2006-05-11 Akaka Fact Check
(Speech text taken from Akaka's website.)
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Akaka's remarks with corrections
Mr. President, I rise once again to discuss legislation I have introduced to extend the federal policy of self-governance and self-determination to Hawaii’s indigenous peoples. S. 147 would provide parity in the federal policies towards indigenous peoples in the 50 states, to include American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.
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Correction: Despite the characterization of S.147 as merely extending existing federal policy, and providing "parity", it actually goes where no legislation has gone before. Although Congress DOES have plenary power over federally recognized tribes, it DOES NOT have plenary power to create tribes out of thin air; and in fact court decisions have ruled that Congress cannot give federal recognition arbitrarily or capriciously: United States v. Sandoval, 231 U.S. 28, 39-47 (1913)
If Congress were to create a new mega-tribe out of anyone with Native American ancestry (4,315,865 as per the 2000 Census), and abrogate the rules required for tribal recognition, it would come close to S.147.
To understand the importance of this legislation, one must understand Hawaii’s history. Despite the fact that the Congress passed P.L. 103-150, the Apology Resolution, which recites Hawaii’s history, many of my colleagues are unaware of our history. Let me provide some context of what we have experienced so that you might better understand the importance of this bill to my state.
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Correction: The fact that the Senate passed the Apology Resolution, and are still unaware of Hawaiian history (even the twisted history of the PL103-150), makes it clear that PL103-150 was not sufficiently debated, and that Congress passed it without sufficient consideration. Its passage was stealth legislation at its worst, with no consideration of the merits of the wheras clauses at all.
Congress passed PL103-150 with less than one hour of debate in the Senate, and no debate in the house. It recites a false history, ignoring the Morgan Report of February 26, 1894, and the subsequent reversal made by President Grover Cleveland in his support for the monarchy. For a further discussion of the historical inaccuracies stated in PL103-150, see Hawaii Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand.
Captain James Cook landed in Hawaii in 1778. Prior to Western contact, Native Hawaiians lived in an advanced society that was steeped in science. Native Hawaiians honored their land and environment, and therefore developed methods of irrigation, agriculture, aquaculture, navigation, medicine, fishing and other forms of subsistence whereby the land and sea were efficiently used without waste or damage. Respect for the environment and for others formed the basis of their culture and tradition.
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Correction: Native Hawaiians pre-1778, just as all humans, had adverse impacts upon the environments they lived in. Although they worked to mitigate their impact, as all humans do, the immigration of Native Hawaiians to the Hawaiian islands drove many indigenous species to extinction. The sandalwood trade, which was completely controlled by the indigenous chiefs (ali'i), was a particularly dark moment in the history of Native Hawaiian environmentalism, with entire forests denuded, and commoners forced to abandon their fields to provide the harvest for their leaders.
In regards to navigation, when Captain Cook arrived, the art of celestial navigation had been lost for generations to the people of Hawaii. It was not until the work of Hokulea, with Ben Finney and Mau Piailug, neither of whom is native Hawaiian, was the lost art recovered.
The immediate and brutal decline of the Native Hawaiian population was the most obvious result of contact with the West. Between Cook's arrival and 1820, disease, famine, and war killed more than half of the Native Hawaiian population. This devastating population loss was accompanied by cultural, economic, and psychological destruction.
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Correction: Although the diseases of western contact were particularly brutal on the Native Hawaiian population, the famines were caused by the chiefs (ali'i) who forced their commoners to harvest sandalwood, and the wars were fought between rival chiefs, until finally all were conquered by Kamehameha the Great and the Kingdom of Hawaii was established. This Kingdom, completed in 1810 with the surrender of Kauai, was from its inception a multi-racial government, with foreigners holding prominent positions and accepted as equals.
Akaka also fails to mention the amazing advances made after the 1820 landing of American missionaries, who with the blessings of the King, preached Christianity, developed a written language for Hawaiian, built schools and provided humanitarian services to the native Hawaiian public. Although the first contact with the west was a bumpy road for native Hawaiians, they adapted quickly and embraced their fellow humans from other parts of the world.
