Natives of the Hawaiian Islands are not Indigenous People, They’re Aboriginal

•This blog entry has been revised to ensure historical accuracy.

There is much confusion regarding the political term indigenous people and its application or misapplication to the natives of the Hawaiian Islands. But before we can discern and qualify whether or not the natives of Hawai‘i are an indigenous people, we need to begin with definitions. By definition, indigenous is “originating or occurring naturally in a particular place,” whereas aboriginal is “inhabiting or existing in a land from the earliest times,” also referring to human migration as “first to arrive in a region.” According to Hawaiian history, the natives of the Hawaiian Islands, who are Polynesians, did not originate in the islands but rather came from central Polynesia between 1 and 300 A.D.

The term indigenous is common parlance in taxonomy, which is the branch of science concerned with the classification of plants and animals, e.g. the Black Bear is indigenous to the Americas, or the ‘Ohi‘a Lehua plant is indigenous to Hawai‘i. In this use, indigenous and endemic are synonymous. Aboriginal, on the other hand, is associated with migrations. You don’t refer to plants or animals as aboriginal. There are, however, instances of when Native Americans were called indigenous as early as 1838, but this also needs to be understood within the context of race relations at the time. Throughout the nineteenth century, Americans stereotypically referred to Native Americans as savages, even using the words noble and ignoble savage. This was a demeaning label as if Native Americans were animals.

The term indigenous as it applies in a “political context” to different people throughout the world appear to have been first coined in 1972 when the United Nations established a Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Jose R. Martinez Cobo served as Special Rapporteur and was the author of the Study on the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations. Cobo was the first to provide the following definition, “Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them.”

James Anaya, who served as Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, defines indigenous peoples as “living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. They are culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest.” Both Cobo and Anaya refer to countries such as the United States of America and Mexico, where in both countries or States, there pre-existed tribal peoples such as the Apache or the Zapotec. Indigenous peoples would not apply to a State such as Germany because Germanic tribal peoples such as the Teutonic, Suebian or Gothic were the ones that formed the German State as we know it today. They were not invaded or colonized by a State when they were still tribal. This same logic would apply to the Tongan State where it was the Tongan people, who are Polynesian, that established their State that exist today.

On June 27, 1989, the concept of indigenous peoples was adopted by the International Labor Organization in its Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (No. 169), which entered into force on September 5, 1991. Article 1 states: “This Convention applies to: (a) tribal peoples in independent countries whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sections of the national community, and whose status is regulated wholly or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations; (b) peoples in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geological region to the which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonization or the establishment of present state boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.”

By these definitions, it is clear that indigenous peoples are distinguished from the State they reside in, and the term does not apply to the citizenry of States. In their journal article Indigenous “Sovereignty” and International Law: Revised Strategies for Pursuing “Self-Determination,” Corntassel and Primeau explain that indigenous peoples are viewed not as sovereign States, but rather “any stateless group” residing within the territorial dominions of existing sovereign States [17(2) Human Rights Quarterly 347 (1995)].

On September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution proclaiming the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While the Declaration has no definition of indigenous peoples, it does provide what rights indigenous peoples have within the States. What is clear is that the Declaration distinguishes between indigenous peoples and the State they reside in. In its preamble, the Declaration provides, “Convinced that the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples in this Declaration will enhance harmonious and cooperative relations between the State and indigenous peoples, based on principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, non-discrimination and good faith,” and “Encouraging States to comply with and effectively implement all their obligations as they apply to indigenous peoples under international instruments, in particular those related to human rights, in consultation and cooperation with the peoples concerned.”

The first United States law to identify the natives of the Hawaiian Islands as indigenous is the 1993 joint resolution to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the January 17, 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, and to offer an apology to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. The Apology resolution stated, “Whereas, the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national laws to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.” In 2011, it was inserted in Act 195—Kana‘iolowalu, where it states, “The Native Hawaiian people are hereby recognized as the only indigenous, aboriginal, maoli people of Hawai‘i.” Act 195 also specifically made reference to the “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

This erroneous application of the political term indigenous people upon the natives of the Hawaiian Islands has been the cause of much confusion and assumes that natives never had a sovereign and independent State of their own. Through the explicit acknowledgment by the Permanent Court of Arbitration of the Hawaiian Kingdom as a State from 1999 to 2001, as well as academic and scholarly research, we now know this identification is a complete fabrication.

Since the Hawaiian Kingdom was recognized as a sovereign and independent State in the nineteenth century, the natives comprised its citizenry, which was called Hawaiian subjects. As a nationality, the Hawaiian citizenry was opened to non-natives who were either born on Hawaiian territory (jus soli), or naturalized, which had a residency requirement.

