Fact-checked news reports and personal opinions about political events and electoral issues. All comments are welcome. Hosted by Rob Lafferty, former newspaper editor and National Affairs columnist now living deep in the woods of Oregon's Coast Range...
A Government Rises From Exile
The Hawaiian Nation reclaims
its place in the world
(This article was first published in Hawai'i in 2000)
"Whereas the Kingdom of
Hawai`i, having been in exile for one-hundred seven years due to an unlawful
overthrow of its government de jure, has exercised perfect right to reestablish
its proper station as an independent nation within the community of
-The Preamble of the Amended Hawaiian
Constitution of 2000
The archipelago known as the Hawaiian Islands is either a state within
the United States - or it’s an independent nation in its own right, depending
upon your point of view. In the eyes of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at
the World Court, Hawai`i is an independent, sovereign nation that has been
occupied by the United States in violation of international law since 1893.
The Reinstated Hawaiian Government is making that international
perspective visible to both visitors and residents of Hawai`i. One weekend each
month, members of the sovereignty group peacefully occupy certain pieces of the
land on all major Hawaiian islands in a “Vigil for Justice and Peace.”
Each vigil is held on land that either the state or county now controls.
Most often, the location will be a park or public area. According to Hawaiian
Minister of Finance Kekoa Lake, the purpose of the vigils serve “…to introduce
the public to the true and rightful owner of the national lands.”
Members of the Nation, whose status can best be described as
citizens-in-waiting, set up tents and tables and signs, then settle in for the
weekend. They give out information and will talk story with anyone who comes by
- and lots of folks do, curious to learn what those signs are all about.
They do this without benefit of any permits. Most of the areas they
choose to occupy don’t allow overnight camping under any circumstances, but
there’s been no interference from local, state or federal authorities with the
The Reinstated Hawaiian Government is one of several movements working
towards restoration of the sovereign Nation of Hawai`i. While each of those
groups have different ideas on the process and final form, they are all
committed to restoring some form of independent status for Native Hawaiians.
Exactly what form the nation takes or who fills the role of head of state
is not an issue from an international perspective. There’s considerable
disagreement in the US and other countries over who actually won the last
American presidential election, but there is no doubt as to the valid existence
of the American nation.
The current Constitution as defined and amended by the Reinstated
Hawaiian Government is based on the constitution that was in effect in 1887.
They consider it to be the last lawful form of government before the overthrow
of Queen Liliokalani in 1893, and the true law of the land today.
The differences between the various movements who are claiming to
represent the government of Hawai`i are not important in a larger sense,
either. They can be compared somewhat to the multiple party system of
democratic government - groups of differing philosophies led by different
individuals, but sharing a common purpose.
A Nation and a People
There is a tremendous difference between a nation and a government. The
nation of Hawai`i has never ceased to exist - it was only the government that
was taken over and driven into exile.
There are four accepted standards to qualify as a nation that are
described in international public law: territory, population, sovereignty, and
government. Before it was occupied, the Kingdom of Hawai'i met all
qualifications. Now that a government body exists and is capable of
functioning, Hawai`i meets all of those qualifications again.
A nation is essentially the physical area of the land as defined by its
borders, and the citizens who reside within those borders. It’s not the
government - governments come and go, are overthrown and can be restored. The
nation remains, existing above and beyond the government unless it surrenders its sovereignty to
A surrender never happened in Hawai`i. The US government agrees, stating in
a 1993 document known as Public Law 103-150, that “...the indigenous Hawaiian
people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty
as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through
their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum".
The Kingdom of Hawai`i joined the global family of nations on Nov. 28,
1843, when England and France recognized it as an independent and sovereign
land. By 1893, Hawai`i had more than ninety embassies or consulates around the
world and had signed treaties and trade agreements with many of those
countries, including the US.
