Ka Lahui Hawaii: A Native Initiative for Sovereignty

By Mililani B. Trask

[Excerpted from “Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Activism, Research & Education,” Volume 6, #5-6, December 1993]

1. What is Ka Lahui Hawaii?

Ka Lahui is a Native initiative – it is something that developed from grassroots Hawaiians. It is based on a democratic constitution, created by Native Hawaiians. Citizenship is open to all Hawaiians and honorary citizenship is offered to non- Hawaiians. Only full citizens can vote and hold office. The Constitution identifies four branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative, the Judiciary and the Alii Nui. Leadership is elected by the citizens of the 33 districts statewide where Hawaiians live. Provisions for initiative, referendum and recall are included in the Constitution. Ka Lahui Hawaii is separate from the state government and controls its own internal affairs. Therefore, Ka Lahui Hawaii is not subject to state control.

Ka Lahui Hawaii is the evolutionary product of three generations of Hawaiians who have sought to regain their Native lands and to re-establish themselves as a self-governing people. Its government structure is democratic in nature, its political process is the elective process, and its cultural process is Lokahi.

2. What is Ka Lahui Hawaii’s definition of sovereignty?

The five elements of sovereignty are:

• A strong and abiding faith in the Akua
• A people with a common culture
• A land base
• A government structure
• An economic base.

Sovereignty is the ability of a people who share a common culture, religion, language, value system and land base, to exercise control over their lands and lives, independent of other nations. Self-sufficiency is the goal of nationhood. Self-sufficiency means the people are able to be self-supporting, capable of feeding, clothing and sheltering themselves. It means that they are the motive force for their own farming and pastoral projects.

3. What is Ka Lahui Hawaii’s approach to gain sovereignty?

Ka Lahui’s approach is to seek inclusion for the Hawaiian people in the existing U.S. federal policy that affords all Native Americans the right to be self-governing, and to obtain access to the federal courts for judicial review. Once this is achieved, the sovereign nation can explore with the state, federal and county governments, resolution of claims relating to the Native trusts and other entitlements. Ka Lahui believes that the nation should be created before Native entitlements are negotiated. It is the right of the sovereign entity to advance the claims of the people and to explore ways to resolve conflicts with the State and the U.S.

Sovereignty needs to be asserted. That is why Ka Lahui Hawaii has devoted the past three years to community education and citizen enrollment. Since 1987, Ka Lahui Hawaii has conducted over 100 workshops statewide on the Federal Policy and Sovereignty. It has sponsored and/or participated in four sovereignty conferences in the last two years and has published its positions and its Constitution for public review and input.

To date, there are over 8,000 citizens in Ka Lahui Hawaii.

4. Where is Ka Lahui Hawaii going? What is the plan?

a. Recognition and Development of a Sovereign Government

rThe primary objective of Ka Lahui Hawaii is to secure recognition for a sovereign government for the Hawaiian people. When Queen Liliuokalani was dethroned, our sovereign government was destroyed. The only way to repair that injury is to re-establish a sovereign entity. Ka Lahui Hawaii conducted its first General Election in February 1990, which elected national officers and island district repesentatives. Enrollment of citizens and education about Ka Lahui Hawai’i and Hawaiian sovereignty will continue to be a priority.

b. Assertion of Land and Water Rights

There are two public land bases set aside for Native Hawaiians:  5(f) Ceded Lands and Hawaiians Home Lands.

Native Hawaiians are ready and entitled to govern their own lands. Therefore, Ceded, Hawaiian Home Lands, and other federal lands (Crown Lands) should be transferred to the sovereign entity to provide for a land base to achieve self-sufficiency for Hawaiians.

Ka Lahui Hawaii will seek federal recognition and division of its trust assets so that, as a government, Ka Lahui Hawaii will be able to control its lands, levy taxes, build homes, i.e. to build the nation.

Many people, governmental agencies, and the U.S. Congress will be involved.

This is a 10-year plan.

