Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Native Hawaiians work toward sovereignty

Children wave the flag of Hawaii. Photo from Office of Hawaiian Affairs / Facebook

Dina Gilio-Whitaker of the Center for World Indigenous Studies explores the fight for Native Hawaiian sovereignty:
“Kamau a Ea” in Hawaiian means “keeping the breath of life.” Ea is life but it can also mean sovereignty, rule, or independence. So the phrase has multiple meanings that in essence equates sovereignty with life. Since the 1970s cultural renaissance that gave birth to the reclaiming of their sovereignty, Hawaiians have struggled to define what sovereignty means for them. A series of meetings since 2012 known as the Kamau a Ea Symposiums have gathered Hawaiians together to hash out the finer details of Hawaiian self-determination, the most recent one held on Nov. 1.

The symposiums have been sponsored by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), an organization established by the Hawaii State Constitution in 1978, and governed by a body of elected trustees. According to OHA’s website, the organization functions as both a government agency and trust to protect Native Hawaiian people and their resources. The Kamau a Ea symposiums have convened many leaders in the diverse Hawaiian sovereignty movement after 14 years of congressional negotiations failed to pass the Akaka Bill. The Akaka Bill proposed federal recognition via the creation of a “Hawaiian governing entity,” subject to federal Indian law.

The most recent push for federal recognition has emerged out of the Department of the Interior with the Advance Notice on Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM), which has been consulting with communities throughout Hawaii and Indian country.

Get the Story:
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Indian Country Legal Experts Help Untangle Sovereignty in Hawaii (Indian Country Today 11/26)

Federal Register Notices:
Procedures for Reestablishing a Government-to-Government Relationship With the Native Hawaiian Community (June 20, 2014)

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