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July 2006

Hawai`i News


...the situation in Hawai`i
By Rochelle DelaCruz

June 2006 was an important month for Hawai`i as legal and political decisions were reached that may change the course of events and impact life in the Islands.

The demise of the Akaka Bill

On June 8th, the long-awaited vote in the U.S. Senate on the Akaka Bill began, with cloture as the first hurdle. Six years and several committee amendments after its introduction, the Akaka Bill (Senate Bill 147) calling for federal recognition of Native Hawaiians, was still being hotly debated, both in the Senate and in Hawai`i. Cloture was invoked in order to force the Senate to bring the bill to a vote. If 60 Senators voted in favor of cloture, then the Akaka Bill could move to the floor of the Senate to be voted on.

In Hawai`i, there was loud support as well as opposition to the bill. There were various reasons for opposing the bill, but Washington was receiving the mixed messages. To make matters worse, the Commission on Civil Rights had recommended against passage, claiming it would discriminate on the basis of race or national origin.

On the day before the voting for cloture, a letter from the U.S. Justice Department arrived, saying that the bill risks “further subdividing the American people into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege.” The letter was used to urge the Senators to vote against the Akaka Bill, stating opposition to the Native Hawaiian bill by the Bush administration.

The vote finally taken in the Senate were 56 in favor of cloture and 41 opposed, and the long-awaited Senate Bill 147 failed to even reach the floor of the Senate. But almost immediately, Senators Akaka and Inouye pledged to try again, although they are running out of time and may have to wait until the next session. In the meantime, Senator Akaka also faces a challenge from Representative Ed Case (D-Hawai`i) in the upcoming primary elections.

(Click here for Reactions to the Akaka Bill's Failure to Pass)

OHA’s call for nationhood

Immediately following the vote, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) a staunch supporter of the Akaka Bill, began working toward nationhood without the endorsement of Washington. With nearly 50,000 already in Kau Inoa, the Registry for Native Hawaiians, OHA is continuing efforts with enrollment and is hoping for 118,000, representing two-thirds of the Hawaiian population in the state. Two weeks after the defeat of the Akaka Bill, the board of trustees at OHA and the Hawaiian community began discussing a “nation building” model that could lead to the creation of a Hawaiians-only government to negotiate for control of land, money and other assets lost in the illegal overthrow of 1893. If implemented, elections for representatives to the new government could be held as early as 2008. Clyde Namu`o, OHA administrator said, “Our position is that Hawaiians are aboriginal, indigenous people and the federal policy is that aboriginal indigenous people of the United States enjoy the inherent right to sovereignty. There are Indian tribes who have organized their government and have never tried to be federally recognized, nor are they even state-recognized.”

Opponents think it is an uphill climb, similar to Akaka and will face legal challenges, while Hawaiian activist groups who did not support Akaka say they would need to be included in the nation building effort for it to succeed.

The Arakaki lawsuit

In another legal challenge a week after the defeat of Senate Bill 147, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit challenging the use of taxpayer money that funds OHA, ruling that the payment of taxes alone doesn’t provide Hawai`i residents the legal standing needed to challenge OHA funding. The lawyer for the taxpayer group said that other challenges could be filed later by someone else denied benefits because they lack Hawaiian blood. But Hawai`i’s Attorney General Mark Bennet replied, “We believe that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is constitutional and we would vigorously defend any future lawsuit challenging either the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands or any other program that benefits Native Hawaiians.”

The Kamehameha Schools Appeal

And finally, on June 20th, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals re-heard by an en banc panel of 15 judges the case challenging the Kamehameha Schools to drop its Hawaiian-only policy. The Kamehameha Schools is a private K-12 school for Native Hawaiians, supported by the trust set up by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop and requiring no federal funding. Reports suggest that the judges had many questions, although two of them stated that since the plaintiff John Doe has just graduated from another high school, perhaps the case is moot and should be dismissed. Ruling from the judges can take as long as 12 months.

The day after the hearing, Kamehameha Schools CEO Dee Jay Mailer commended their legal team, especially attorney Kathleen Sullivan who told reporters, “What we argue is that our admissions policy is entirely legal under U.S. civil rights laws because it helps redress the continuing harms from a legacy of devastation against the Native Hawaiian people that Congress has acknowledged and for which Congress has apologized. The success story of the Kamehameha Schools in lifting up Hawaiian children, educating them and sending them off to seed the society with leaders is exactly what Princess Pauahi intended when she left her charitable testamentary trust, and it’s exactly what the Kamehameha Schools do today.”

