United Church of Christ: Native Hawaiians seek Synod support for sovereignty steps

Native Hawaiians seek Synod support for sovereignty steps

by Hans Holznagel | published on May 17, 2021

The 2021 General Synod of the United Church of Christ, meeting July 11-18, will consider 11 resolutions and several bylaw changes. This is one in a series of articles about them. Readers can view an initial summary here and find full texts at the Synod website.

Aside from the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, war may not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Hawaii.

Some Native Hawaiians in the United Church of Christ are asking people to think again.

They are calling attention to an earlier military action, from 1893. They say it created what amounts to a state of war that never ended — and needs to end now.

They argue that, because the United States took Hawaii by military overthrow, the U.S. and the state government of Hawaii should be seen as occupying forces.

They make their case in a proposed resolution that calls for an end to “128 years of war” between the U.S. and the Hawaiian Kingdom. It will require a two-thirds vote of Synod delegates to pass.

Its sponsor is the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches of the UCC. The AHEC consists of 31 historically Native Hawaiian congregations from across the Hawaii Conference. Some 80 percent of them were founded before 1893.

Hawaiian Kingdom still exists

The resolution’s key points are that the Hawaiian Kingdom never ceased to exist, even after its overthrow — and that there’s unfinished business.

It says the U.S., under President Grover Cleveland, negotiated with the Hawaiian Queen Lili‘uokalani — soon after deposing her — to restore her government to power. Cleveland himself, in an 1893 address to Congress, called the overthrow:

an act of war, committed with the participation of a diplomatic representative of the United States and without authority of Congress. ... A substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair.

But the Native Hawaiian government has never returned to power — even though Cleveland, by a still-valid executive order, called for it to be restored, the resolution says.

Peace treaty sought

“Under international law, the action needed is a signed treaty of peace between the United States of America and the Hawaiian Kingdom government,” said Kalaniakea Wilson. He belongs to Kalapana Maunakea First Hawaiian Congregational Church in Nanawale, founded in 1823. He will speak to the resolution for AHEC when a committee of Synod delegates reviews it in July. Such a treaty, Wilson said, would be “similar to the agreement of restoration” between Cleveland and Queen Lili’uokalani that was “not implemented.”

The resolution also notes that the UCC and the U.S. Congress apologized in 1993 for their predecessors’ roles in the overthrow. National and Conference bodies in the UCC followed up by paying millions of dollars in reparations, in money and property, to Native Hawaiians.https://www.youtube.com/embed/CF6CaLAMh98?feature=oembed“Exposing the American Occupation” is part of the subtitle of this 2019 documentary featuring today’s leaders of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

But Wilson said these have not ended the decades of human costs paid by Native Hawaiians ever since the hostile takeover of their home.

“Thirty years have passed and there has been no solution to resolve 128 years of war crimes and human rights violations targeting Hawaiian Christians,” he said. “The Hawaiian people have been struggling to survive in Hawaii, leading in all negative health statistics, homelessness and much more. False apologies and broken promises exacerbate our situation.”

Wilson said recent struggles “have built a strong movement for self-governance that has grown stronger.” An example, he said, are Native-led efforts to protect a sacred mountain, Mauna Kea, “from continued desecration” by construction work on a large telescope.

Case for war crimes

One immediate step forward, Wilson said, would be for the U.S. government and the State of Hawaii “to cooperate with the Royal Commission of Inquiry.” Formed in 2019, it’s an official body of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

The UCC resolution refers to “war crimes” that impose “humanitarian and human rights violations daily” on Native Hawaiian people. The Commission of Inquiry is amassing historical and legal evidence to back those charges.

For example, the Commission argues that actions such as these — committed against Native Hawaiians by the U.S., as an occupying power — are war crimes according to international law:

  • “Usurpation of sovereignty during occupation”
  • “Denationalizing the inhabitants of occupied territory,” by, for example, outlawing aspects of Native language and culture
  • “Confiscation of property”

International law “flagrantly violated”

The AHEC is not alone in the current movement to re-recognize the Hawaiian Kingdom.

