The Next Step Toward Sovereignty: Project Hawaiian Justice

Ka L…hui Hawai'I is committed to sovereignty and the right to self-determination of the Native Hawaiian people. There are varying degrees of sovereignty to be exercised, ranging from where we are at present to total and complete independence of the nation.

The next step on the road to sovereignty is federal recognition of our sovereign rights and claims to the land.

Ka L…hui is committed to a fair and appropriate adjudication of our aboriginal claims against the United States. Project Hawaiian Justice seeks recognition of Native Hawaiians as indigenous people eligible for inclusion in the federal policy on Native Nations. Project Hawaiian Justice consists of nine strategies for federal recognition. They are:

1. Increase Visibility

2. Organize Native Voting block

3. Foster Native American Support

4. Foster Congressional Support

5. Strengthen Financial Base

6. Develop Federal Legislation

7. Research, Resources, Communication

8. Foster Presidential Support

9. Pass and Implement Federal Legislation

Ka L...hui Hawai'i has already begun to implement some of the strategies outlined in Project Hawaiian Justice. It has held meetings and workshops to increase the visibility of, and education about Ka L...hui among the Hawaiian people.

Ka L...hui sponsored Native Vote '98 to encourage Hawaiians to vote as a block under strategy two. Both strategies must continue to be pursued. We must also continue to educate ourselves and build consensus. In implementing Project Hawaiian Justice, we need to become more adept in new areas: Fostering Native American Support and Fostering Congressional Support.

Strategy three, fostering Native American support, is essential. The first step to implementing strategy three is to educate ourselves about what other Native peoples living in the United States have achieved.

The most recent and largest land claims settlement passed by the U.S. Congress was the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Looking at the path of Alaska Natives, the history and current events of American Indians and other Natives around the world is important because we can learn from their mistakes and benefit from their achievements.

Like Hawaiians, American Indians were subject to nearly 200 years of government policy designed to assimilate them into mainstream America. Finally, in 1968, public policy was changed from assimilation to self-determination.

Natives on the American continent have had a long relationship with Congress. Tribes deal almost exclusively with Congress and the federal government to ensure that trust obligations by the American government are upheld, and that self-determination is protected. For us, American Indian support will translate into support in Congress. Tribal leaders have relationships with their own Congressmen and those of other states as well. Natives on the continent can assist us by providing guidance about working with Congress. Working with tribes will serve as the basis for future relationships: Native Nation to Native Nation.

Strategy four - fostering congressional support - entails educating Congress about the plight, history and culture of the Hawaiian people. This educational process has already begun with the Apology Bill, the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act and the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act. However, it is essential that the message of who we are as a people and what we consider fair and equitable reconciliation comes from grassroots organizations with no affiliation with the state of Hawai'i.

State agencies, like the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, have already begun to lobby Congress. It is necessary to insure that legislation introduced and eventually passed is fair and equitable to our people.

Ka L...hui Hawai'i has conducted workshops on Project Hawaiian Justice strategies. Training includes information about other Native peoples experiences in pursuing sovereignty, and planning how to introduce bills in congress which addresses federal recognition and reconciliation.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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