The outcome of all that has taken place over these recent weeks has the potential for major impact on the state of Hawai`i and all of its people. Where it goes from here, is anyone’s guess.


Hawai`i Soldier Defies the Army

By NWHIT Staff

Hawaii-born Ehren K. Watada, a graduate of Kalani High School and Hawaii Pacific University and currently a first Lieutenant at Ft. Lewis, Washington, refused to go to Iraq with his unit, the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry, part of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

The 28-year old Watada joined the Army in 2003 after the war in Iraq started and has a three-year obligation which ends in December 2006. He says that at the time he joined the Army, he didn’t think the war was justified, but felt that “the president’s claims should be given the benefit of the doubt.”

But after he learned more about the rationale for fighting the war, he sent a letter to his commander at Fort Lewis, stating his opposition to the war in Iraq and the “deception” used to wage it. He asked to resign his commission but his request was rejected.

Since Watada’s unit left for Iraq on June 22nd, he has been confined to Ft. Lewis and is awaiting the consequences of his actions, which could include a court martial or a dishonorable discharge.

Ehren Watada is the son of Carolyn Ho and Bob Watada, former executive director of the Hawai`i state Campaign Spending Commission who protested the war in Vietnam, believing it to be illegal. The Watadas support their son and have flown up to Washington State to be with him.

Watada has received a great deal of criticism for his refusal to deploy to Iraq, many questioning why he joined up three years ago. His father says, “(Ehren) is very, very patriotic…He didn’t realize then that the president could lie.” But he also has many supporters, among them: U.S. Representative Neil Abercrombie, State senators Clayton Hee and Clarence Nishihara, Hawaiian sovereignty activist Lilikalā Kame`eleihiwa, former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano and Lt. Governor Jean King.

Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to Become
National Monument

By NWHIT Staff

A 1,400-mile-long, 100-mile-wide section of the Hawaiian archipelago will be under permanent protection by the U.S. federal government. “Building on all the work that was done in the last five years under the marine sanctuary process, the president has decided to elevate the designation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands area to national monument status,” said a statement released by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “This means the area will get immediate protection…”

Officials and environmentalists who have been working on a proposed designation of Marine Sanctuary for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were surprised but happy at the change. It will be the largest marine preserve in the U.S., and the largest in the world where no fishing will be permitted.

There are more than 7,000 marine species in the area, over 1,500 of which are found only in the Hawaiian archipelago, including the Laysan albatross, the green sea turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. In addition, some of the islands such as Nihoa have great cultural importance to Native Hawaiians, and are referred to as kūpuna, respected elders.

In 2004, the voyaging canoe Hōkūle`a sailed to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in an effort to educate and raise awareness of Hawai`i ’s delicate ecological system.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is a microcosm of island ecology where we can learn to manage and care for a pristine and fragile ecosystem and apply these lessons back to the main Hawaiian Islands. It also provides a basis for comparison of the health of our coral reefs back home. Hōkūle`a’s mission is to restore an ancient wisdom, the Hawaiian concept of malama – of caring for our land and sea to ensure a balance among all forms of life. (from the Polynesian Voyaging Society website.)

NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) will develop regulations for managing the new monument and the private Pew Charitable Trusts is looking at ways to provide financial relief to those losing their fishing permits in the area.


Be Careful of Island Protected Areas

On Kaua`i, dogs got into a protected nesting area for the Laysan albatross and killed 15 of them. Officials believe that the dogs were able to get into the area through a hole in the fence that was openedPhoto from fws.gov/midsay by beachgoers looking for a shortcut. The private, non-profit organization Na Aina Kai Tropical Botanical Gardens is located in Kilauea where a small colony of the gooney birds has been nesting for several years. While the Laysan albatross is not endangered, it is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. A biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that put up the fence said that humans who altered the fence are as much to blame as the dog and dog owners. The loss of 15 birds is serious considering that only 200 pairs nest there every year. Officials encourage anyone seeing breaches in the fences and dogs or other animals attacking the birds to report it immediately. The owner of any animal that kills the protected bird faces up to $5,000 in fines and 6 months in jail.

The Laysan albatross is Hawai`i ’s largest seabird with a wingspan of 6-7 feet.


