Posts Tagged Historical revisionism

The Lure of Bad History

A long time ago, in a state far, far, away, I was a history major.  In answer to the question already forming on the lips of some of my readers, no.  I did not want to be a teacher.  I was a history major because I liked history in general and I liked it a whole lot more than other things that one can major in. I also, quite obviously, had no notion whatsoever of useful majors for lucrative post-college careers.  But that’s not the point of being a history major.  The point of being a history major is the ability to watch movies and then bore your friends with a huffy catalog of historical inaccuracies therein.  Be kind to your history major friends as they do this.  They had to write 20-page examinations of the political situation in medieval France and have no other outlet for this knowledge.

And we do live in a world full of historical inaccuracies.  This is nothing new, of course.  The temptation to reframe history for one’s own purposes (or because of one’s own biases or learned biases) is an eternal one.  What’s important is that we recognize that tendency and work to prevent it from becoming the basis of bad policy.  No, I’m not just legitimizing your friend’s tendency to go on about the problems in the movie Titanic.  (A noble calling in itself.) To some extent, history can be a matter of interpretation, but we can’t just give bad facts and specious interpretations a pass.

And when it comes to Hawaiian history, boy do we have a minefield of inaccuracy.  Whether based on the desire to romanticize the past or a political agenda, very few things have become as distorted as Hawaii’s path to US statehood.  It can even rear its head in a simple corporate publication, as Ken Conklin’s recent article in the Hawaii Reporter demonstrates.  Conklin identifies and corrects a series of inaccuracies in a recent HMSA magazine. The article is worth reading in its entirety, but here is a small sample:

Jokiel writes “In the years following the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, the new government worked tirelessly to eradicate the Hawaiian language.” That’s totally false. Here’s what’s true.

Immediately after the revolution of January 17, 1893 royalist newspapers (both Hawaiian and English language ones) were suspended by the Provisional Government. That’s normal after any revolution. But after a few weeks all the newspapers resumed publication, with zero censorship.

Noenoe Silva published a book in 2004 entitled “Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism.” On page 181 Silva says there were both Hawaiian-language and English-language newspapers supporting Lili’uokalani after the overthrow and throughout the Republic period; and also newspapers in each language that were pro-Republic.

When the Republic of Hawaii was created in July of 1894, its Constitution was published in both English and Hawaiian. The continued publication of Hawaiian language newspapers, and publication of the Republic’s Constitution in Hawaiian, clearly disprove Jokiel’s assertion that “the new government worked tirelessly to eradicate the Hawaiian language.”

Tags:

Akaka’s Civil Rights Problem

So much of the argument for the Akaka Bill is couched in Civil Rights terms–we are given to understand that to oppose it is to somehow oppose the rights and privileges of Native Hawaiians.  In fact, one of the most pernicious historical fallacies surrounding the former Kingdom of Hawaii as it relates to the argument for the Akaka Bill ca be found in the way that Akaka supporters blithely ignore the multi-ethnic make-up of the Hawaiian government at the same time as they push for the wholesale creation of a race-based “reorganization.”  In light of this sensitive question, it might be interesting to examine where some of the nation’s experts on matters of civil rights stand on the Bill.

Would you be surprised to hear that they oppose it?  It’s true.  On Dec. 7, 2010, the United States Commission on Civil Rights delivered a letter to key Congressional leaders reiterating their opposition to the Akaka Bill. If you’re interested, you can read the letter in full here.  (And the earlier, more detailed letter it references can be seen here.)  Without equivocation, the USCCR expresses its opposition that any attempt made to attach the Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act to a spending bill this session.  In addition, the letter states that the changes that have been made or proposed to the Act are insufficient to overcome the constitutional concerns that have been raised, and reiterates the Commission’s opposition to the Bill.

