Amid speculation about what will become of the Native Hawaiian Convention’s constitution, there are certain things that should be addressed. First, that the convention, composed by individuals who were not elected by anyone and whose placement came from a volunteer organization consisting of fewer than a half dozen officers and no membership, cannot claim to represent anyone but these unelected candidates themselves. Second, by limiting the membership of this ʻAha and the citizenry they identify in the constitution to “Native Hawaiians,” this document cannot accommodate either loyal Hawaiian Kingdom subjects nor Kanaka Maoli who are seeking decolonization and a UN approved exercise of our right to self-determination.
But the biggest problem with this constitution is its silence on the issue of “Ceded Lands.” Instead it refers to something called “National Lands” which, lacking clarification must be assumed to be whatever lands are conveyed to it, presumably by the U.S. government or the State of Hawaiʻi. Unlike Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi, which in 1987 laid claim to the “Ceded Lands” as our national lands, this document does nothing nearly so bold. This constitution says that, in terms of land, the Hawaiian government will take, not what it deserves and not what it is still entitled to; rather, it will take what it can get.
This is not the kind of call to nationhood that inspires pride and commitment. Indeed, it is careful to reserve its citizen’s right to continue to consider themselves Americans and makes it unlawful to legislate anything that would diminish the benefits they enjoy as Americans.
Even Kanaka Maoli who might not support independence should not enlist in a government that shrinks from offering what even the poorest governments in the world offer their people—a defined land base and a distinct identity for its citizens.