Candidate: Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa
‘Aha District: O‘ahu, Koʻolaupoko
Address: 46-252 ʻĀhui Nani Place, Kāneʻohe, Hawaiʻi 96744
Phone: (808) 763-5826
Hui: Ke Ao Malama
- What are your qualifications to be a delegate to the ‘aha?
I have a PhD in Hawaiian and Pacific History [UHM 1986] and have been a professor in the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies [KCHS] at UH Mānoa for nearly 30 years. I am the author of the 1992 path breaking book, Native Land and Foreign Desires, Pēhea lā e Pono ai? and co-script writer for the 1993 award winning video Act of War about the American military overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. I have written 23 classes about Hawaiian history, culture and politics and Ancestral Knowledge for KCHS. I currently teach a history class every semester on the 100 generations of Aliʻi Nui who were the political leaders of our ancestors.
32 years ago, I was one of the thousands of Native Hawaiians that worked for free for years organizing Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi. We wrote a constitution in 1987 https://kalahuihawaii.wordpress.com/ka-lahui-hawaii-constitution/, held 2 subsequent constitutional conventions, and registered 20,000 citizens. In 1993, I helped lead a march of 18,000 Native Hawaiians to commemorate the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and to call for a return of our sovereignty. I spoke at that event asking the American military to leave our country.
In 1994, I served as an elected legislator in KLH from the island of Oʻahu and we wrote a manifesto supporting fundamental rights https://kalahuihawaii.wordpress.com/hookupu/. We worked at the legislature to ask for control of the Ceded Lands trust. In 1995, we began sending a delegation to the United Nations to ask for international rights to self-determination and for decolonization [and have done so every year ever since] and pushed for federal recognition under American Law in 2000. For 17 years we seated a legislature that met 3 times a year, on different islands and we did all of this without state money.
From 2001, I have taken an annual delegation of my students to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues where we continually asked that Hawaiʻi be re-inscribed on the list of decolonizing nations. Please see my 2003 video, Natives in New York: Seeking Justice at the United Nations for more information on that effort.
For the past 13 years, I have taken an annual KCHS delegation of students to the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention to study the pros and cons of how Alaska Natives use Federal Recognition to serve their people.
Most recently I have been training young Hawaiian students to know the 1300 Ahupuaʻa of the Pae ʻĀina through the eyes of the ancestors [see Avakonohiki.org] so that they can use the brilliance of Hawaiian Ancestral Knowledge to make food sustainability for Hawaiʻi today.
- How would you characterize the values of your campaign to be elected as a delegate to the ‘aha for example, with aloha, lōkahi, kūpono, etc.?
After all of these years of political effort, I am convinced that we as a Lāhui must proceed with the Kapu Aloha. While we will certainly have disagreements on strategy, and should have excellent academic debates, our people deserve elected leaders who will speak with aloha to one another. I have devoted my life to the pono of our Ancestors, and I am now equally devoted to securing ʻĀina for our grandchildren forever.
The most important issue to me is ʻĀina. We Native Hawaiians need ʻĀina to live upon! Even if it is just a place to pitch a tent! We need land from which we will not be evicted and forced to live under a bridge to be swept away by flash floods. We need ʻĀina to live upon where we can practice our culture and speak our own language! We need land where we can build our houses, and our schools and our own health clinics. We need land where we can grow our own food. We Native Hawaiians are in crisis, we comprise a third of all the homeless, and we need land and housing now!
Just as bad as homelessness today is the modern diaspora of Native Hawaiians fleeing Hawaiʻi to find a house they can afford, so that they wont be homeless! Today, 48% of all Native Hawaiians live outside of Hawaiʻi [Kīpakuʻia] because we cannot afford to live in our own homeland, in the land of our ancestors, in the land where our ancestors have lived for 100 generations. Half of my cousins live away on the continent and yearn to come home. It seems like every month, another cousin decides to move to Vegas or Oregon because the housing is cheaper. How long must we wait for a solution?
Shall we wait another 20 years or until 80% of us have to live away?
I am a grandmother now and I worry that my grandchildren will not be able to afford ʻĀina and will have to move away. Why? Because right now we have 3 generations living in one townhouse where 4 adults have college education and where 3 of us have PhDʻs, but if any one of us could not work, we could not pay the mortgage.
And I am a full professor! How do folks with less education and less pay make it in Hawaiʻi today? The answer is simple, if they don’t live at home, many are moving to Vegas! Housing now costs so much in Hawaiʻi that shacks are going for $700,000 and many houses on Oʻahu are going for $1 million. Itʻs only going to get worse. How will our grandchildren ever be able to afford a home?
I have had Native Hawaiian friends where each of their 3 adult children, and their spouses and children all lived in one 4 bedroom house. That means that mother and father had one bedroom, and each of the 3 other bedrooms had a husband and wife and several children in each bedroom. There were 20 adults and children that lived in that house and they were so lucky because they were not homeless! Would they prefer their own house? Of course they would and how do we support them in doing so?