Nā Mana`o Ulu Wale

-Random thoughts, casual observations and other bits of fluff.-
by Roger Close

Aloha and happy summer! For starters this month, I share with you another “I can’t believe it” story from the Big Island.

On May 25th, ten volunteers donned protective suits to clear genetically engineered papaya trees found growing on an organic farm in Kapoho on the Big Island. The owner of the 9.1-acre organic farm speculated birds or the wind spread seeds from nearby farms where SunUp papayas are grown. SunUp and Rainbow varieties were created by the University of Hawai`i and Cornell University researchers to counter the ring spot virus that reduced Big Island papaya harvests by more than 50 percent following its discovery in 1992.

The patented seeds were distributed in 1998 and soon started producing the first genetically modified tree fruit to be sold commercially in the U.S. Genetically engineered papayas are grown commercially only in Hawai`i!

The disease-resistant varieties are banned in Japan, which buys 40 percent of Hawai`i’s annual $16 million papaya crop. So…I wonder who is eating those specially engineered little darlings?

Oh, the hazmat suits were worn to prevent the volunteers from unintentionally spreading more seeds of the genetically altered plants.

And…what’s in your papaya?


On a more pleasant note, last September Hawai`i’s Governor Lingle signed state rules creating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands State Marine Refuge. The rules of the refuge ban fishing and limit public access to this remarkable archipelago of uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals and atolls, which make up one of the most spectacular marine systems on Earth. This archipelago, known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands begins 160 miles to the northwest of Kaua`i, and extends some 1400 miles out into the far reaches of the Pacific.

Under the rules, traditional Hawaiian cultural practices will still be allowed in the area.

The area is also currently in the process of being considered for a National Marine Sanctuary. The state has asked the federal government to extend the state fishing ban into the proposed sanctuary area, which extends about 50 miles from shore.


The Halawa Valley on Moloka`i, photo by Roger CloseAs you read this, I am winging my way to Moloka`i to volunteer my time, energy, and manual labor for the summer in the restoration and preservation of Hālawa Valley. (See the story of Hālawa Valley in June’s column.) I can’t do anything about the “takers” and the “spoilers,” but I can be a “giver” and a “keeper.” I choose not to spend my time mourning the consumption and destruction of the islands as I knew them. I can, and will spend my time taking care of and helping to preserve those few sanctuaries that remain unspoiled.

Hopefully, the editor of the NWHIT will continue to allow me to send nā mana`o o ulu wale from Moloka`i!

Until then, mālama pono.

Roger Close is a semi-retired Oregon educator who currently lives in the San Juan Islands . He was born and raised in Kāne`ohe, O`ahu. At eighteen, Roger left the islands to attend Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. Like so many, he ended up staying on the mainland, returning home for occasional visits. And yes, the editor of NWHIT will be happy to receive his columns from Moloka`i!

Click here for more Random thoughts, casual observations and other bits of fluff.

Roger Close is a semi-retired Oregon educator who currently lives in the San Juan Islands. He was born and raised in Kāne`ohe, O`ahu. At eighteen, Roger left the islands to attend Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon . Like so many, he ended up staying on the mainland, returning home for occasional visits.


Millionaires in Honolulu

By NWHIT Staff

Everyone knows about the high cost of living in the Islands, and the skyrocketing costs of buying a home on any island, but a recent report helps us understand why: Honolulu ranks 10 th nationally in millionaire households, according to Kiplinger.com, the website of Kiplinger’s personal finance magazine.

“For years vacationers have flocked to the Pineapple State capital for a vacation…but today, wealthy mainlanders are returning, in search of an island paradise where they can retire,” said the story posted on the web.

The Pineapple State ?? It’s the ALOHA State…ey, who is dis Kiplinger? Maybe he got other things wrong too! But no, Forbes.com also listed Honolulu as the 10th highest in median household income among U.S. cities. And those from other islands confirm that millionaires are everywhere in Hawai`i and not only confined to Honolulu.

While the rich can and do enjoy all the blessings that Hawai`i has to offer, an estimated 12.5% of island people are living under the poverty line. What’s worse, many of the wealthy are migrants from the continent and elsewhere, many of whom live only part of the year in our island paradise. They fly in, hole up in their megahouses in gated communities, lounge around the pool and have very little interaction with the surrounding communities.

And so the gap between the rich and poor gets wider and deeper. No wonder plenny people huhū.

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