The term that was used to identify the natives amongst the Hawaiian citizenry was aboriginal Hawaiian; and the Hawaiian translation of aboriginal Hawaiian is kanaka maoli as opposed to kanaka Hawai‘i, which is Hawaiian subject. According to the 1890 Hawaiian census, there were 40,622 aboriginal Hawaiians (kanaka maoli), both pure and part, and 7,495 non-aboriginal Hawaiians (kanaka Hawai‘i), which included: 4,117 Portuguese; 1,701 Chinese and Japanese; 1,617 other White foreigners; and 60 other nationalities.

In her will dated October 31, 1883, Princes Bernice Pauahi Bishop set the foundation for the establishment of the Kamehameha Schools to be built in 1887. Article 13 of her will made specific reference to aboriginal Hawaiians, which states, “I direct my trustees to invest the remainder of my estate in such manner as they may think best…in the maintenance of said schools; …and to devote a portion of each years income to the support and education of orphans, and others in indigent circumstances, giving the preference to Hawaiians of pure or part aboriginal blood.” In other words, a person can be Hawaiian who is not “pure or part aboriginal blood.”

A similar provision was in the will of King William Charles Lunalilo who established Lunalilo Home for the Hawaiian elderly. Article 3 of his will dated June 7, 1871, states: “I order the Trustees…to expend the whole amount in the purchase of land and in the erection of a building or buildings on the Island of Oahu, of iron, stone, brick or other fire proof material, for the use and accommodation of poor, destitute and infirm people of Hawaiian (aboriginal) blood or extraction, giving preference to old people.”

Aboriginal Hawaiians are not indigenous people, but remain the majority of the citizenry of a sovereign and independent State—the Hawaiian Kingdom. The rights of the citizens of an occupied State is enshrined under the 1949 Geneva Convention (IV) relative the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and the 1977 Additional Protocol (I) relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts.

The Hawaiian Kingdom was not invaded or colonized by the United States before it became a State under international law, and therefore its people cannot be considered as indigenous. Instead, international law protects and maintains the continuity of the State despite it being under an illegal and prolonged occupation since the Spanish-American War, which is similar to Germany’s occupation of Luxembourg from 1914-1918 during World War I.

34 thoughts on “Natives of the Hawaiian Islands are not Indigenous People, They’re Aboriginal

  1. Just needed to say that “indigenous” and “endemic” are not synonymous in taxonomy . The ‘ōhi‘a lehua is not an indigenous Hawaiian species because it is not naturally found outside of the Hawaiian islands. Therefore, it is an endemic Hawaiian species.

  2. I was taught we native Hawaiians were always here from the beginning. Not migrated here from another place. The story that tells of the origins of the Kii, and the reason for their distorted facial expressions, tells we were here from before the great destruction of Mu. Indigenous we are.

      • One more thing too,

        this wasn’t recently or overnight..we’ve been there for hella’va long time. People make it seem like we moved there last July 200 years ago something like in the 1800s/ 1700s/1500s. No I mean even before the kiis etc. back before Jesus Christ was even born (like 50 years before)

        However, people saying we’re not native is like saying native americans aren’t native because THEY were NOT the first ones in america. There were already people living there before they arrived. Or Mexicans aren’t Mexicans because Spanish came from Spain. It’s a stupid conversation but like I said, WE are Native Hawaiians and it is our motherland and roots. At least it’s mine idk about anyone else, my grandpa was full blooded hawaiian as far as I know back til the 1700s…idk past that but I honestly dont give a damn. Point is, we da kama’ainas and our roots go deep. Don’t let anyone take that from you. I feel people would be surprised if they learned about their family history/ lineage/ roots

    • Modern day hawaiians are just another wave of invaders. The original people of the islands were the Menehune.

    • A caution that has to be mentioned here is that words used in normal conversation do not always have the same meaning in legal terms. For example in Blacks Law Dictionary there is 18 different meanings of “is”.

      Then you have to be aware of the verbal volleyball in politics and the political terms used. . As stated in this blog: “This erroneous application of the political term indigenous people upon the natives of the Hawaiian Islands has been the cause of much confusion”

  3. Maybe to understand the definition it would be easier to see how the term “indigenous peoples” does not apply to Hawaiians. Just replace the names of the states and peoples with the word Hawaii and Hawaiian.

    “…..Indigenous peoples would not apply to a State such as Germany because Germanic tribal peoples such as the Teutonic, Suebian or Gothic were the ones that formed the German State as we know it today. They were not invaded or colonized by a State when they were still tribal. This same logic would apply to the Tongan State where it was the Tongan people, who are Polynesian, that established their State that exist today.

