ʻAha Aloha ʻĀina, taking stock, and healthy vs. unhealthy governance models

Companion video blog to this post:

I have worked with ‘Aha Aloha ‘Aina since early 2016. I feel the need today to take stock on what has been achived so far and what will be a critical role for ‘Aha Aloha ‘Aina to play . I want to say, i have co-hosted one ‘Aha event in NYC, but i do not speak for the coalition or leadership in any official capacity.

‘Aha Aloha ‘Aina formed around simple goals:

  • Na’i Aupuni ‘Aha doesn’t speak for Hawaiians as a group, and should not be allowed to make a deal with the DOI and the State of Hawaii in a global settlement

  • Demonstrate how Hawaiians have already been involved in nation building and rebuilding.

AAA came directly as the next stage in the Protest Na’i Aupuni group, sharing the key organizers. Knowing that the state-controlled push for Federal Recognition under the DOI was on a fast-track (months, not years, targeting the end of the Obama administration in 2016), the goals were intentionally limited, in order to build as a coalition of existing Hawaiian organizations.

I think it was wise to focus on pro-active and positive role the Independence advocates have had over many decades, and continue to do so. The rhetoric coming out of the Na’i Aupuni was attempting to tie pro-independence kanaka as for the “status quo”, which for Hawaiians, is an unacceptable outcome. (never mind that Fed Rec as conceived now under the DOI enshrines the status quo in Federal rule).

The adoption of the ancient framework for civil governance – the Kino – i think is a powerful way for Hawaiians to cut across our pre-existing governance models, and focus on a what a healthy government looks like. We need to keep exercising the parts of the kino, learning how to move independently as well as learning to move together with the other parts.

However, something must be stated clearly, because not everyone gets this: AAA’s implementation of the Kino intentionally does not have an excerise of the po’o = the head of government. Kalaniakea Wilson explained that “everyone wants to be the po’o, arguing over who it is”. So that was left out intentionally.

Leaving out the po’o is not a weakness, it is a definition of kuleana, a definition of role. AAA will not be creating or restoring a government. It creates the necessary space for the lahui to exercise movement politically – an opportunity to be cohesive. It is not in opposition to any independent political system – only in opposition to a Hawaiian government controlled by the State of Hawaii and the US Federal government.

It means that AAA’s focus is on the whole system – healthy governance system, different from what we live under now, in which the political, economic, social and cultural systems are segregated, diluted, and operating in opposition to each other, due to our history of oppression. We may not have all the answers, but at least we are asking the right questions, if we are to retake our self-governance. We don’t have to be perfect, but need to have processes to correct mistakes and move forward.

There is one more thing i need to say about ‘Aha Aloha ‘Aina and Protest Na’i aupuni– they scored a win on the political battlefield against Na’i Aupuni, “Native Hawaiian Nation” constitution and its successor “Aloha Lahui” by clearly demonstrating a large group of Hawaiians do not accept the state-controlled process for Federal Recognition under the DOI. The protests and resistance at the gate showed commitment, but a message which is not reported very widely is that Aha Aloha Aina has held over 20 ‘aha on the different islands, as well as a number on the continent. More that 2000 Hawaiians have participated in these ‘aha. We are finally being counted, because we are counting ourselves, following the direction of our kupuna a century ago. When Healani Sonoda-Pale delivered petitions to the Dept of Interior, and Kalama Niheu followed up by getting a meeting in the DOI with the director of Native Hawaiian Relations, it was to tell the agency Hawaiians will engage politically, in any way we feel is neccesary and effective. Those numbers demonstrate more support that Na’i Aupuni, as well as far more community involvement.

The Na’i Aupuni successor “Aloha Lahui” representative Jade Danner declared their referendum election put off for more than a year, moved from 2016 to late 2017, due to a lack of private fundraising efforts. This is a tactical retreat on their part. They do not have the community, nor the private funds for the elections, because the Hawaiian community, as well as the non-Hawaiian know it is “no good”. Hawaiian leaders who asked to be represented in Maunawili without signing on to Act 195 were arrested, but do date, all had charges dismissed – one dismissed with prejudice because the Na’i aupuni ‘aha was a political event, under Hawaii Revised Statues, any potential tresspass charge must respect constitutional protections. Hawaiians spoke via ‘Aha Aloha ‘Aina, as well as leaders engaging Kana’iolowalu/Na’i aupuni, but either resigned the process (like Bumpy Kanahele) or others inside who voted ‘no’ or abstained intentionally.

I just think we should take stock of the significant achievement at this point in time. The DOI final rule may be coming soon, but the Na’i aupuin/Aloha Lahui referendum process is struggling for relevance. Maybe some will adjust and start looking for more productive governance. ‘Aha Aloha ‘Aina will be a part of healthy governance. I look forward to it. Love you all, Aloha!

– Raul Nohea Goodness

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