One example is the United Nations Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights. Its appointed expert, Alfred M. deZayas, said in 2018 that the islands are “under a strange form of occupation by the United States, resulting from an illegal military occupation and a fraudulent annexation.” In a letter to Hawaii’s state judiciary, he described Hawaii as “a sovereign nation-state in continuity.”

Another is the National Lawyers Guild. “International humanitarian law continues to be flagrantly violated with apparent impunity by the State of Hawai‘i and its county governments,” it said in a November 2020 letter to Hawaii’s governor. “This has led to the commission of war crimes and human rights violations of a colossal scale throughout the Hawaiian Islands.”

“Stop imposing American law”

The AHEC resolution summarizes this history and these arguments in “whereas” paragraphs and footnotes. But if the Synod were to pass the resolution as written, it would simply and “strongly” urge:

  • Hawaii’s state and county leaders and the U.S. Congress and president to “begin to comply with international humanitarian law in its prolonged and illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Islands.”
  • “All United Nation member states and non-member states to cooperate to ensure the United States complies with international humanitarian law and bring an end to the unlawful occupation of the Hawaiian Islands.”

The law of the land — of the Hawaiian Islands, that is — is what’s at stake, Wilson said. “The first step is to stop imposing American municipal laws within Hawaiian territory,” he said, “and, second, begin to administer Hawaiian Kingdom law.”

5 thoughts on “United Church of Christ: Native Hawaiians seek Synod support for sovereignty steps

  1. Māhalo nui loa e ke Akua. Romans 8:31 If God is with us who can be against us. Amen, amen, amen! It is just!
    Māhalo nunui Acting Hawaiian Council of Regency, et al for your dedication to continuously speak to truth about our history. God bless and keep you in His care. Eō

    • Amen Praising The God of Glory, Mighty and strong in battle. Acknowledging our Acting Hawaiian Council of Regency with appreciation for restoring the Hawaiian Kingdom, the Hawaiian people to its rightful status in the world. Do you know America never acknowledged the Hawaiian people. When we got Kahoolawe back, America gave Kahoolawe to the State, The State never fought for the return of Kahoolawe in the courts. The Hawaiian people used their own money in the courts to get Kahoolawe back. No improvement, no remorse, the smell remains hauna,. Evil has a limited shelf life.

  2. Mahalo a nui loa, Acting Hawaiian Council of Regency….your dedication, your endless love and “true” faith in your Hawaiian people, of the past til today,(128 years), continue to elevate in four corners of the Hawaiian Archipelago, and beautiful Mauna Kea & Mauna loa, acknowledges its imprints, by the words of our King Kamehameha III, in 1843, “UA MAU KE EA O KA `AINA I KA PONO”—and our beautiful, “QUEEN LILI`UOKANI”, reminding us today, to ONIPA’A, til AKUA lead us, the Way of TRUTH, of Who We Are, Where Do We Come From, and Where We Are Going. AMENE!

  3. Mahalo to Kalaniakea Wilson and those members of the AHEC for standing up for the truth . This is exactly how Christians fulfill their kuleana of God’s work and make everything pono. This sets the example for the others that only give God lip service, make excuses and do nothing. Mahalo Ke Akua

  4. We have faithful Hawaiian pastors here in Hawaii that agree with the Kingdom of Hawaii and its people. Our God is Jehovah as the only true God thru Jesus Christ. That’s all Hawaii needs. Now the definition “snod” with the United Church of Christ is a major mistake. A synod is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word synod comes from the Greek: σύνοδος meaning “assembly” or “meeting” and is analogous with the Latin word concilium meaning “council”. Originally, synods were meetings of bishops, and the word is still used in that sense in Catholicism, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy. We do not need to be run by a church on the mainland with their rules and laws. Currently they have 802,256 members in 4,852 congregations. How many of them supported the Mauna Kea vs TMT? Now the United Church of Christ wants to come aboard. Aole to them.

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