Preamble to the Constitution of the Native Hawaiian Nation

"We, the indigenous peoples of Hawai'i, descendants of our ancestral lands from time immemorial, share a common national identity, culture, language, traditions, history, and ancestry.  We are a people who aloha Akua, aloha 'aina, and aloha each other.  We malama all generations, from keiki to kupuna, including those who have passed on and those yet to come.  We malama our 'aina and affirm our ancestral rights and kuleana to all lands, waters, and resources of our islands and surrounding seas.  We are united in our desire to cultivate the full expression of our traditions, customs, innovations, and beliefs of our living culture, while fostering the revitalization of 'Olelo Hawai'i, for we are a nation that seeks pono.

"Honoring all those who have steadfastly upheld the self-determination of our people against adversity and injustice, we join together to affirm a government of, by, and for Native Hawaiian people to perpetuate a pono government and promote the well-being of our people and the 'aina that sustains us.  We affirm the National Sovereignty of the nation.  We reserve all rights to sovereignty and self-determination, including the pursuit of independence.  Our highest aspirations are set upon the promise of our unity and this Constitution."

Glossary:  aloha (in the presence of the Creator in every breath); 'aina (sacred land); malama (to take care of); keiki (children); kupuna (elders); kuleana (sacred responsibility); 'Olelo Hawai'i (the Native Hawaiian language); pono (uprightness, goodness).

The Historical Context

Make no mistake. The Hawaiian nation is illegally occupied. A sovereign nation - recognized across the globe by other sovereign nations - was claimed in 1893 by colonizing sugar cane barons (missionary sons) on behalf of the United States.  With guns held to the Queen's head, America's business interests tookpossession of a remarkable people and their stewarded land.

In subsequent years, the Native Hawaiian people have watched their sacred land desecrated, their names, language, prayers, healing modes, outlawed by representatives of the United States of America.  These are a people, who, for a couple hundred years under missionary law (until 1972),  were unable to name their child an Hawaiian first name, to speak their native language in public, to practice ho'oponopono - their powerful matriarchal mediation ritual (by which they prevented war for thousands of years).

Every small and large effort by the Native people to rebirth their sorely abused homelandhas been smashed by the well-financed fist of non-native opposition.  The still-entrenched, missionary offspring, and their deep-pocketed business interests continue to overwhelmeach and every Native effort with costly and prolonged American lawsuits. The irony here: occupying racists continue to argue that Native claims to their most rudimentary rightsare "race-based" and therefore "unconstitutional."

The opposition's efforts have largely succeeded - if success is measured in the defeat of a Native people.  Faith-filled Native Hawaiians and their remarkably humane culture struggle.  How many times can you raise your voice, lift your hand, and hold out hope - while seeking some redress from an occupying force that claims to love your Islands and your selfless people?

How?  The Constitution's Birth

It has been a long and complicated labor - no squatting in the fields to produce a perfect infant. The document is flawed; the participation in its creation is not as widely representative as one might hope.   I take here the task of sifting and winnowing -  deciding which twists in the long story to select, and which turns to axe.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is a state agency - the only state agency that purportedly serves the interests of the Native people.  Last year it funded an effort to collect Native Hawaiians onto a potential voter registration roll for the re-claimed Hawaiian Nation.  It also funded the potential election of delegates to an 'Aha or Constitutional Convention.

Of the almosthalf-million Native Hawaiians spread across the Islands and the continental United States, approximately 120,000 made their way onto the roll.  In the self-nominating process to be a delegate to the 'Aha, 196 Natives threw their hats into the ring.  The election would select forty delegates among those.  The Constitutional Convention was to be held over several months this past winter.

With votes submitted, and the tabulation just days away, the Washington D.C. based, conservative group, Judicial Watch sued on the basis that a "raced-based election is unconstitutional."  They lost their case at both the federal court level and again at the9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.   When they threatened to delay the vote count indefinitely with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the election organizers threw in the towel.  They would never count those votes.

Instead, they did this. They invited every one of those 196 self-nominated Native Hawaiians to assemble in Honolulu - to thrash out their differences and see what results.  Only 119 delegates accepted the invitation - and only 88 of those voted for the resulting Constitution; 30 voted against, and one abstained.

