In regards to Maunakea, the state has launched an effective campaign using the art of distractions: DLNR claims damage to native plants; the governor cites media threats; newspapers publish the cost of law enforcement; editorials claim hypothetical loss of potential income to the state.
There are many issues involved here, not the least of which is the governor’s alleged conflict of interest. But let’s focus on one fundamental, concrete issue: the illegal use of Hawaiian land by the state of Hawaii.
The state, via its Department of Hawaiian Homes Lands, is the trustee of that portion of land put aside in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Acts of 1920 and 1921 for the benefit of Native Hawaiians (Hawaiian Homes Lands Trust).
The state, therefore, is charged with managing those assets for the greatest good of those beneficiaries. Instead, the state has systematically plundered these assets for the good of non-beneficiaries by a series of deals that result in the building of airports and highways, etc., on HHLT lands with no compensation to the trust.
The state has also perpetrated numerous land exchanges of unequal value (see proposed Waipahu land exchange to benefit rail: HawaiiNewsNow Sept 9, 2019). And note that these exchanges have been made without permission from the U.S. Department of the Interior, per established legal procedures, and without consultation of beneficiaries.
Act 14 was an agreement made in 1995 by the state of Hawaii to address this issue by reimbursing DHHL for years of uncompensated land use, at that time estimated to be worth $1 billion.
Officials of DHHL, without consulting beneficiaries, agreed to help the state by accepting a mere $600 million (60%) in land exchange to settle the debt. The state has never paid that. Some money placed into an account for the good of beneficiaries would have shown good faith, but there was none — 24 years later, we have not received a single cent.
In common sense thinking (Business Law 101?), Act 14 is voided due to breach of contract by the state. So the state and the people of Hawaii must start over again, and since that contract of the ‘90s has been voided, the new land value has probably tripled, resulting in a greater debt by the state. We owe the beneficiaries of DHHL more than $1 billion plus 24 more years’ interest.
If you borrow money to buy a house and you do not make any payments on the house for 24 years, the bank forecloses on your loan and evicts you, and whatever improvements you may have made to your home are taken with it. So with the improvements of a road (ie., Maunakea Access) on HHLT lands that have not been paid for.
In this new era, the Hawaiians are asserting their rights (hence the kia‘i), and the state and DHHL will no longer be able to covertly conduct these lease and exchange agreements without authorization of the beneficiaries.
The state will have to pay the trust the appropriate lease amounts (rather than the $1/year that is supposed to be the fee for beneficiaries only) for all the HHLT lands they still use for highways, airports, observatories, etc.
Generations of Hawaiians have died on the DHHL list waiting for their land, while DHHL claimed insufficient funds to improve those lands for occupancy. And, all the while, the state has benefited from these lands without compensation to the trust.
Given the distrust engendered by these past practices and the evident conflict of interest between the state and a state department (DHHL), in future the beneficiaries shall have a say in the granting of these leases and exchanges.
Monies received will be put into a trust fund for beneficiaries so we can put more recipients back on the land. From now on, the state and foreign entities it has enabled to benefit from Hawaiian lands will pay the rightful landowners, the kanaka maoli, to do business in Hawaii.
So, in good faith, let’s negotiate. But the state does not want to do that. Their media coverage is to benefit TMT, the state of Hawaii, and all other foreign investments in Hawaii. An example of the success of this campaign comes from Aaron Stene, who wrote (bigislandnow.com, Sept. 10, 2019): “The TMT successfully underwent a 10-year permitting and judicial process to only be blocked by protesters illegally blocking Maunakea Access Road … If the TMT relocates, anarchy will have won out over the rule of law. This will set a disastrous precedent that will have far-ranging implications.“
As shown above, the “permitting and judicial process” itself was flawed, as the state does not own the land, nor does TMT. Furthermore, the Maunakea Access Road was illegally built on HHLT land without permission from landowners. That is trespass. The majority of the kia‘i currently occupying the land are the landowners: that is not trespass.
According to “the rule of law,” who should be evicted? Is reinstatement of the law anarchy? Cut through the distractions and you see the fundamental facts — this situation is the result of the state of Hawaii breaking its own, and federal, laws. (This actually dates back to the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, as determined by the World Court and acknowledged by U.S. President Bill Clinton, but not by the state of Hawaii; but that’s a whole other issue.)
To the kia‘i and all indigenous cultures throughout the world who are currently standing up to fight for their homeland and rights:
E na kanaka maoli o ke ao nei, a no na mea i hanau ‘ia ma lalo o ka Panala‘au o Hawai‘i (‘o ia ho‘i na kupuna): ua pa‘a ko kakou pono‘i i loko o kakou—‘o ke kahua o ko kakou na‘au, ‘o ia ho‘i ka honua ‘o Hawai‘i nei. ‘A‘ole hiki ke lawe ‘ia aku. Nana kakou i hanau. E kupa‘a, e ho‘ohanohano i ko kakou ho‘oilina ia kakou. E ho‘ike i ka honua, a e ho‘oikaika i na kanaka maoli ‘e a‘e e ‘a‘ume‘ume like ana, ‘o ke Kapu Aloha he mahele o kakou, ua hanau ‘ia ia ia. ‘O na mea a pau o Hawai‘i – ‘o ka wai, ka ‘aina, ke kai, ka lani; ‘o ka po me ke ao — ‘o kakou no ia. ‘A‘ole hiki ke lawe ‘ia aku. E ku wale a ku mau i ka pono — ‘o kakou no ‘o Hawai‘i.
In conclusion, to the kanaka maoli of the world, and especially to those born in the Territory of Hawaii (kupuna), our identity is secured within us — the very foundation of our na‘au is part of the landmass of Hawaii nei. They cannot take that from us. We are born of it.
So stand fast, do our heritage proud of who we are. Prove to the world, and give strength to other indigenous cultures who have a similar fight, that Kapu Aloha is part of who we are. We are born into it. Of everything that makes Hawaii — water, land, ocean, sky; the dark, the light — we are part. That, they cannot take away from us. Exude that righteousness — we are Hawaii.
Ke Akua pu. Aloha.
Lorrin Mano‘i and Ka‘imi Summers are residents of Kalaheo, Kauai; Waiki‘i, Hawaii Island; and Manae and Kalae, Molokai.