What is the source of the Commission’s opposition?   The reasons given should be familiar to most of those who have made a careful study of the legislation and its possible consequences: that Congress lacks that constitutional authority to thus “reorganize” ethnic groups into dependent sovereign nations without a strong history of self governance; that doing so will set a dangerous precedent; that it should not be used as an attempt to shore up race-based benefits threatened by recent court decisions; and that it is contradictory to the history of the Hawaiian government.

Above all, the opinion of the Commission makes it clear that the questions of race that surround the Akaka Bill are far more complex than Akaka’s supporters would like to admit.  It’s as though, in their efforts to help one ethnic group, the pro-Akaka lobby has deliberately ignored the fundamental principles of civil rights.

Tags: , ,

What Are the ‘Returned Lands’ of Hawaii?

By Jere Krischel

In an article titled “What are the ‘Ceded Lands’ of Hawaii?” written for Honolulu Civil Beat on 11/08/2010, Professor Van Dyke makes some critical errors in his assessment of both the history and the law.  While acknowledging the Supreme Court’s rejection of the “Apology Resolution,” he still relies on it for his “legal” justification.  While quoting from the Admissions Act of 1959, he omits a key clause that differentiates between “should” and “can.”  But most problematically, Van Dyke intimates that “Native Hawaiians” were somehow legally separate during the Kingdom period in Hawaii, and that the public lands that were returned to the State of Hawaii have some sort of racial lien on them.

The first red flag we should recognize in Van Dyke’s writing is the use of quotes around the term “illegal.”  In order for something to be illegal, we must have several things – a concrete body of law which was violated, a judiciary to arbitrate the dispute, and finally, a finding after a trial presenting both sides of the issue.  Without these necessary requirements, we are substituting personal opinion for legal fact.  Although PL103-150 (aka “The Apology Resolution”) uses the term “illegal” several times in describing the Hawaiian Revolution, it does not identify any specific law which was violated, any judiciary with jurisdiction over the Hawaiian Revolution of 1893, nor any trial which was conducted to determine guilt or innocence.

So can the “Apology Resolution” unilaterally declare the Hawaiian Revolution of 1893 illegal?  Absolutely not.  Ex post facto laws are explicitly forbidden by the U.S. Constitution –  one cannot simply pass a law which declares someone’s prior actions illegal.  Neither does the legislature have the authority to declare someone guilty as a matter of legal fact.  In recognition of this and the basic principles of statutory construction, the Supreme Court on March 31, 2009 firmly established that the “Apology Resolution” had no legally binding effect, stating that the “‘whereas’ clauses cannot bear the weight that the lower court placed on them.”

The second major mistake Van Dyke makes is a subtle, but important distinction between something that is necessary, and something that is allowable.  Van Dyke states that the 1959 Admissions Act demanded that “revenues from these lands should be used” for native Hawaiians.  This is a misread of the Admissions Act, which provided limits on what the revenues could be used for, not mandates.  The specific text of the Admissions Act reads, “such lands, proceeds, and income shall be managed and disposed of for one or more of the foregoing purposes…their use for any other object shall constitute a breach of trust…”

This means that the State of Hawaii could spend every penny on public education, and not a dime on the development of farm and home ownership.  Or, it could decide to spend everything on public improvements and provisions for public use of the lands, while not funding anything else.  Any combination of “one or more” would be legal according to the Admissions Act.  The only two things that would be a breach of trust would be to spend none of the revenue at all, or spend any of the revenue on a non-permissible use, such as supporting private schools, or the development of automobile ownership.

With his words Van Dyke echoes a misinterpretation of the Admissions Act that OHA has been intentionally cultivating for many years, using it to justify a 20% share of revenue from the public lands of the State of Hawaii to native Hawaiians (although OHA specifically ignores the blood quantum definition used in the Admissions Act).  By their rationale, exactly 20% should be allocated to farm and home ownership, exactly 20% should be allocated to public schools, exactly 20% should be allocated for public improvements, and the last 20% should be allocated to make public lands available for public use.  But the Admissions Act, as plainly read, has no such mandate whatsoever.

The most insidious misrepresentation Van Dyke makes, however, is regarding the citizenry of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and the chain of ownership of the ‘ceded’ lands.