  4. I would not go that way because went it comes to RULE OF LAW you have to be on target. In the Dictionary the only word describes a HUMAN being is ABORIGINAL. Aboriginal is plural and Aborigine is singular. Again, you don’t want to be identify as an indigenous plant or a native bird.

    • You are spot on. One more word of caution, definitions in a law dictionary such as Black’s Law Dictionary, are not always the same as a common dictionary. e.g. in Black’s there are 18 different meanings of the word “is”.

  5. Who is the blogger and how can I contact them? I’m doing a NHD project on the Hawaiian Annexation and need some interviews about it. Hoping the blogger could do one?

    • TRUTH: There is no such thing as “the Hawaiian annexation”! NO TREATY OF ANNEXATION = NO ANNEXATION ever happened!!!

  6. Just for the sake of conversation;

    After a 123 years, I would like to think that any group of Kanaka tasked with creating a constitution for the Hawaiian Kingdom, would have learned how to insure that our nation can no longer be stolen from us again.

    One of the problems King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani had was too many foreigners involved in our political and economic decisions. While the Monarchs thought these foreigners had our kingdoms best interest in mind, it was their personal interest that came first.

    The following is from the Na’i Aupuni constitution;

    Article 35 – Executive Elections

    The President and Vice-President shall be elected in an election.

    Article 36 – Qualifications of Executives

    No person shall be eligible to hold the office of the President and Vice-President unless they have attained the age of thirty (30) years and have resided in the Hawaiian Islands for not less than ten (10) years immediately preceding the election.

    I have a problem with both Article’s 35 and 36, it seems they are following the American political structure and they allow any non-Kanaka who is at least 30 years of age and has at least ten (10) years of residency qualify to run for their president or vice-president. Even America requires a person running for president be born on American soil.

    At least under the Kingdom of Hawaii’s Constitution there is a Monarch of Native Hawaiian Blood then there is the House of Nobles and the House of Representatives. I don’t know what the requirement is for the House of Nobles, but the House of Nobles should also be of Native Hawaiian Blood to insure Native Hawaiians will always be a part of the Kingdoms decisions.

    This is just something I put together to generate conversation as we wait for new post on the blog. Please give your mana’o on what you believe our constitution should contain to insure we never let foreigners make decisions for us or steal from us again.

    A Hui Hou,

    Kuniole

    • Here is a question for you. Da Kanaka Maoli people of Da Hawaiian Kingdom Government were they Citizens of their Nation or were they Subject to their Ancestor’s Nation????

      • After 1843, I believe they became citizens of their nation. If I’m wrong please give me more to chew on.

        Like I said, I’m just trying to generate more conversation as we await new post on the blog and in turn maybe we can help each other learn and understand all that’s going on as well as our history.

        Mahalo for your response.

        kuniole

        • Aloha Cuz, our people Da Kanaka Maoli were subjects because of our Koko to our Ancestor’s. Citizens were given to da foreigners that was created by our Ancestor’s for them, because they wanted to live in da Hawaiian Islands under da Hawaiian Kingdom Laws. We are the only people that can say that because the u.s.a was created by their four fathers so, that is why they created citizenship in america because no koko to four fathers.

        • Key terms involved in determining the international status of persons were: “subjects,” “citizens,” “national,”
          and “permanent allegiance.” Because Hawai’i was a government with a Monarch it was customary to use “subject”. If they were part of a Republic or a “State of” the term “citizen”. Politics and periods of history will often determine the accepted norm. At one time all people living in America were “British subjects” after the revolution “citizen” became the accepted norm.

    • Aloha, Kuniole

      Under H.K. law, Title 3, Chapter 11, Article 30 of the H.K. Civil Code, the King appoints the members for the House of Nobles. Each member-appointed Noble holds his seat for life unless he resigns and he is subject to the provisions of Article 53 of the H.K. 1864 Constitution (subjected to punishment for disorderly behavior). Anyone appointed a member of the House of Nobles must have attain the age of 21 and have to reside in the Kingdom for at least 5 years.

      When it comes to appointing members of the House of Representatives, under H.K. law, Title 3, Chapter 11, Article 31, members are actually elected by popular vote by Hawaiian subjects. Anyone who wants to run for Representative has to be a Hawaiian citizen or denizen citizen (someone who tried to apply for Hawaiian citizenship, but was denied. However was given certain rights), they have to be at least 25 years of age, they have to know how to read and write and understand accounts, and they also have to reside in the H.K. for at least one year before his election. However, any person running for Representative CANNOT have been convicted of any high crime or misdemeanor and they cannot be insane or an idiot (someone who is not well educated or does not have any common sense, etc) If so, he is NOT eligible to be a Representative for the H.K. Government.