By the middle of the 19th Century, the islands' small non-native population had come to wield an influence far in excess of its size. Westerners sought to limit the absolute power of the Hawaiian king over their legal rights and to implement property law so that they could accumulate and control land.
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Correction: The limitations placed upon the monarchy in 1887 were due to the corruption of the king at that time. Throughout the Kamehameha dynasty, westerners were invited to be a part of Hawaiian society, culture, and government. Kaahumanu helped missionaries establish themselves in Hawaii in 1820, and Kamehameha III was the person who instituted land reform in the Great Mahele. Not until several years into Kalakaua's reign, who gained the throne through the bribery of the legislature after the death of the last Kamehameha, was there ever strife between American or European subjects of the Kingdom and the monarchy.
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The mutual interests of Americans living in Hawaii and the United States became increasingly clear as the 19th Century progressed. American merchants and planters in Hawaii wanted access to mainland markets and protection from European and Asian domination. The United States developed a military and economic interest in placing Hawaii within its sphere of influence. In 1826, the United States and Hawaii entered into the first of the four treaties the two nations signed during the 19th Century.
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Comment: Indeed, by 1893, Hawaii was very much an American state, using U.S. currency, speaking primarily English, with a government largely modeled on the United States. As early as Kamehameha III, an annexation treaty was negotiated with the United States.
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The Kingdom of Hawaii, which began in 1810 under the leadership of King Kamehameha the first, continued until 1893 when it was overthrown with the help of the United States. The overthrow of the Kingdom is easily the most poignant part of Hawaii’s history. Opponents of the bill have characterized the overthrow as the fault of Hawaii's last reigning monarch, Queen Lili'uokalani. Nothing could be further from the truth.
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Correction: The basis of Akaka's claims here are the Blount Report, which was submitted July 17, 1893. Following further investigation by Congress, the Morgan Report was submitted on February 26, 1894. It completely repudiated the baseless conclusions of the secret agent Blount, and made clear that the Hawaiian Revolution was a domestic dispute, not an international one. The U.S. peacekeepers who landed in the middle of the Hawaiian Revolution fired no shots, threatened no lives, and remained scrupulously neutral throughout their entire time in the islands.
If anything, the queen was manipulated by her own cabinet into making a move that would ensure a negative reaction from the local businessmen. From the Queen's own memoirs:
Although the queen certainly precipitated the Hawaiian Revolution, it is simplistic to try and place fault on any one faction. There were certainly some pro-annexationists who were racists, and some pro-royalists who were power hungry and opportunistic, and blame can be apportioned to each side in great measure. But regardless, the U.S. did nothing but stand by as events unfolded, and cannot be held accountable for the domestic turmoil that had been common in Hawaii since 1887.
America's already ascendant political influence in Hawaii was heightened by the prolonged sugar boom. Sugar planters were eager to eliminate the United States' tariff on their exports to California and Oregon. The 1875 Convention on Commercial Reciprocity, eliminated the American tariff on sugar from Hawaii and virtually all tariffs that Hawaii had placed on American products. It also prohibited Hawaii from giving political, economic, or territorial preferences to any other foreign power. It also provided the United States with the right to establish a military base at Pearl Harbor.
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Comment: As is pointed out here, prior to 1893, the Reciprocity Treaty already provided great economic benefit to both Hawaii and the United States. According to testimony in the Morgan Report, American trade accounted for 91% of Hawaii's economy in the last days of the Kingdom.
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The business community, backed by the non-native military group, the Honolulu Rifles, forced the prime minister's resignation and the enactment of a new constitution. The new constitution--often referred to as the Bayonet Constitution--reduced the King to a figure of minor importance. It extended the right to vote to Western males whether or not they were citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It disenfranchised almost all native voters by giving only residents with a specified income level or amount of property, the right to vote for members of the House of Nobles. The representatives of propertied Westerners took control of the legislature. The Bayonet constitution has been characterized as bringing democracy to Hawaii by opponents to S. 147. The constitution was not about democracy - it was about a shift in power to business owners from natives.