Finally, the other important Hawaiian value is Mālama. We Native Hawaiians are in a crisis and we need land. And in order to get land we must have a government, a Native Hawaiian government, not a state agency, who can negotiate with the state and federal governments for land for Native Hawaiians. We must have a Native Hawaiian government, elected by Native Hawaiians, and serving Native Hawaiians – we need an Aupuni Mālama Hawai‘i! We need a government who will take care of Native Hawaiians and make sure that we have land forever in our islands to practice our culture, to speak our own language, to grow our own food, and to pass land and housing on to our grandchildren. We need an Aupuni Mālama Hawai‘i to invite our cousins to move home from the continent, making sure that they have land too.
- What three components of the constitution are you particularly interested in advocating and why?
1) I would like us to consider the Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi constitution as a template because it ensures Native Hawaiian eternal rights to land, language and cultural practices. Of course, we should also consider tweaking that constitution and making it better, but I like the way the KLH constitution gave 8 seats each to Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Māui, and Hawaiʻi and 4 seats each to Niʻihau, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe. In this way we made sure that Oʻahu issues did not overrun those of the other islands and we made sure that the land was an equal partner.
2) I believe we need a statement of universal rights, like freedom of religion and freedom of speech to be a part of the constitution.
3) I think we should all begin to study other constitutions right now. We should look at the Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi constitution, and the Bolivian constitution that enshrined the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jan/26/bolivia; https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Bolivia_2009.pdf. We should look at the Tongan constitution that doesn’t allow non-Tongans to own land in Tonga https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Tonga_1988.pdf, or to the Cook Island constitution that does not allow the buying and selling of land http://www.parliament.gov.ck/Constitution.pdf. We should look at the Norwegian and Swedish constitutions that give free medical care and education to their people  http://www.constitution.org/cons/norway/dok-bn.html; http://www.parliament.am/library/sahmanadrutyunner/Sweden.pdf.
- What governance model will you advocate for?
In Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi believed that there were 4 arenas of sovereignty work:
1) International – or working at the United Nations for formal decolonization;
2) Federal – or working in DC for Federal Recognition;
3) Organizing our people – or enrolling more people into Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi to support a governing structure and a call for a land base; and
4) Native Nation to Native Nation Treaty Making – or engaging with other Native Nations to support their efforts for self determination.
All of us were determined to work in one of these four arenas, and I still think those are great ways for us to proceed with our political work.
On the economic side, it seems that there are 1300 Ahupuaʻa in the Hawaiian Archipelago and I want land for our Native Hawaiian nation in each of those 1300 ahupuaʻa. I want those lands put into trust so that they can never be sold. I want the land from the top of the mountains down to the edge of privately owned lands. I want us to Mālama the wai, the fresh water of the land.
I want a Native Hawaiian government that will work continuously to secure the decommissioning of the military bases. I want the 1300 acres of Bellows Air Field in Waimanalo and the return of our sacred lands at the Mōkapu Marine Corps Air Station, where in the Kāne tradition, the first Hawaiian man was made.
I want all of our sacred mountains put into this trust – Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Haleakalā, Puʻu Kukui, Moaʻula, Lānaʻihale, Kamākou, Kaʻala, Konahuanui, Kānehoalani, Waiʻaleʻale and Pānīʻau. I want the Aupuni Mālama Hawaiʻi to have co-management of all the lands and waters of Hawaiʻi, including Papahānaumokuākea.
- Are you willing to discuss other governance models?
I am absolutely willing to discuss other models, as that was our method in Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi. However, after all the work we did in Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi we didn’t get one acre of land for our people. Why was that? We did everything right!
Our problem in Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi was that we didn’t have any legal way to interact with the American government. We could not work out a deal for Federal Recognition, and without it we could not get any of the powers that be – that is the American government at the federal level – to work with us. And, we didn’t believe we should to work with the State of Hawaiʻi.
Our other problem in Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi was that we had no money, and it was just too difficult to sustain political action as a part time effort while working full time to pay rent and buy food.
Now fast-forward 30 years. We Native Hawaiians don’t have land, we don’t have Federal Recognition, there are still 27,000 native Hawaiians of 50% blood on the waiting list for DHHL homesteads, and the other 450,000 of us who are Native Hawaiian [less than 50%] are being forced out of Hawaiʻi in a modern diaspora by the super rich who are buying up Hawaiʻi.
There are many of us, and I am one, who are very glad that the State wants to give money to support social justice for Native Hawaiians, and to help right the great wrong that was done in 1893. I think it is a sign of their aloha for us. It costs money to organize national elections, and to hold constitutional conventions. It takes money to hold elections to seat a Native Hawaiian government. And even the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples calls upon the states, or the colonial power, to pay for the costs of Indigenous Peoples seeking self-determination. In fact I am delighted that we can proceed with establishing a Hawaiian nation.
So does that mean, as my colleagues would suggest, that I do not want independence for Hawaiʻi from the United States of America? No, it does not. If I had a dollar for every time I told a non-Hawaiian that we still want the country back, and had them look at me as if I were crazy, I would be a rich woman today!
But the independent Hawaiʻi that I want does not seem to be the independent Hawaiʻi that others want. I want an independent nation that is for and by Native Hawaiians. I want an independent Hawaiʻi that honors special rights for land, language and cultural practices for Native Hawaiians.