      In the H.K., it did not really matter who you were, what blood you had, or what is you ancestry (except by law if you were the King); the bottom line is as long as you qualify under H.K. law and maintain your unconditional allegiances to this country, you can run for legislative government. Nobody in the H.K. is given “special treatment” simply because of who they are; in fact under H.K. law, that type of behavior is illegal.

      For instance, under Article 13 of the H.K. 1864 Constitution, it states,
      “The King conducts His Government for the common good; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men among His subjects.”

      • Mahalo Iolani for the information, this is what I was trying to achieve when I wrote my blog. I want to have us all help each other learn and understand what’s going on, not just with our personal thought’s like mine, but with facts such as what you’ve provided.

        A Hui Hou

          • Mahalo Kekoa, It’s not just for personal information that I initially wrote, which I am grateful for, it is mainly to generate conversation amongst us, so not to have stagnant periods of time between post by our blog host.

            I enjoy checking the blog on a daily basis, looking for new and informational post to stay on top of things and I hope we can continue until we achieve our goal.

            A Hui Hou

  7. MAUI KINGDOM CAPITAL HAS NOW AWAKENED AS KANAKA MAOLI….NOT USA AMERICAN NATIVE HAWAIIAN INDIANS…..!@@!

  8. Aloha to all. It’s 5am in Las Vegas North America. After reading this information I’m sad mad angry and yet still hopeful. I remember our Kanaka Maoli from the 1970s and 80s fighting and arguing these same points yet here we are 2017 still doing the same thing!! Why? As a NATION OF 1M we have not truly come together AS 1M. So many groups state created entities continue to huli and twist the kukae, we chase it. They obtain and regulate the Hawaiian budget, you need to qualify with certain criteria 1/4 25% now 1/32. I suggested back in the mid 80s that we come togther ALL GROUPS to facilitate one focus, mission and prioritize together and take this kakio down. A kupuna scolded me. I’m 20 years older and I still hope but with more knowledge. Knowledge is power but who are we giving it to if we are hitting our heads on their kukae instead of wiping it out! This kakio and sore ache in our heart must take us to a higher level. Enough with nu ha and telling them off. What will it take for the 1Million+ to get ‘er done?!! Let us all bring our concern to kukakuka and find the common ground to achieve, SOVEREIGNTY SELF DETERMINATION OR BOTH?!! CAN YOU IMAGINE ALL 1MILLION + IN ONE PLACE? CUSTER HAS NO IDEA…..?
    Me ke Akua iko inoa Iesu Cristo,
    Olga Moku Kaaihue Nauka

  9. The Germanic tribal peoples, including the Teutons, Suebia and Goths, were indeed invaded and colonised – by the Romans. Not only that, but the Germanic tribes had previously invaded Roman territory as far as the south of Gaul and northern Italy before being driven back by Rome and colonised in the time of Augustus. They then succeeded in destroying three Roman legions, forcing the Romans to abandon Germania and withdraw behind the Limes. The Germanic tribes finally overran that barrier, destroyed the Roman Empire, and colonised its former territory in Gaul, Hispania, and elsewhere. That is where most of the states of Western Europe came from.
    I think Mr Anaya needs to go back to school!

  10. i am grateful that we are having conversations about our history, my question is, if some akamai kanaka can answer is, where did the name “hawaiian” come from?, i always knew many polynesians migrated here from the south pacific, first of the marqueses, because the burial sites of marqueses or “heaus’ were were simular as the present “hawaiians”buried their dead, the term “hawaiian” always bothered me because there are arguments within our people, about, ” i am 100% or whatever ‘hawaiian blood!, which seems silly to me, i think as a akamai kanaka that the term “kanaka maole” describe us as “people of this land,” being born here generation after generation after settlers came here, regardless of race, became “the people of this land” they knew no other place, only where they were from, i am glad i found this site, if i am wrong, please educated me, i live my life from our culture, i need the correct info to pass to my son, who will carry the tourch, much aloha, hookman

    • Aloha, I am an Indigenous woman from Turtle Island( Aka Canada and USA) I never read all the comments but one part of this discussion refers to a dictionary definition of aboriginal and indigenous. It needs to be considered who wrote the dictionary. And again in the native language there isn’t any such discrepancy. YOU BELONG TO THE EARTH OUR MOTHER.

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