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Correction: The Bayonet constitution was not a matter of shifting power from natives to business owners - certainly Kalakaua himself was deeply involved with business owners, such as the sugar baron Claus Spreckels, nicknamed "King Claus" because of his corrupt influence on the King. The Bayonet constitution represented a struggle between elites, royalists on one hand, and oligarchs on the other. Under both the Bayonet constitution, and the one before, power rested not with the commoners, but with the upper crust.
Also, despite Akaka's assertion that "propertied Westerners" took control of the legislature, in fact the Hawaiian Kingdom Legislature continued to be dominated by native Hawaiians post-1887, and the efforts of the Reform party, led by those who created the 1887 constitution, had only limited success in maintaining its position as the years went by.
It was not until annexation to the United States in 1898, and the Organic Act of 1900 that a strong semblance of democracy reached the islands. During the period following annexation, taking advantage of their newfound rights, native Hawaiians dominated the Territorial Legislature, and elected native Hawaiians to represent Hawaii in Congress, starting with Robert Wilcox, hero of the Native Hawaiians and one-time rebel, and following with Prince Kuhio, a member of the royal family itself.
As we have progressed throughout the past 100 years, democracy has expanded in the islands, with women getting the vote, asians born in the territory coming of age and getting the vote, until finally in 1959 94% of the people of Hawaii, including native Hawaiians, voted for statehood. To characterize the Akaka bill as anything but ethnic separatism is to ignore the hard-won fruits of democracy available to all people of all races today in Hawaii.
On January 14, 1893, the Queen was prepared to promulgate a new constitution, restoring the sovereign's control over the House of Nobles and limiting the franchise to Hawaiian subjects. She was, however, forced to withdraw her proposed constitution. Despite the Queen's apparent acquiescence, a Committee of Public Safety was formed to overthrow the Kingdom.
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Correction: The queen, for whatever reason, had sworn an oath to the 1887 constitution. When she tried to abrogate it, she was considered in violation of her oath. Her own ministers refused to back her bold plan, and it was her own cabinet who alerted the people who would form the Committee of Safety of her designs. Although the queen asserted that she would not attempt such an abrogation in the future, she was not believed, and the revolution continued.
It is also important to note that the only people who ended up losing their government positions were the queen, her cabinet ministers, and her marshal. All other civil servants, native and non-native alike, remained in their posts - only the top of the executive branch was changed. The government of Hawaii on January 18, 1893 was nearly identical to the one on January 16, 1893.
On January 16, 1893, at the order of U.S. Minister John Stevens, American Marines marched through Honolulu, to a building known as Arion Hall, located near both the government building and the Hawaiian palace. The next day, local revolutionaries seized the government building and demanded that Queen Lili’uokalani abdicate. Stevens immediately recognized the rebels' provisional government and placed it under the United States' protection.
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Correction: The Provisional Government declared on January 17, 1893, and recognized by Minister Stevens, was not placed under the United States' protection until February 1, 1893, when it was feared foreign interests might conspire with the royalists to reinstate the deposed Queen. The U.S. protectorate raised over Hawaii was well after the Queen's surrender.
Also, on the way to Arion Hall, which was shielded from view of the Iolani Palace by the Opera House, the U.S. peacekeepers respectfully saluted the palace as they passed by. They were there solely to protect American lives and property, and acted in no aggressive manner at all.
I was deeply saddened by allegations made by opponents of this legislation that the overthrow was done to maintain democratic principles over a despotic monarch. As you can tell by the history I just shared, our Queen was trying to restore the Kingdom to its native peoples after Western influence had so greatly diminished the rights of the native peoples in Hawaii. Colleagues, I want to ensure that you understand our true history and the bravery and courage of our Queen, who abdicated her throne after seeing U.S. Marines marching through the streets of Honolulu. She did so to save her people.
