The Misuse of the term Self-determination Regarding Hawai‘i

Whether by chance or design, the term “self-determination” is used to confuse an already confusing situation regarding Hawai‘i. The term is constantly applied as a sound bite employed by individuals who don’t have an understanding of its application. In news coverage of the so-called nation building process of Native Hawaiians, the term is so constantly used that it lost its meaning or that its true meaning was never known in the first place.

In her 1991 law article titled, Historical and Contemporary Hawaiian Self-Determination: A Native Hawaiian Perspective (8 Ariz. J. Int’l & Comp. L. 77), Mililani Trask wrote, “Since [Native] Hawaiians never surrendered their political rights through treaties nor voted on annexation, they fall under the United Nations category of a ‘non-self-governing people.’” Is Mililani correct? This begs the question, what is the United Nations definition of “non-self-governing”? And based on this definition, does it apply to Hawai‘i? To know what is “non-self-governing,” we need to know first the definition of “self-governing.”

Since its creation in 1945, the United Nations defines self-governing three ways: first, as an independent State, second, a State in association with another State, and, third, total incorporation into an existing State, all three of which can only occur through consent of the particular people. The process of consent is called “self-determination,” which is also referred to as “nation building.” Consequently, the term “non-self-governing” is a people who are neither an independent State, a State in association with another State, or have been totally incorporated into an existing State.” This is consistent with Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition of self-determination, which is “the process by which a group of people, usually possessing a certain degree of national consciousness, form their own state and choose their own government.”

The principle of self-determination is always opposed to the State and is not an attribute of a State. In other words, States do not have a right to self-determination, but rather an obligation for member States of the United Nations since 1945, to recognize that peoples, who are non-States, have this right to choose for themselves their form of governance. In the Charter of the United Nations, Article 1 provides, “The Purposes of the United Nations are…to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.” For the purpose of self-determination, the term “people” or “peoples” are not the State, but rather reside within the State.

What has to be kept in mind was that when the Charter was drafted in 1945 the term “self-determination of peoples” was specifically referring to “Mandate” and “Trust” territories that were under the administration of States since the end of the First World War, and colonial territories of the victors of the Second World War under Article 73(e) of the United Nations Charter. Mandate territories were former territorial units of Germany and the Ottoman Empire that were taken under the control of members of the League of Nations, and Trust territories were former mandate territories under the League of Nations, and territories formerly held by Japan prior to the Second World War. The victors of the Second World War also were required to regularly report the status of their colonial territories, being non-self-governing, on the position where each of its territories stood toward self-governance. The administration of territories, however, and the fostering of self-determination, remained with the colonial State, unlike the Mandate and Trust territories. Article 73(b) of the UN Charter requires the administrating State “to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions.”

These territorial units were often referred to as colonial territories of empires that were comprised of different people than that of the citizenry of the colonial power. An example of a Mandate territory is Iraq, being a former colonial territory of the Ottoman Empire, under the administration of the United Kingdom after the First World War. Iraq achieved independence as an independent State in 1932. The Federated States of Micronesia was a Trust territory under the administration of the United States of America. Micronesia achieved independence as a State in association with the United States in 1986. Fiji was an Article 73(e) territory that achieved independence as a State from the United Kingdom in 1970. Iraq, Micronesia, and Fiji, as non-self-governing territories, exercised self-determination in order to achieve self-governance and became independent sovereign States.

Indigenous people, however, are not placed on the same status as Mandate, Trust or Article 73(e) territories. Indigenous peoples are peoples that reside within the territories of the State themselves, which are not considered under international law as colonial territories. According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur Jose Martinez Cobo of the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, self-determination “constitutes the exercise of free choice by indigenous peoples, who must, to a large extent, create the specific content of this principle, in both its internal and external expressions, which do not necessarily include the right to secede from the State in which they live and to set themselves up as sovereign entities. This right may in fact be expressed in various forms of autonomy within the State.” Autonomy and independence are not synonymous, whereby the former is governance “within” a State and the latter is governance “separate” from the State.

In 2001, the United States confirmed Cobo’s definition of self-determination for indigenous peoples. According to the United States National Security Council, “Indigenous peoples have a right of internal self-determination. By virtue of that right, they may negotiate their political status within the framework of the existing nation-state and are free to pursue their economic, social, and cultural development. Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right of internal self-determination, have the internal right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their local affairs, including determination of membership, culture, language, religion, education, information, media, health, housing, employment, social welfare, maintenance of community safety, family relations, economic activities, lands and resources management, environment and entry by non-members, as well as ways and means for financing these autonomous functions.”

The original members of the United Nations only numbered 51 States, and through self-determination of peoples, the membership of the United Nations grew exponentially to 193, which were all former non-self-governing peoples. In 1843, the Hawaiian Kingdom achieved international recognition of independence as a State in the nineteenth century, what one hundred forty two States, including Iraq, Micronesia and Fiji, achieved in the twentieth century. The United Nations is an international organization of States, but not all States are members of the United Nations. Switzerland is an example of a State that was not a member of the United Nations until 2002. The Hawaiian Kingdom, as well, is not a member of the United Nations, but is an independent and sovereign State today.

In 1946, the United States disguised the prolonged occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom, by reporting Hawai‘i to the United Nations under Article 73(e) of the UN Charter as if it was a non-self-governing territory of the United States. This began the deception that Hawai‘i was annexed as a colonial territory to the United States, which formed the foundation for the use of the terms today such as colonization, indigenous rights, and self-determination that only reinforces the illusion that Hawai‘i is a part of the United States.

