Contenders to the Throne

Sovereignty has been an elusive goal, but some Hawaiians aren’t waiting around. We take a look at local groups who are already operating their own functional Hawaiian governments—kings, queens and ministers of the interior.


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Reading the decision by the Arbitral Tribunal, however, it’s clear that not only did the tribunal find no dispute between the parties that it could rule on, it specifically declined to rule on whether the Hawaiian kingdom was independent from the U.S.

It noted, “… [I]n the absence of the United States of America, the Tribunal can neither decide that Hawaii is not part of the U.S.A., nor proceed on the assumption that it is not. To take either course would be to disregard a principle which goes to heart of the arbitral function in international law.”

As an organization devoted to dispute resolution in the international community, the Permanent Court of Arbitration does not limit its scope to government entities. As its Web site explains, “The PCA provides services for the resolution of disputes involving various combinations of states, state entities, intergovernmental organizations and private parties.”

"You know the move The Matrix? That's Hawaii. People are now starting to take the red pill, and they're starting to see two worlds. The next step is to take down the Matrix.

Today, Sai and the other members of the Council of Regency run a low-key operation. The government consists of Sai and three others who he was reluctant to identify. (However, a short 2003 DVD documentary about the Larsen Case identified the officers at that time as Umialiloa Sai, acting minister of foreign affairs, Gary Dubin, acting attorney general, and Kaui Goodhue, acting minister of finance.)

Sai considers his government to be transitional; the next proper step, he says, is for the U.S. military to acknowledge that it is illegally occupying Hawaii, and for the U.S. to create a military government that will enforce Hawaiian kingdom laws while it oversees the resumption of the full Hawaiian kingdom government.

Until that happens, Sai says his acting government is simply operating under the doctrine of necessity, under which a private citizen can assume the role of government in extraordinary circumstances. “Necessity also has parameters under the law,” Sai explains. “It’s not open ended. When a private individual assumes the role of government, in order to not come under the pains of treason, but be protected under the necessity doctrine, you cannot reinforce your self-proclamation. You cannot create laws, because you’re only there to maintain the fort.”

When one is living a reality that’s not necessarily recognized by the rest of the world, terminology becomes very important. Those running an independent Hawaiian government avoid using old catchphrases such as “Hawaiian sovereignty movement” and “self determination,” saying they just don’t accurately describe the situation. Sai took pains to insist that Hawaii was not colonized, but rather occupied. For him, it’s a world of difference.

“You know the movie The Matrix?” he asks. “That’s Hawaii. People are now starting to take the red pill, and they’re starting to see two worlds. The next step is to take down the Matrix.”

Aupuni o ko Hawaii Pae Aina

Mahealani Kahau, queen of the Aupuni o ko Hawaii Pae Aina.

Photo: Mark Arbeit

For Mahealani Kahau, queen of the Aupuni o ko Hawaii Pae Aina, or Hawaiian Kingdom Government, the most important term is “corporation.” As in, the United States is not a government, but a corporation, with no jurisdiction over the Hawaiian people. “We’re just dealing with another McDonald’s,” she says. “When you remove the mask, you’ll discover the truth.”

Kahau (formerly Asing) made headlines around the world in May 2008 when she and her government barricaded the normally open gates of Iolani Palace, and claimed the palace grounds as the kingdom’s seat of government. After some negotiation with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, she managed to secure permits allowing her people to remain on the grounds during the day, as long as she did not continue to obstruct entry to the general public.

A year and a half later, Kahau and her council can be found from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, underneath a tree on the mauka end of the property, conducting government business around a pair of folding tables. According to Kippen de Albu Chu, executive director of the Friends of Iolani Palace, at this point no permit is needed as long as there are fewer than 25 people assembled at a time.

Regular hours or not, Kahau is hard to get in touch with. It took us a week of walking over to the Iolani Palace grounds to secure an interview with her, and she stood the magazine up twice, once for the interview, and again for a photography session.

(She did eventually agree to sit down with us. Other independence groups remained unreachable, even after repeated tries. And Keanu Sai, after granting an interview, later requested that any mention of him be removed from the article. Skepticism about the media seems to be common among these groups, as is a reluctance to discuss their internal business. “Different groups will talk to each other, but they don’t let everyone know what they’re actually doing, until it happens,” says Leon Siu, minister of foreign affairs for a different Hawaiian kingdom. “That’s the way to do it, because otherwise you’ll have constant bickering and you’ll never get anything done.”)

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