What Does This Constitution Mean?

Apparently "Self-Determination" and "Sovereignty" do not mean the same thing.  I am a writer with a pretty keenly attuned ear for language, and an acute interest in the well-being of the Native Hawaiians- and yet, I might have missed the difference.

"Self-determination" is the term most often used to define the Native American tribal relationship with the United States of America.  It is better-described as "Nation within a Nation."  Clearly, American Indian tribes are not independent.  Every Native rule of law must be approved by the U.S Department of Interior.

A significant segment of the Native Hawaiian population supports a similar plan for Hawaiians.  They most often speak of "self determination."

"Sovereignty" is the word more frequently used by people who call themselves, Hawaiian Nationals. It speaks clearly and affirmatively to independence from the United States - to the return of the sovereign Hawaiian nation.

This Constitution represents a victory for those Native Hawaiians who favor Nation Within a Nation status.  And in truth, many of the delegates who chose not to attend the 'Aha, dropped out because they believed the decks were stacked toward that conclusion from the get-go.  But among those Hawaiian Nationals who did attend, there were clearly compromises wrought in the document: the Preamble is acceptable to both - and some words reflect attempts at assuaging their potential differences.

"The Native Hawaiian people have never relinquished their claims to the National lands.  To the maximum extent possible, the Government shall pursue the repatriation and return of the national lands, together with all rights, resources and appurtenances associated with or appertaining to those lands..."

The division between the two groups is stark and true.  But it no more defined what's happening here in Hawai'iat this moment, than the West Virginia State Fair defines what's happening in America.

Do We Support This Constitution?

Asmany well-know, 'Iokepa Hanalei 'Imaikalani is an Hawaiian National.  He very much doubts that the solution to colonization is subtly-limited colonization.  But 'Iokepa Hanalei 'Imaikalani believes much more than just that.

He believes that the Native Hawaiian culture and people - who lived without war for thousands of years before occupation - have a great deal to teach the warring world.  And he's pretty darn sure that the lessons from that matriarchal-fostered, peace-keeping nation will not come while being governed by the United States.

But he also fervently believes that the Native Hawaiian people are in the unstoppable process of coalescing right now, and he supports all efforts for Hawaiian cultural freedom.

Embedded on our Return website for the past nine years are these words:

"We agree on so much more than we do not. We agree that we – who are descended from the original ancestors – are brothers and sisters. We agree that our personal freedom relies on knowing who we are and who our ancestors were. We agree that the Creator entrusted the Islands to our care – that we are its stewards. We agree that we come from a people who took responsibility for one another, and for every part of the living creation. We agree:  The time to share our message with the world is now.”

And agreeing on who they are, where they are from, what and who they honor, and how they serve and are nourished by the land, absolutely trumps any superficial difference in opinion about how that is to be accomplished.

What Now?

The Constitution is written.  The Ratification process begins.  It is a huge undertaking:  enrolling as many of those half million Native Hawaiians as are willing to enter the fray.  It requires an enormous grass-roots outreach, education, and engagement - both on the Islands and across the United States.  It is a process that will by necessity require the solicitation of divergent opinions, the art of diplomatic compromise.

I am reminded of the American effort to reign in gun violence.  Because, at first, we may not be able to remove assault weapons or close every loop-hole, is not the case-made for bailing on the effort.  We agree to get what we can get passed now - and then rigorously work to engage, educate, and pass laws.

There exists now this drafted Constitution.  It is neither the beginning nor the end of the vigorous conversation and effort on behalf of Native Hawaiian independence.  But it is an actual document that moves the conversation onto very solid ground.

There exists now an organization called Aloha Lahui (Lahui being the original name of the Hawaiian Islands).  It exists without any entangling connections to the State of Hawai'i.  It is wholly grass-roots, and it is lighting the path for the coalescing Natives.  It operates independently, and with integrity. I put a link here to their website, and recommend that you take a look.

The Return Voyageneither endorses this Constitution, nor refuses to engage it.  'Iokepa believes that the freedom movement needs more than simple rejection, refusal and intransigence.  He wholeheartedly endorses the motion toward a coalescing Native electorate who will unhesitatingly re-birth their stolen nation.  The time is now.