Self-determination does not apply to Hawai‘i, because Hawai‘i already attained the international status as an independent State in the nineteenth century, like Iraq, Micronesia and Fiji in the twentieth century, which was confirmed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration during arbitral proceedings from 1999-2001, in Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom. The concept of indigenous people, as well, does not apply to the natives of Hawai‘i, because the Hawaiian Islands remain the territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom and not the United States, and that the natives of Hawai‘i are the ones who comprised the majority of the citizenry of the Hawaiian Kingdom as an independent and sovereign State.

13 thoughts on “The Misuse of the term Self-determination Regarding Hawai‘i

  1. Mahalo for this mana’o once again. Very important stuff. Hopefully some of these Na’i aupuni supporters will read it and wake up! Hello… they don’t realize the potential negative ramifications their participation could do to our Ko Hawai’i Pae ‘Aina. Auwe.

    On a different note … I’d like to share a book with you written by a bradda from Hilo (Keaukaha), called “Waves of Resistance” by Isaiah Helekunihi Walker. It is accurate and very well put together historical/documentary type of reading about the ancient sport of he’e nalu. Mahalo HK. Mahalo Ke Akua. LLHK.

  2. Aloha Anakala Can someone use adverse possession on your family’s royal patent lands to legally take it? Could the territorial government use eminent domain on your royal patent lands?

    • They have used adverse possession and eminent domain successfully many times. It is factual and enforced by the occupier but it doesn’t make it legal. Imagine those citizens occupied by Nazi Germany having their lands taken by the occupiers Nazi courts. They had no recourse until the occupation ended. That is the reality of occupation. It’s called war crimes.

    • The late Constitutional Law expert, Jon Van Dyke, would always argue that it could not be done. The Kawelo ‘Ohana, their loss of Mokulēʻia and the surrounding area to the Dillingham family, proves that it was done anyway. The Kawelo ‘Ohana filled legal action but didn’t prevail. Please see Kekoa’s comment below.

      • Aloha Kahalaopuna, Despite the victim(s) loss in the occupier’s court they will retain title but are unable to effectively exercise their rights to title until the occupation ends. Justice for war crime victim(s) usually happen after the fact. Deterrence could be achieved during an occupation if complaints were investigated and prosecuted in a proper jurisdiction outside of the occupied territory. According to the statute the perpetrator(s) must have knowledge of the factual basis of the occupation, so it would be wise to provide him/her with that information. Although ignorance is not a defense to a war crime it could be a mitigating circumstance for a lesser punishment. Get them informed so victim and perpetrator can get the justice they deserve. MHO

  3. Re: your last line. If the numbers of Hawaiians are dwindling to let’s say, very little, does the independent sovereign state of the kingdom still exist?

    • Yes the Hawaiian Kingdom still exist. There’s no evidence to prove that it got annexed to the United States. Without evidence of its annexation, Hawaii is still its own country legally speaking.

    • Aloha Mamo Kim, Here’s a portion taken from this blog that shows you a ratio of it’s citizenship in our occupation. As far as this one aspect of Hawaiian national population, yes the Kingdom exists.

      Once a State is occupied, international law preserves the status quo of the occupied State as it was before the occupation began. To preserve the nationality of the occupied State from being manipulated by the occupying State to its advantage, international law only allows individuals born within the territory of the occupied State to acquire the nationality of their parents—jus sanguinis. To preserve the status quo, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention mandates that the “Occupying Power shall not…transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” For individuals, who were born within Hawaiian territory, to be a Hawaiian subjects they must be a direct descendant of a person or persons who were Hawaiian subjects prior to the American occupation that began at 12 noon on August 12, 1898, which was when ceremonies took place by the United States annexing the islands. All other individuals born after 12 noon on August 12, 1898 to the present are Aliens who can only acquire the nationality of their parents.

      According to the 1890 government census, Hawaiian subjects numbered 48,107, with the aboriginal Hawaiian, both pure and part, numbering 40,622, being 84% of the national population, and the non-aboriginal Hawaiians numbering 7,485, being 16%. Despite the massive and illegal migrations of foreigners to the Hawaiian Islands since 1898, which, according to the State of Hawai‘i numbers 1,302,939 in 2009, the status quo of the national population of the Hawaiian Kingdom is maintained. Therefore, under the international laws of occupation, the aboriginal Hawaiian population of 322,812 in 2009 would continue to be 84% of the Hawaiian national population, and the non-aboriginal Hawaiian population of 61,488 would continue to be 16%. The balance of the population in 2009, being 918,639, are Aliens who were illegally transferred, either directly or indirectly, by the United States of America as the occupying Power.

      Despite over a century of illegal migration that exploded the Alien population from 41,873 in 1890, of which U.S. citizens merely number 1,928, to 918,639 in 2009, the population of Hawaiian subjects has remained intact with its ratio of 84% aboriginal Hawaiians and 16% non-aboriginal Hawaiians. This should alleviate the concern of aboriginal Hawaiian subjects who previously thought they were the minority, when in fact and law they remain the majority. Only Hawaiian subjects, whether aboriginal or non-aboriginal, have political rights, which means they alone can participate in government.

  4. This is a question for Keanu and/or Williamson. If the apparent nature of our present government is the same as before the u.s. arrived and took over then what is the relationship between the current police force and the kanaka maoli and aupuni? Since it is my determination to exist as aupuni and serve my nation as such how do you classify the treatment? If I am adjudicated by the Lawful Hawaiian Government and found not guilty or innocent of charges brought against me by the police and courts what is the justice of adjudication by the state courts which find me guilty and attempt to have me pay for it. Additionally what kind of justice am I been served when the state discounts and sells my fines values to Texas giving that firm additional authority over me and increasing the value of the fines. I know I am not the only aupuni and maoli who are being treated this way and need some support on it. Mahalo Piha I will wait for a response.

  5. Aloha Kakou?this is my new email address please email me for the next meeting and meeting codes.

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