From its inception, the Kingdom of Hawaii was a multi-racial nation.  High Chief Olohana, otherwise known as John Young, fought beside Kamehameha the Great to establish the unified Kingdom, and was the grandfather of Queen Emma herself.  The first constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1840 stated boldly that all people were “of one blood,” and established equality between all races over 100 years before the modern civil rights movement in the United States.  Characterizing the Crown Lands or Government Lands of the Kingdom of Hawaii as being dedicated to only one race is a desecration of both the spirit and the laws of the Kingdom from which they came.

With his synopsis, Van Dyke perpetuates the fiction that the ‘Ceded Lands’ are still ‘ceded.’  But the truth is, they are now more properly called  the ‘Returned Lands.’  The Crown Lands and Government Lands of the Kingdom of Hawaii were consolidated into the Public Lands of the Republic of Hawaii in 1894.  These public lands (about 1.8 million acres) became the ‘Ceded Lands’ in 1898, when the Republic ceded them to the United States on the condition that the revenues and proceeds, except for the parts used for the civil, military or naval purposes of the U.S., “shall be used solely for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands.”  Van Dyke acknowledges that this created a “special trust”, but he carefully omits that the ‘Ceded Lands’ Trust was established for all the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands, not just for those of a specific ancestry.

When the Territory of Hawaii was established in 1900 by the Organic Act, it reiterated that the public lands were acquired by the United States in “absolute fee” under the Annexation Act, free from “all claim of any nature whatsoever.”  These ‘Ceded Lands’ finally became the ‘Returned Lands’, when the lands were returned to the public of the State of Hawaii as per the Admissions Act of 1959.  The circle was finally complete – what had originally been the public lands of all the people of the Kingdom of Hawaii, became the public lands of all the people of the State of Hawaii.

Placing exclusive racial claims upon the ‘Returned Lands’ is an abuse of the trust placed in the State of Hawaii, and a violation of our Constitutional guarantees of equal protection.  No matter how many times these false claims are repeated, and no matter how many myths are invented to justify such race-based distinctions, they will never become true, and will never be justified.  All of the inhabitants of Hawaii, regardless of ancestry, have a powerful claim to the ‘Returned Lands,’ as clearly demanded by the Organic Act and the legacy of the multi-racial Kingdom of Hawaii.

Tags: , , ,

Treaty of Annexation between Hawaii and the U.S.A. Yes, it really exists and is now available on a webpage.

Hawaiian independence (secession) activists keep saying “There was never a treaty of annexation between Hawaii and the U.S.” If that were true, then Hawaii would still rightfully be the independent nation it once was. And that would make the secessionists very happy. If there was never any cession, then there doesn’t need to be any secession. Just get the U.S., or the United Nations, or the World Court to recognize it.

But indeed there was a treaty. Annexation was well and truly done. A new webpage provides the full text of the Treaty of Annexation, and the resolutions whereby both the government of Hawaii and the government of the U.S. agreed to it. There’s also a discussion about the politics of annexation in 1898 and 2010. See
http://tinyurl.com/2748fgg

William McKinley was President of the U.S. at the time of annexation in 1898. He signed the joint resolution of Congress whereby the U.S. agreed to the Treaty of Annexation which the Republic of Hawaii had offered. That’s why McKinley High School in Honolulu has a large statue of President McKinley, holding a document in his right hand with a cover that clearly says “Treaty of Annexation.” And that’s why today’s secessionists hate both the statue and the document in McKinley’s hand. In 2009 a resolution was introduced in the Hawaii state legislature calling for the statue to be stripped of that document. The resolution actually got considerable support from some of the legislators. Talk about historical revisionism! In 2010 the crazies actually staged a protest rally at the McKinley statue, and again on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace, proclaiming thatthere was never a treaty of annexation.

So find out the truth. Go see the treaty for yourself, at
http://tinyurl.com/2748fgg

Tags: , , ,