Candidate: Mary Alice Kaʻiulani Milham
‘Aha District: O‘ahu
Web: Click here for website
- What are your qualifications to be a delegate to the ‘aha?
My qualifications include a deep immersion in Hawaiian history and a lifelong commitment to educating and enlightening our community through journalism, theater and screenwriting. As a journalist for 20 years, with many years writing exclusively on Hawaiian culture and current events, I will bring a breadth of knowledge and a watch- dog’s vigilance to seeing that the process within the ʻAha is carried forward in pono. As a former board member for Ke Kukui Foundation, a Hawaiian culture and education non- profit in Washington State, I have experience working within organizational decision- making processes and the respectful communication and collaboration that are required to get work done in an efficient manner. As a delegate, I will bring to the nation-building process a commitment to mālama ʻāina that goes back to my college days in the 1980s when I founded an environmental club and a campus-wide recycling program. Likewise, as a student of Native American history, having observed the conditions of Native Americans first hand and reported on them as a journalist, my perspective on how Kanaka Maoli may be impacted under federal recognition will help ground the ʻAha discussions in reality.
- 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.?
Mālama ʻĀina, the value that has sustained our people and these islands for thousands of years, is a Hawaiian cultural value that I hold with the greatest of respect and reverence. At this point in our history, I also see it as the most endangered. Living under American rule and the capitalist economic system has left our ʻāina severely damaged. Our reefs are dying. Our lands are being poisoned daily with pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Under American rule, our islands have become the endangered species capital of the world. We can’t go on living under American laws and cultural values, and expect different results.
Yet, so long as these islands continue under American government, even if we have a nation-within-a-nation, we will remain vulnerable to decisions made by that government. Pesticides and other poisons, such as the depleted uranium the military uses on our lands, know no boundaries. They drift and leach their way into our soil, our water and even our very blood, as recent studies have shown. Under a nation-within-a-nation model we cannot imagine that whatever lands we may reclaim will be protected from these threats by some invisible bubble. If the State of Hawaiʻi continues to allow our ʻāina to be doused with poisons, we will not be able stop them. Likewise, if the federal government wants to continue bombing at Pohakuloa, we will not be able to stop them.
We have a chance with this ʻAha to reset our priorities and map out a plan to return to the sustainable culture of our kupuna, carrying forward only those technologies and innovations that are sustainable. Our ancestors, who embraced our genealogical relationship to ʻāina, were masters at living in harmony with our environment. We must face the fact that our assimilation of American culture has created a dangerous disconnect in the relationship between our people and ʻāina.
After 122 years of American rule, the truth is our islands are in dire straights, and like the pesticides that permeate our land, unless we make it paʻa in our constitution, so will America’s heedless materialistic culture continue to permeate our people as it has done, unchecked, since the overthrow of our government.
- What three components of the constitution are you particularly interested in advocating and why?
My foremost interest is in creating what may be called an Environmental Bill of Rights. We will not long endure in these islands if we do not enshrine protections for our ʻāina in our constitution. Our Kingdom constitutions wisely incorporated these protections long before the environmental threats we face today were upon us. So it is of even more urgency that we protect our ʻāina today as as our kūpuna did in the past.
Secondly, I would advocate for Ōlelo Hawaiʻi to resume its rightful place as the first language of this land. The subjugation of our language was the greatest weapon of oppression with which our country was undermined. Restoring our language, and with it our history and the ʻike of our kūpuna, is the most powerful way to restore our lāhui.
I would also strongly advocate that our traditional religion be fully protected in our constitution. Whether we call them cultural practices, or religion, I believe these life ways of our kūpuna are fundamental to our ongoing survival in these islands and must made paʻa in our founding documents and upheld as inviolable.
- What governance model will you advocate for?
I would advocate strongly for a fully independent nation-state with a democratic form of government. Without a clear line of succession, and based on the historical trauma that has resulted in multiple claimants to the throne, I don’t believe we can restore our Kingdom. I do believe, however, that our Kingdom Government and constitutions of the past have much to offer us as we craft our governing documents for today.
- Are you willing to discuss other governance models?
I have always considered myself an open-minded person and someone whose ideas and beliefs continue to evolve as I learn and grow. If elected, I will discuss and consider all that my fellow delegates bring forward.
- 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?
The Independent government I envision would uphold and enshrine the existing rights and provisions that currently protect the aliʻi trusts, Hawaiian Homestead Act and contracts with Native Hawaiian businesses. I envision that current grants and services provided by the United States, will be morphed into specific restitution funds paid to our people by the United States government. Thanks to our nā kūpuna, I believe we will have a very strong hand to play once we share our story of overthrow and illegal, forced annexation with the world. I have faith that if we show the world the truth, they will support us and the United States government will have no choice but to respond to our claims in an upright manner. I believe with all my heart that the reason the United States is currently proposing its rules for federal recognition is because we have come to this point in our destiny when we are on the verge of our story going viral. The U.S. government already knows this. They know we are recovering our history and that it is only a matter of time before we puka our story through to an international audience. Just look at how the world responded to our kahea to protect Mauna a Wakea! When our story finally gets out, the United States will do the right thing. I believe the American people themselves will be our allies in this.
- In your governance model, would you be inclusive of people other than Native Hawaiians as citizens?
Of course. We are a numerical minority in our homeland and will only live in harmony with our non-Kanaka neighbors if we recognize their rights as well as our own. Regardless of ethnicity, I believe all descendants of Hawaiian Kingdom subjects who signed the Kūʻē Petition are deserving of citizenship in our restored nation. As for more recent immigrants, I would advocate for using a determination of citizenship based how many generations one’s ʻohana have lived in these islands. Others could also be naturalized. Most importantly, I would advocate for repatriating our people, on America’s dime, all who are economic refugees in America and elsewhere who desire to come home.
- How do you see participation by others in helping the ‘aha on the various aspects of the draft constitution?
We are a brilliant people and as such we have traditionally recognized and availed ourselves of the ʻike of other peoples. I see great value in doing so now.
- 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.
My plan for ensuring the recognition of our lāhui is founded on the bedrock of education; the tool that has proven successful in our self-recognition efforts thus far. Through the use of modern media, we can now share our story the world. Our people have always known the power of storytelling, whether through hula, mele, moʻolelo or ʻoli. Today we have film, theater, traditional and social media at our command. We only need look to Mauna a Wākea, and how our lāhui used social media to build world-wide support for Mauna a Wākea, to see just how powerful this tool is. And now because Mauna Kea has stood for all of us, we have a world-wide platform to continue to build support for our rights to self-determination and true self-governance. We must not let our Mauna, who is standing for us, go unheeded. The kahea is for Independence and it is calling now.
- Why should Native Hawaiians vote for you?
While I am a natural collaborator who values open and respectful dialogue, I am fearless and will not be cowed into silence by anyone. I am deeply committed to fighting for what is best for our people and our ʻāina and if I am given the opportunity, I will give everything I have to seeing this process through to a pono result. If we elect our delegates wisely, I strongly believe our people can and will reach a pono consensus in this ʻAha.