Congress has not of­fered rec­on­cil­i­a­tion af­ter ad­mit­ting fault in over­throw­ing the isles, ad­vo­cates say

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Ken Kobayashi kkobayashi@starad­ver­tiser.com

It has been 20 years since Congress apol­o­gized on be­half of the United States for the 1893 over­throw of the Hawaii king­dom, but some Na­tive Hawai­ian ac­tivists are still wait­ing for the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion promised along with the con­cil­ia­tory words.

The so-called “apol­ogy res­o­lu­tion” has been con­sid­ered a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone for Na­tive Hawai­ians in seek­ing re­dress and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. It was passed to ac­knowl­edge the 100th an­niver­sary of what the res­o­lu­tion de­scribed as the “il­le­gal over­throw” of the Hawai­ian gov­ern­ment.

“It was im­por­tant be­cause it was a na­tional ad­mis­sion by the U.S. gov­ern­ment that the Hawai­ian is­lands were im­prop­erly as­sumed by the

United States,” Leon Siu, an ac­tivist for the Hawai­ian in­de­pen­dence move­ment, said this week.

The apol­ogy res­o­lu­tion was passed by Congress and signed by Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton Nov. 23, 1993, 20 years ago to­day. The res­o­lu­tion ex­pressed “deep re­gret” to Na­tive Hawai­ians for the over­throw that in­cluded the par­tic­i­pa­tion of U.S. agents and cit­i­zens and U.S. naval forces in­vad­ing the Hawaii na­tion. Specif­i­cally, it said Congress:

>> “ex­presses its com­mit­ment to ac­knowl­edge the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the over­throw of the King­dom of Hawaii, in or­der to pro­vide a proper foun­da­tion for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween the United States and the Na­tive Hawai­ian peo­ple; and

>> “urges the Pres­i­dent of the United States to also ac­knowl­edge the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the over­throw of the King­dom of Hawaii and to sup­port rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts be­tween the United States and the Na­tive Hawai­ian peo­ple.”

“The U.S. apol­ogy basi- cally said, ‘Sorry for steal­ing your na­tion,’ but the apol­ogy pur­posely avoided pro­vid­ing any rem­edy, and the U.S. for the past 20 years has re­fused to en­gage in any mean­ing­ful di­a­logue for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” Hawai­ian in­de­pen­dence ac­tivist Pilipo Souza said this week.

WHILE SOME crit­ics say the res­o­lu­tion didn’t go far enough in pro­vid­ing re­dress to Na­tive Hawai­ians, oth­ers have dis­puted the his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive in the res­o­lu­tion and main­tain that an apol­ogy isn’t nec­es­sary.

Still, the state Leg­is­la­ture re­cently re­flected its sup­port for the con­gres­sional ac­tion by pass­ing its own res­o­lu­tion in April com­mem­o­rat­ing the 20th an­niver­sary. State law­mak­ers said they reaf­firm the state’s com­mit­ment to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with Na­tive Hawai­ians for “his­tor­i­cal in­jus­tices.” The res­o­lu­tion also urges the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to ad­vance rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts.

The U.S. res­o­lu­tion was en­dorsed by all four Demo­cratic mem­bers of Hawaii’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion — U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka and U.S. Reps. Patsy Mink and Neil Aber­crom­bie.

THE APOL­OGY was cited by the Hawaii Supreme Court in its 2008 rul­ing up­hold­ing a mora­to­rium pre­vent­ing the state from sell­ing ceded lands that once be­longed to the Hawai­ian king­dom. But the U.S. Supreme Court over­turned the de­ci­sion in 2009, say­ing the res­o­lu­tion did not take away the state’s sov­er­eign au­thor­ity to sell the lands.

And it has been high­lighted in the con­gres­sional cam­paign to sup­port the Akaka Bill that seeks to set up a process for Na­tive Hawai­ians to ne­go­ti­ate with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on land and cul­tural is­sues. But the bill has been stalled by Se­nate Repub­li­cans for more than a decade, and sup­port­ers this year called on Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to in­ves­ti­gate the pos­si­bil­ity of ad­min­is­tra­tively award­ing fed­eral recog­ni­tion to Na­tive Hawai­ians, ef­fec­tively by­pass­ing Congress.

This is not the so­lu­tion Siu and other in­de­pen­dence ac­tivists seek.

“In­stead of re­turn­ing our coun­try, the U.S. is try­ing to fur­ther sub­due the Hawai­ian peo­ple by of­fer­ing to turn ‘Na­tive Hawai­ians’ into a ‘fed­er­ally rec­og­nized’ Na­tive Amer­i­can In­dian tribe. This is not rec­on­cil­i­a­tion; this is hu­mil­i­a­tion.” Siu said.

In its tes­ti­mony in sup­port of the state Leg­is­la­ture’s res­o­lu­tion, the Of­fice of Hawai­ian Af­fairs said in the past 20 years, “new is­sues and de­bates have arisen re­gard­ing the proper means to ad­dress the on­go­ing his­tor­i­cal harms and chal­lenges faced by Na­tive Hawai­ians in restor­ing and main­tain­ing their cul­ture, cul­tural val­ues and self de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

OHA of­fi­cials pointed out that the apol­ogy res­o­lu­tion was “a rare act of self-crit­i­cism” ex­press­ing a “clear com­mit­ment” to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with Na­tive Hawai­ians.

But, they noted, “last­ing rec­on­cil­i­a­tion con­tin­ues to be a long and un­cer­tain one.”


Near the end of his speech on Waikiki Beach 20 years ago, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton was in­ter­rupted by pro-sovereignty demon­stra­tors chant­ing “Jus­tice for Hawai­ians.” Clin­ton told them, “I hope we can pro­vide it.” Four months later, Clin­ton signed a con­gres­sional apol­ogy that ac­knowl­edged the il­le­gal over­throw of the Hawai­ian king­dom.

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