Depending upon whom you ask, the physical Nation of Hawai`i is composed
of somewhere between 16 and 128 islands in a large archipelago. The offshore waters
extending out 3 miles from the shore of each island are under the full
jurisdiction of the nation, and the waters extending out 200 miles are under
The people of the Nation of Hawai`i are those who currently hold
citizenship or citizen-in-waiting status in the nation. Ancestry or ethnic
background has little or nothing to do with anyone’s citizenship.
Because we humans are considered native to the land on which we were
born, a native Hawaiian is any person born in the islands. An indigenous or
aboriginal Hawaiian, a Kanaka Maoli, is someone whose ancestors lived in the
islands before first Western contact in 1778. A naturalized Hawaiian citizen is
anyone who adopts the citizenship of the nation, regardless of where they were
The Hawaiian people never had an internationally recognized government
made up wholly of Kanaka Maoli, of true Hawaiians by ancestry. The government
that existed between 1840 and 1893 was a multi-ethnic mix of indigenous, native
and naturalized citizens.
The reinstated government takes the position that citizenship is based on
allegiance, not race. They offer citizenship not only to Kanaka Maoli, but also
to Hawaiians (all persons born in Hawai`i who are not of aboriginal ancestry)
and to foreigners (all those residents born elsewhere who are not of aboriginal
The Legal Process of Restoration
The process of organizing the government was based on “The Law of
Nations”, a text on international jurisprudence - the same text used by the
framers of the American Constitution during their efforts to form a nation in
the 1770’s. By carefully following that process, the Reinstated Hawaiian
Government has established a legitimate existence.
On January 15, 2000, an elected legislature of the Kingdom of Hawai`i,
known as the Mana Kau Kanawai (“the body empowered to make laws”) convened on
Kaua`i for the first time in 107 years.
Occupation of a Sovereign Nation
"Now to avoid any collision of
armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do under protest and impelled by
said force yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United
States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its
representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the
Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands."
That was the official proclamation of Queen Liliokalani on Jan 17, 1893.
The Legislature had been compromised and controlled six years earlier, but that
statement from the Queen marked the beginning of exile for the true Hawaiian
President Grover Cleveland addressed the US Congress on Dec. 18, 1893,
saying that a "substantial wrong has been done". He described the
behavior of American officials as an ”act of war” and called for the
restoration of the true Hawaiian government.
Even in the presence of the truth, treason in Hawai`i joined with
collusion and greed in the halls of Congress to prevail. The United States
first occupied, then annexed Hawai`i and, in the opinion of the World Court,
continues to illegally occupy the island nation.
The constitution and laws that were in effect in 1887 are actually the
true laws of the land, in the opinion of the sovereigntists. As an occupying
power, by international law (Article 43, No. 4 of the 1907 Hague Convention)
the US is required to enforce the existing laws of an occupied territory – just
as the US did in Japan after WWII – and is not allowed to impose American law
on the residents.
In 1988 the US Justice Department stated "It is unclear which
constitutional power Congress exercised when it acquired Hawai`i by joint
resolution." In fact, the annexation of Hawaii was a prime example of
domestic law imposed on a foreign country. That resolution violated both the US
Constitution and international law.
On Dec. 13, 2000, US Senator Daniel Inouye stated that “Sovereignty is
inherent in the people. Its existence does not depend on recognition by another
government... the process of reorganizing a government to represent the
Hawaiian people should proceed without the involvement of the United States.”
“But the whole body of the Nation,
the State, so long as it has not voluntarily submitted to other men or other
Nations, remains absolutely free and independent." - The Law of Nations
In recent years the U.S., by choice and by default, has become the
world’s policeman. One responsibility that comes with that job is the
obligation to obey the same laws that you enforce on others. The only way that
the US can adhere to international law is to cooperate in an orderly transition
that returns the Hawaiian national land to the citizens of the nation.
“The kingdom was never lawfully terminated, therefore the kingdom still
exists and should be restored," said international law specialist Francis
Anthony Boyle of the University of Illinois in 1996. "The critical point
is the distinction between a state and a government. Their argument about the
kingdom of Hawai`i is correct - it was never validly terminated by the US
government. But assuming they regain their independence, what kind of
government they want is for them to decide."
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