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Correction: The queen was trying to restore the Kingdom to the monarchy, nothing less. Had she wanted to give power back to the native people, she would have proposed a constitution which granted them universal suffrage, and made all offices elected. Instead, she proposed a constitution which would increase her power.
The Queen abdicated because she could not resist the Honolulu Rifles, not because she feared the U.S. marines. Her creative surrender document aside, there was no reason to believe that the U.S. peacekeepers would take part in any combat. During an 1889 rebellion against Kalakaua, U.S. peacekeepers landed on shore, and stood by while combat between rebels and the Honolulu Rifles progressed, remaining completely neutral. There is no doubt that they carried themselves in the same scrupulously neutral manner in 1893.
Mr. President, I also want to discuss the diversity of Hawaii’s people. As I’ve said before, we celebrate our diversity as the sharing of our cultures, traditions, and languages is what makes us so special in Hawaii. Our diversity unifies us.
Colleagues, I want you to know that during the period of the Kingdom, many people traveled through and to Hawaii. In 1832, records indicate that there were 400 foreigners in Hawaii. Starting in 1852, sugar plantations began to recruit foreign workers to Hawaii. They included Chinese, Portugese, Japanese, and Filipino workers. While many of these workers were temporary and returned to their homelands, a number of them stayed in Hawaii and have embraced the culture and traditions of Hawaii’s indigenous peoples.
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Comment: From the very beginning of the Kingdom, non-natives were welcomed and accepted as equals in society and government. Generations of non-natives were raised during the Kingdom period, children and grand-children of missionaries who landed in 1820. These native-born Hawaiian subjects of non-native ancestry were equal in the eyes of Kingdom law. Several of these native-born Hawaiian subjects were part of the Committee of Safety that deposed the queen, and were every bit steeped in the society, culture, and government of the islands as any native Hawaiian.
If Akaka accepts the two-way embrace of later immigrants to the islands, how can he justify a race-based government that would tear these people asunder?
The opponents of this legislation first tried to represent this issue as a Native vs. Non-Native issue. They failed to understand how we celebrate diversity in my home state and how so many embrace all things Hawaiian whether or not they can trace their lineage back to the aboriginal, indigenous peoples of Hawaii. The opponents also fail to understand the tremendous respect the people of Hawaii have for Native Hawaiian culture and the fact that the average person is not threatened by the idea of Native Hawaiians having recognition. The people of Hawaii understand that the preservation of rights for Native Hawaiians does not happen to their detriment.
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Correction: Respecting native Hawaiian culture does not include respecting race-based programs, or race-based government. Creating a new government for native Hawaiians as a race does not preserve their rights, it establishes special privilege.
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The opponents of this legislation have tried to spread misinformation about the bill to lead non-Hawaiians to believe that their rights will be taken away if the bill is passed. This is not true. In the days to come I will elaborate more. Today, however, I wanted to share Hawaii’s history and to explain the celebration of diversity and of multiculturalism in my home state. I am proud of my constituents - proud of their many cultures and traditions - and the fact that they are secure enough in their heritage to be able to support parity in federal policies for Native Hawaiians.
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Comment: Already in Hawaii, non-Hawaiians have fewer rights than native Hawaiians. Many of these race-based programs are being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. Cases include Rice v. Cayetano, which found racial restrictions on voting for OHA trustees to be unconstitutional, and Arakaki v. State, which invalidated the racial restriction on running for or serving as OHA trustee. The second Arakaki v. Lingle case, “Arakaki II” which challenges the validity of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, was dismissed by the Hawaii District Court but reinstated by the 9th Circuit to the extent that it challenges the appropriation of tax moneys to OHA. Both Governor Lingle and the 14 Plaintifffs have petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari (i.e., to review the decisions of the lower courts).
To try to protect existing race-based programs, through similar legislation of questionable constitutionality creating a racial government out of thin air, is politics at its worst.
I ask my colleagues to join me in helping to do what is right, what is just for Native Hawaiians.
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Comment: We should do what is right, and what is just, for all the people of Hawaii, and abandon the special racial privilege programs built to divide us.
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