The Hawaiian Nation
Upside-down Hawaiian flags, imposing painted signs, flapping tents. A couple of weekends a month we drive by an intimidating encampment on the church row lawn: The Hawaiian Nation Reinstated.
Up to this morning, my impression of the Hawaiian Sovereignty and National movements came from reading Haunani-Kay Trask's From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii. The book is a sometimes diamond-clear description of the disparity in Hawaiian colonialism, but is studded with off-putting gems like this: “without doubt, Euro-Americans and the Japanese see Islanders as racially and culturally inferior. To these predators, the Pacific is vast and far away from the centers of 'civilization,' rendering it most suitable for dangerous projects” like nuclear experimentation (Trask 55). I guessed that I would be unwelcome at best, and met with hostility at worst.
Luckily I was wrong. It's a family event-- adult sisters and sister-in-law sit with their mom, near the kids (who romp in the tent with a puppy, climb trees, and throw frisbees), and pass out paper plates piled with spam, rice, portuguese sausage, eggs, and grilled cheese sandwiches from the bed of a truck. Cousins, aunts and uncles come and go. There are paper signs taped onto the metal tent frame: "Kalua Pig, donation $5" and when I got there, sister Jade tells me it's on its way-- in the meantime I chatted with her about the family and The Nation while her sisters and mother ignored me-- like cats do-- tense and observing, withholding judgement. She referred me to the website: Hawaiian Kingdom Government and tells me that really I should wait for Charles, her brother-- he's a Representative of the Kingdom of Hawaii Government-- clearly the one to talk to, and he's on the way with the pig. She introduces her mom as one of the few 100% Hawaiian people around-- but as we talk more, and the alert observation relaxes, she confesses her last name is England, from her father's slave-trading ancestor who married a Navajo woman and ended up, somehow, in Hawaii. You get to choose what part of your ancestry you identify with, we decided-- the Polynesian, the Navajo, the English, the slave-trader or the Hawaiian National.
Chuck arrives in a van and everyone flurries around, kissing each other hello and unloading the heavy coolers full of smoky kalua pig. Uncle Sam gets out of the van with him-- an imposing figure with a long white ponytail, a sleeveless T-shirt, shorts and gum-boots. My baby immediately falls in love with him and they chase each other around while I chat with Chuck, and he educates me about the Nation. Only later looking at the website do I realize that Sam is another representative of the Hawaiian government, as is his father, who is listed as a Noble.
Chuck tells me how he became involved in the government: In 2002 he saw a group of folks (he said "KanACKS" --a racial slur for Hawaiian--from kanaka maoli. I wondered if he used it for my benefit-- would I call myself a "cracker" if I was talking to someone I assumed used that term?) in tents with signs, went in and was asked, "did you repatriate back to your country yet?" He said, "I know I'm Hawaiian, I know I belong to whatever is Hawaiian." So he researched the movement, read the constitution and the resolutions, and once he felt that everything was pono (good and righteous) he became involved, and was eventually elected to a representative position for the Big Island.
Each island has their own districts with elected representatives. They all hold roadside vigils, like this one, to educate the public and raise money for the Hawaiian government.
The government issues IDs, birth and marriage certificates, and license plates, and you can register as a citizen through their application and naturalization process. Citizens can vote for their representatives and run for offices. Henry Noa is the prime minister elect of the pro-tem Hawaiian government. The sisters told me that Noa was visiting the UN where the Kingdom of Hawaii has a vacant seat, and is planning another trip to South America as well.
Chuck explained that the Hawaiian Nation was never dissolved, and the people never relinquished their rights. "We have a continuous government, a continuous constitution" as it was set out by the Kamehamehas. "We need to respect the kupunas." He clarifies that it is not a sovereignty movement-- it is the original government as it was with the Kamehamehas and Queen Liluokalani.
I asked Chuck what the goal is-- he said simply: "to end the illegal occupation of our land. Hawaii sat in the family of Nations, and can do it again."
Cars honk as they drive past and flash the Shaka sign. Kids and adults come in a say hello, buy bags of the pig (Chuck made 600 pounds last night) and we talk disjointedly through helloes and goodbyes. I overhear Chuck's auntie telling him, "you should hold one family meeting to educate the ohana about this." I bought two bags of the pig to support this lovely family and the vision of the Hawaiian Nation, kissed everyone goodbye, and went home and put my Hawaii-born baby to bed. Maybe in her lifetime she will have the chance to choose Hawaiian citizenship.