06/25/2014 11:40 am ET Updated Aug 25, 2014

Education Is the Key to Self Determination

For myself, and I am sure for many others, the arrival of the United States Department of Interior (DOI) to Hawaiʻi this week has stirred many emotions throughout the Kanaka ʻŌiwi community and the general Hawaiʻi community as well.

As an aspiring Kanaka ʻŌiwi leader and educator, I attended the public meeting that was held on June 23 at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol Auditorium with a former teacher of mine, Kaulana Vares. We both wanted to attend this meeting to become more educated on the events that were going on and what was to transpire.

Immediately after our arrival, I knew that this had transpired into something bigger than what any of us had imagined. I recognized the likes of Palani Vaughn, Bumpy Kanahele, Dr. Umi Perkins, Dr. Willy Kauai, multiple OHA Trustees and other prominent Kanaka ʻŌiwi leaders and educators. I engaged in conversations with my kumu (teacher) from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Dr. Jonathan Kamakawiwoʻole Osorio and Dr. Noelani Goodyear-Kaopua, both of whom were a part of the dozens that testified before the DOI.

The purpose of the testimonies, as well as the general public meeting itself, was to seek public comment on these five questions:

  • Question One: Should the Secretary propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community?
  • Question Two and Three: Should the Secretary assist the Native Hawaiian community in reorganizing its government, with which the United States could help reestablish a government-to-government relationship?
  • If so, what process should be established for drafting and ratifying a reorganized Native Hawaiian government's constitution or other governing document?
  • Question Four and Five: Should the Secretary instead rely on the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian government through a process established by the Native Hawaiian community and facilitated by the State of Hawaiʻi, to the extent such a process is consistent with Federal Law?
  • If so, what conditions should the Secretary establish as prerequisites to Federal acknowledgement of a government-to-government relationship with the reorganized Native Hawaiian government?

As an individual who has colleagues on all sides of this issue, I look at these questions issues from all sides and viewpoints. It is important for us to become educated on these issues before we past judgment and come up with conclusions.

In my short time at the university, I have had teachers who partook in the illegal landings of Kahoʻolawe, stood at the forefront of sovereignty marches and whom are currently leaders in their field of work. Many of these same individuals who stood side by side of each other during these events, now stand opposite of each other on the issue of sovereignty and self determination.

As a student who is surrounded by many notable professors and scholars, I have found this as an opportunity for me to learn all sides of the issues. By doing this and being educated on these matters, I have been able to come up with my own conclusion and stance on the topic of sovereignty and self-determination.

The questions that the Department of Interior has asked are not only irrelevant, but in my opinion very insulting. I feel that it should not be the responsibility of the United States Department of Interior to seek out what is best for us, but it is the responsibility of our own people to seek out what is best possible option for us.

However, I believe that before we engage in any kind of actions regarding sovereignty, federal recognition and/or self-determination, the people of Hawaiʻi need to be educated on these very issues. As someone who has engaged with a wide array of people regarding these issues, many people have come to their own conclusions based on what they have heard from people or what they read online.

While what they may have read might have been valid, many of the authors/contributors of these sources often come from a bias perspective. The information they are reading can often be misleading or totally one-sided. Therefore, I feel that education on all sides of the issue is needed so that people can make the most informed decision based on all sides.

I also believe that before any actions can occur, the Kanaka ʻŌiwi need to find common ground before we can move forward. Right now, there are too many Kanaka ʻŌiwi wanting different things. We have those who are in support of federal recognition, those supporters of decolonization and restoration of sovereignty and those who simply do not know enough. There is no way that we can move forward with so many of us challenging the actions of the other.

There is a ʻŌlelo Noʻeau or Hawaiian Proverb that states: Pupukahi I Holomua, Unite To Move Forward. As Kanaka ʻŌiwi we must go back to the teachings of our ancestors. We cannot move forward divided. The only way that we can achieve our goals is if we move forward together. Kamehameha ʻEkahi did not unite the islands by himself. It took the efforts of thousands of this fellow warriors and companions united as ONE.

If we are to move forward into the best possible future for our lāhui, we will need to do it united as one voice and one body. We will need to educate our people on these issues because "education is the key to self determination." Once we are educated and united, we will be able to decide what is the best option for us.

No laila, mai makaʻu, e kūpaʻa ma ke aloha i ka ʻāina, a e lōkahi e ka manaʻo
Therefore, Do not be afraid, be steadfast in the love for the land and unite in one thought

-James Keauiluna Kaulia