Hawaii is the 50th state of the United States, and this year, 2017, was the 58 year anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood, but now, a growing native movement wants Hawaii to declare sovereignty from the U.S, in other words, become an independent nation. There are many reasons as to why Hawaii wants to secede, and many of them, if not all, concern the native Hawaiian population.
To understand the movement, we must first understand the history of Hawaii and the current state of the aboriginal peoples. August 11, 1893, the queen of the then Kingdom, Queen Liliuokalani’i was assassinated in an American military coup, thus annexing the set of islands, and making them U.S.A territories. Since then, nothing but oppression for the native people followed.
The language and culture was exterminated, Eurasian illnesses were brought to the island, unfamiliar to the indigenous populations’ immune system, and what many historians consider a genocide occurred and was abolished as late as 1959. According to the Hawaii’i Department of Health, in 2009, 69.6% of Native Hawaiians suffered weight related health issues, and many live in shocking poverty.
This, among other things can spark racial tension and will for independence, but the protection and care of the environment seems to be amongst the main concerns of the pro-independence movement. President Donald Trumps withdrawal from the Paris Climate Deal concerned the government of the state enough for them to make the bold movement of joining again. The fact that Hawaii is a group of Pacific islands, means that rising water levels due to climate change would affect the islands in a dangerous and disastrous way. Mass tourism is most definitely not contributing to the safety and protection of the diverse eco-system, which the native populations rely on to survive.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the social media network Facebook has claimed traditionally owned land in Hawaii without the consent of those who owned it. They unfortunately, due to native tradition, did not possess necessary legal documents to protect the land from ownership. He has then attempted to sue native Hawaiians for trespassing on land given to them by their families. This sparked outrage amongst the native community and even had Mark Zuckerberg confronted on his own social media network! Imagine how you would feel if this happened to your family, knowing that under U.S law one could not obtain the land legally? This could perhaps contribute to the urge for sovereignty, where the Hawaiian government could make laws regarding land ownership, making traditional land claims by the native community valid.
All of these factors have contributed to the Hawaiian will for independence. I feel connected to the movement, the way the indigenous people were oppressed by the U.S government were similar to the American Indian wars and genocidal campaigns. The environmental aspect is also very convincing, as it would be hard to avoid rapid industrial growth in a country like the United States. Many activist groups exist today, and in 1996, an election was held amongst the Native Hawaiian Population by the Na’i Aupuni activist group in order to elect an ethnic tribal government that would present arguments for secession to the U.S congress “someday”. It has been 21 years since the historic referendum was held, and that not much progress occurred in the fight for Hawaii’s independence. The Hawaiian Renaissance was a cultural revival movement adding to Hawaiian Nationalism, which fuels the movement that has made a comeback.
Many oppose the movement stating that globalism is the answer and that micro nations seceding and living autonomously in the 21st century is not a modern solution. That is what makes this topic a very difficult one. For now, Hawaii’s future is quite unclear, and many hope to see a new country declare its independence.