shared with me from the late Bishop Desmond Tutu who called this the Mandela bicycle story.  I visited Bishop Tutu on one of his travels to Hawaii, and this is the story I now share with you.

There was a boy who had a bicycle which gave him great joy riding and sharing with his friends.  The bicycle gave him much needed transportation for him and his family. 

One day, someone stole his bicycle.

The boy hunted for his lost bicycle.  He went around his village to see if anyone knew who had taken his bicycle.  He could not find the culprit.

Several months went by.  Another boy, a friend to the one who lost his bicycle, approached the boy and said he was carrying a huge burden on his consciousness and he needed the first boy to relieve him of this burden. 

He told the boy that only he could give him relief, that he wanted to tell the boy something and wanted him to forgive the confessing boy.  So, the first boy, the one without the bicycle, says, yes, he hopes to help relieve the second boy of his burden.

The second boy then confesses that he stole the first boy’s bicycle.

First boy says, thank you for confessing that you had stolen my bicycle, and having confessed, I forgive you.

The second boy says how much he appreciates being forgiven, gets up and proceeds to walk off.

The first boy says, “But wait!  Where’s my bicycle?”

Forgiveness is a fundamental ingredient in the formula for healing and bringing about peace, but is that all that is needed?  Even if a Queen should write a beautiful prayer in a song, telling us not to hold on to anger and pain but to forgive, is that enough, or is forgiveness merely one of the important ingredients in the formula for healing?

One does not walk around with a magic “forgiveness wand” and simply say, “forgive, forgive, forgive.”  I suggest forgiveness must be a two-way street.  Around forgiveness, there must be other considerations.  There must be a confession, there must be a sincere request to be forgiven. There must be an analysis or review of the full extent of the taking and the injury which ensued because of the injury.  There must be a fair remedy.

How would we apply this concept here in Hawaii, with this grand theft standing before us, the theft of the Hawaiian sovereign and independent nation since 1893, over 130 years ago, and counting?

The US Congress and President Clinton passed a law confessing to their deeds of theft, but that confession was limited only to the native Hawaiians and not to all the people who lost their nation!  And with that confession, the U.S. “still holds on to the bicycle!”  There has been no acceptance and forgiveness by the Hawaiian nationals–including the natives–and others.

Let us make a quick accounting of what was stolen by this colonization that started in 1893.

First, of course are the reins of government.  Also taken, was a people’s language, control over one’s population, over one’s lands such that the US government now controls 1/3 of the Hawaiian Islands and claims jurisdiction over the 200-mile exclusive economic zone, over our education system, our international trade and economic development, the civil and criminal laws over these islands,… the list is endless.  Ask a person enslaved for 130 years what he has lost, and you can begin with his roots and come to the same endless list.

If you live in Hawaii and speak of forgiveness, ask yourselves “what is that two-way street of forgiveness for the present colonization of Hawaii?” I leave the answer to you.

Mahalo for your kind invitation to give some brief remarks on this occasion.

Aloha `aina


Talk at the Lokahi Cultural Center in Wai`anae, Honolulu, Hawaii

Pōkā Laenui is an attorney, founding member of the TRANSCEND Network, and lives in Hawai’i. He is Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Hawaiian Affairs and is regarded as the father of the modern Hawaiian Sovereignty movement having brought the issue in the Hawaii and Federal Courts since 1977 and taken that case to the UN via the Indigenous People’s hearing.  He was the primary spokesperson for the World Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Pacific Asia Council of Indigenous Peoples from 1984 to 1992.  He was noted as one of five pioneers of the development of Indigenous People’s Rights at the UN General Assembly.  He is the latest chairperson of the Native Hawaiian Convention, an elected body of native Hawaiians to develop models of Hawaiian sovereignty to propose to the native Hawaiian constituents.  This convention has been de-funded by the State of Hawaii and its domestic entity, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, while the convention was considering a proposal for a model of independence from the USA.  He has been associated with Professor Emeritus Johan Galtung as a co-instructor at the University of Hawaii and has conducted extensive interviews with him on public radio, commercial radio and community television.  He continues to practice law in Hawaii.  His email is and website at which contains most of his writings.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 7 Aug 2023.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: International Forgiveness Day—7 July 2023, is included. Thank you.

If you enjoyed this article, please donate to TMS to join the growing list of TMS Supporters.

Share this article:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

Comments are closed.