Ka Lahui Hawaii is calling for the segregation of the Ceded and Hawaiian Homes trust lands with one half of the Ceded Lands (natural resources and revenues) and all of the Home Lands being set aside under the use, jurisdiction and control of the Native nation.

5. Can Hawaiians be citizens of the U.S. and Ka Lahui Hawaii?

Yes. There is no conflict of interest or of loyalty. Ka Lahui Hawaii, like all other Native American groups (Indian tribes and nations, Eskimos, Aleuts) have an inherent right to form a governing body. All persons who are residents and citizens of Hawaii are now under two constitutions: The Constitution of the U.S. and the Constitution of the State of Hawaii. Once a person enrolls in Ka Lahui Hawaii, she or he will be a citizen of Ka Lahui Hawaii. This will not change your U.S. or state citizenship or affect your job, retirement or pension from the U.S. or the state.

6. What does “Nation to Nation” mean?

“Nation to Nation” is a term used to describe how America relates to its Native people. Under the existing U.S. policy, America wants to establish government to government relations with its Native people. This is why over 500 Indian and Native Alaskan governments (councils) have been established. When the U.S. gives money, land or programs to the Sioux or Navaho, federal representatives meet with Indian governments to work out the details. Right now Hawaiians have no such government. This is why Ka Lahui Hawaii is organizing.

7. Are Hawaiians Indians? Isn’t the Federal Policy for Indians?

Hawaiians are not Indians. We can’t access Federal administrative procedures (BIA and Dept. of Interior procedures) to obtain “federal recognition.” This was decided in the case of Price v. State of Hawaii. 764 F.2d 623 (9th Cir. 1985.) However, other groups of Native Americans such as Alaskan Natives are not Indians. Alaskan Natives are Eskimo, Aleuts, and Inuits. They are included in the federal policy. This is because the word “Indian” is commonly used in the USA to mean “aborigines of America.” Native Hawaiians are people indigenous to the State of Hawaii. Just as the Indians are indigenous to the mainland United States. This was decided in two cases. Pence v Kleppe, 52g F.2d 135 (8th Cir. 1976) and Naliielua v. State of Hawaii Civil No. 90-00063 DAE, U.S. D. Ct., District of Hawaii.

8. What is Ka Lahui Hawaii’s Constitution?

Ka Lahui Hawaii adopted its Constitution in 1987. It is the fundamental document of our nationhood. It dedicates our nation to peace and disarmament and it provides for the nation to exercise the inherent powers of sovereignty discussed in Section 2. herein.

The Ka Lahui Constitution also sets forth what we believe our traditional and cultural rights to be. These include rights to worship, fish, cultivate kuleana lands and gather. In addition, our Constitution provides that Native people have rights of access to the mountains and the sea, and the right to be buried on Native soil and to elect their own government.

5 comments so far

  1. Edmund K Hiram on

    Amazing, Awesome, extraordinary, and heart-warming. How do I join? What is the situation of Ka Lahui Hawaii today, Nov 2011? Mahalo.

    • Ka Lahui Hawaii on

      Ka Lahui Hawaii has not had a legislative session nor conducted any official business for some years. In the last reunion of some of its citizens, it was agreed to start this website in part to have an online record of its work. Many originally enrolled citizens of Ka Lahui Hawaii have passed. Many are continuing positive sovereignty work on their own in separate arenas. Their experience with Ka Lahui Hawaii gave them a good start. When I enrolled in Ka Lahui Hawaii in 1993, I took an oath before a nokali and completed an enrollment form. Mahalo for visiting. RL

  2. John Roussos on

    Is there a fund established that would support the goals of Ka Lahui Hawai’i to which supporters could donate money?

    • Rebekah's Studio on

      The all-volunteer Ka Lahui Hawaii Political Action Committee maintains an account to receive income, including donations, to cover its expenses.
      You may write checks to
      “Ka Lahui Hawaii Political Action Committee”
      and mail to the treasurer:
      Rebekah Luke
      P.O. Box 574
      Kaaawa, HI 96730
      Mahalo nui loa for your support.

  3. Luwella Leonardi on

    Aloha, Luwella Leonardi, how can I help?

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