Many others want an independent Hawaiʻi where Native Hawaiians have no special rights to land, language or cultural practices, and wherein all people have “equal” rights. This model sounds like what we have right now under America – what would be the difference under Independence? Since we Native Hawaiians are still a minority in our homeland, and since Independence folks that I have talked with wont agree to Native Hawaiian rights, I do not support that model of independence.
Here is something else. Both models for achieving independence for Hawaiʻi – either decolonization through the United Nations, or de-occupation through the American military, cannot occur without the agreement of the American government. Now how long do you think it might take for America to completely withdraw itʻs military from Hawaiʻi? Will it happen in 30 years? In 50 years? In 100 years? Given our critical need for land, how many more years can we afford to wait?
Will U.S. Federal Recognition prevent us as Native Hawaiians from achieving independence from America in the future? Will it stop the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi that includes non-Hawaiian citizens from achieving independence from America in the future? The answer is no, but only if that is what the people want. As a historian I have seen the political boundaries on maps change frequently over time. It was once said that ʻthe sun never set on the British Empire,’ and now it does. Those countries who were part of the British Empire were told they could never become independent, but when the people of India wanted their country back, there was no stopping them. Peopleʻs desires and political opinions make for political change, and laws and constitutions are rewritten. That is how the world really works.
- How would the governance model that you choose impact the ali‘i trusts, the Hawaiian Homestead Act, federal contracts made with Native Hawaiian businesses; grants provided by the United States for programs and services to the Native Hawaiian people?
I believe that an Aupuni Mālama Hawaiʻi must honor all of the historical gains made by Native Hawaiians with the American government, and of course I would support every avenue that helps our people.
- In your governance model, would you be inclusive of people other than Native Hawaiians as citizens?
No, I want a Native Hawaiian nation of only Native Hawaiians. I don’t want to evict anyone, and I support giving everyone the basic freedoms of religion and speech, etc, but I follow the Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi constitution that would make non-Natives, whom we have married and whom we love, Honorary Citizens, with all the rights of Native Hawaiian citizens, but not the right to vote or hold elected office. I want an independent Hawaiʻi that honors special rights for land, language and cultural practices for Native Hawaiians.
- How do you see participation by others in helping the ‘aha on the various aspects of the draft constitution?
Even before the ʻAha begins, we should be studying the pros and cons of all aspects of various constitutions and having full discussions on them.
- Looking ahead, as a delegate to the ‘aha, how would you assure that the governance model ratified by the Native Hawaiian people is implemented and recognized at the state, federal, or international level, as appropriate.
After the constitution is ratified by the Native Hawaiian people, we must elect Native Hawaiian leaders to seat a government. Since the State of Hawaiʻi has supported the Kanaʻiʻolowalu process to collect the rolls for forming a Native Hawaiian Nation, I believe that the State of Hawaiʻi will be willing to support Native Hawaiians with lands to create our nation. For instance, I want the Aupuni Mālama Hawaiʻi to have co-management of all the lands and waters of Hawaiʻi, including Papahānaumokuākea.
I also feel that an Aupuni Mālama Hawai‘i should apply for U.S. Federal Recognition for Native Hawaiians in order to mālama our grandchildren. I have read the DOI rules [75 pages] and I find them quite fair, especially in their care for the preservation of the rights of the native Hawaiians [50% blood quantum] to the 200,000 acres of Hawaiian Home Lands.
What is most exciting about Federal Recognition is that when military bases decommission, under American law, Federally Recognized “Tribes,” or Native Nations, get first claims on that military base. If we Native Hawaiians had had Federal Recognition status when Barbers Point was decommissioned, we would have been able to control that whole area.
Now that the American government is cutting the military budget and there is discussion of closing military bases in Hawaiʻi, Native Hawaiians must have Federal Recognition in order to regain those military controlled lands. Please note that the military bases, which comprise 25% of the lands of Oʻahu, have housing, schools and medical clinics, perfect for the Hawaiian nation!
I very much want to live at Mōkapu!
I want the federal monies that go to Federally Recognized Tribes for housing, health and education. I want us to build our own houses and schools. I want our own Native Hawaiian Board of Education! Did you know that today 40% of all children in the DOE schools are Native Hawaiian? Learning almost nothing about our ancestral culture and barely able to pronounce our ancestral names? And did you know that out of all the children in the DOE schools only 1% are in Hawaiian Immersion? Do you think that our ancestral language will survive another 30 years of DOE mismanagement? I feel strongly that Federal Recognition would really help us provide a better education for our children.
I also want our Aupuni Mālama Hawaiʻi to consistently send a delegation to the United Nations to seek ways to extend the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to support Native Hawaiian rights, and for decolonization of our Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. This option may take as long as 30 years and requires extensive education of all the people who live in Hawaiʻi, not just Native Hawaiians. Above all, we must proceed with aloha for all.
- Why should Native Hawaiians vote for you?
Aloha e Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi, you should vote for me because I will always work for your rights and for the pono of our grandchildren! Also, I know quite a bit about writing constitutions and about the wisdom of our Ancestors! Aloha nui kākou!