March raises sovereignty awareness
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AUGUST 14, 2000

Native Hawaiians and Hawaiian supporters gathered in Washington, DC, over the weekend in order to draw attention to and raise awareness of the fight for sovereignty of the Hawaii nation.

Organized by Butch Kekahu and the Koani Foundation, the two-day event began on Friday, August 11, with an oli, or chant, bringing the group together. Later in the day, organizers held a seminar at the Hirshorn Museum of the Smithsonian along with Mark Van Norman, director of the Office of Tribal Justice in the Department of Justice and John Berry, assistant secretary of the Department of Interior.

There, Van Norman faced some criticism over what one attendee called inaction by the federal government.

On Saturday, supporters participated in a 2-mile march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Ellipse across from the White House. Several hundred made the trek and listened to speakers, musicians, and dancers, representing some of Hawaii's 11 islands.

Along with a Ti Party held at the site of the Boston Tea Party in Massachusetts, the event has helped put a spotlight on the history of Hawaii. Overthrown illegally by American businessmen with the support of the United States military, Queen Liliuokalani was forced to abdicate the monarchy in 1893.

But the Queen continued to fight for the rights of her country. Many others, including event organizers Butch Kekahu and the Koani Foundation, have followed in her footsteps, and today Hawaiian sovereignty is the subject of debate among Hawaiians.

"We want our nation back," Kekahu told Indianz.Com. "There are lot of sovereignty leaders back in Hawaii fighting for the right to regain our nation back."

Outside the islands, sovereignty is also an important topic. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will begin conducting field hearings in Hawaii next Monday as part of a Congressional bill aimed at putting into words the legal status of Native Hawaiians within the framework of the federal government.

Long lumped into a broad category of "Indian Affairs" along with American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians share similar history of broken treaties and broken promises with their indigenous counterparts in the states.

But there are also significant differences, some of which are evident with criticism of the bill introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka. Some say it defines for Hawaiians what type of legal relationship they will have with the federal government without first consulting them.

Along with recognizing the trust relationship with Native Hawaiians, the bill would establish an Office of Special Trustee for Native Hawaiian Affairs, akin to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In 1993, Congress passed the Apology Resolution which recognized the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination. President Clinton apologized for the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani.

Get the Bill:
A bill to express the policy of the United States regarding the United States' relationship with Native Hawaiians, and for other purposes (S.2899)

Relevant Links:
Aloha March 2000:
The Ti Plant, by the Nation of Hawaii:
The Nation of Hawaii:
More on Rice v. Cayetano:
News, history, and more, by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:
Hawaii's Last Queen, by PBS:

Related Stories:
Group challenges Hawaii (Tribal Law 07/07)
Hawaiians march for sovereignty (The Talking Circle 07/05)
Sovereignty protests aim to educate (The Talking Circle 07/03)