August 11, 2014
Dear Secretary Kerry:
Aloha and welcome to the Hawaiian Islands. I am a Professor of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi William S. Richardson School of Law. I am writing in my individual capacity and on behalf of others. The views expressed here are not those of the University of Hawai’i or the School of Law.
Since you will be in Honolulu, August 13, 2014, I ask whether you would be willing to meet with the Hawaiian community. The purpose of this meeting would be to clarify a legal issue of foreign relations that has become of critical importance to all in Hawaii these past months.
The Department of Interior, in June and July of this year held 15 statewide hearings as to whether to proceed with rulemaking that would result in administrative action recognizing Native Hawaiians as a federally recognized tribe. The testimony taken revealed that the single most important issue to the hundreds testifying was whether the United States has sovereignty over the Hawaiian Islands and whether the Kingdom of Hawai’i, a sovereign and independent nation continues to exist. This is a legal, not a political issue. We seek that you ask the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, to opine on whether the Kingdom of Hawai’i, as a subject of international law, ceases to exist in light of the international rule of law regarding the presumption of continuity.
The continued existence of the Kingdom would render the Department of Interior’s proposal legally questionable. The existence of the Kingdom raises the question that Hawai’i is occupied by the United States in violation of international and United States law. As a result, such occupation has extraordinary ramifications as to current United States foreign policy around the world because of the Kingdom of Hawai’i’s treaties with other independent nations. Officials of the Departments of Interior and Justice who represented the United States at these hearings did not answer these questions deferring to the Department of State as the appropriate agency.
These issues were also raised by a State official, Dr. Crabbe, Chief Executive Officer of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, an agency of the State of Hawai’i, in a letter, made public, to you. Although that letter was withdrawn by trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, its relevancy was affirmed by hundreds of those testifying who cited to it. It contains a more detailed explanation of points raised herein. A copy of Dr. Crabbe’s complete letter of May 5, 2014 can be found at: http://www.oha.org/news/oha%E2%80%99s-top-executive-makes-formal-request-us-department-state-legal-opinion-current-status-hawai (last checked August 4, 2014 4:10 PM.)
Moreover, a more detailed letter of mine, further discussing these issues, is being sent to your office in Washington D.C.
I can be reached through my offices at the University of Hawaii. Mahalo and Respectfully yours, Professor Williamson B.C. Chang, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Professor of Law, University of Hawaii
Professor Williamson Chang was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. He graduated from Princeton University with degrees in Asian Studies and from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Thereafter, he attended the University of California, Berkeley [Boalt Hall] where he was an editor of both the California Law Review and the Ecology Law Quarterly. He clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Dick Yin Wong in Honolulu and began teaching at the University of Hawai`i the following year.