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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.


(page 3 of 4)

The “U.S. is a corporation” idea isn’t unique to Kahau; Google the phrase and you’ll find more than a few people who believe that a congressional Act of 1871 converted the District of Columbia into a foreign corporation, incorporated in England. Kahau extends that concept a little further, though: “The state of Hawaii is a corporation, as far as we’re concerned, as well as the city and county,” she says. “And they both admit they are corporations. If you are a private corporation, you have no business sending your private security, which you call sheriffs and police, to come arrest us, because you have no jurisdiction.”

Because Kahau doesn’t recognize any equivalent governments in Hawaii with which to parlay, her main strategy going forward is to carry on the affairs of the Hawaiian kingdom, and wait for the U.S. to fall by the wayside.

“The fall of the United States will be happening, and it will not be by our hands, but by the hands of God,” she says. “It will be in His time, but, in the meantime, we function to protect our people when they’re being oppressed by the so-called state of Hawaii courts that have no authority.”

A passport issued to Leon Siu by the Hawaiian Kingdom government.

Kahau dreams of a better future for the Hawaiian people, one in which the current economic depression is solved, and the kingdom is able to care for all its subjects. “Our people who were promised lands will have lands,” she says. “Kamaaina, those who don’t have the blood, they’ll have homes, too, definitely. If we accept you to be here, you will have a home.”

One assertion made by many of the independent Hawaiian governments: If you are a citizen of a Hawaiian kingdom, logically you are not bound by the laws of the United States. Kahau’s government issues Hawaiian kingdom driver’s licenses and license plates, and is not the only one to do so.

Historically, the claim to immunity is one of the oldest aspects of the Hawaiian Independence movement. Hayden Burgess, also known as Poka Laenui, used this argument (unsuccessfully) in the 1970s when defending alleged underworld crime boss Wilford “Nappy” Pulawa.
It’s generally up to each Hawaiian national to decide how far he or she wants to take this idea. On a recent visit to the Hawaiian kingdom government at Iolani Palace, for example, only one of the members’ vehicles sported a Hawaiian kingdom license plate.

While we heard several anecdotal accounts of Hawaiian nationals being given passes by police officers, or having their cases dismissed in court, it’s definitely a risk to drive without a Hawaii state driver’s license or plates, financially and time-wise. None of the city or state authorities we spoke with acknowledged any legal leeway for Hawaiian nationals. Honolulu Police Department assistant chief Michael Tamashiro says, “HPD officers do encounter sovereignty groups from time to time. When they do make a stop, they cite, and recover the Hawaiian kingdom license plates.”

And Mark Santoki, public information officer for the Hawaii State Judiciary, says, “There are many legitimate reasons for dismissing traffic cases. Being a member of a sovereign Hawaiian nation is not one of those reasons.”

The Kingdom of Hawaii National Election Office

One of the most controversial figures in the Hawaiian Independence movement is Richard Kamahele Figueroa. The president and CEO of a company called FullOn Holdings Inc. who lives in Cambria, Calif., Figueroa is organizing an election to establish a new kingdom of Hawaii constitution, as well as a president and vice president. “The only legal way to do this, the creation of a sovereign, independent Hawaiian government, is to be open and transparent, and do what needs to be done politically, via elections,” he says.

The election is open to anyone of Hawaiian ancestry, anywhere in the world. Interested voters can print out a ballot from www.HawaiianIndependence.com and mail it into the League of Women Voters, which has been contracted by Figueroa to count up and verify the results. (This isn’t an endorsement by the League. The non-partisan organization routinely handles elections for local unions across the state, from SHOPO to the Teamsters, and strictly limits itself to tabulating and verifying election results.)

Figueroa is one of the few in the movement to restrict government involvement to ethnic Native Hawaiians. Most of the other governments have made Hawaiian kingdom citizenship a political distinction rather than a racial one—harkening back to the way the constitutional monarchy was run in the 19th century.

For all Figueroa’s talk of openness and transparency, it was hard to get a straight answer out of him in conversation regarding the specifics of the election. Excitable and passionate, he answers questions with digressions.

How were his presidential candidates selected? “Mr. Yasuhara used to work for OHA,” he replied. “I met him in May, and I explained to him my case of Native Hawaiians and how OHA has used the Kau Inoa list, and lied to people, and now to push them towards voting for the Akaka Bill. I’m sick and tired of people lying. Misrepresentations have to stop. And they do it unconscionably, because it’s part of their own culture of what politics is all about. And I’m ashamed for humanity of what they do to other human beings.”

His Web site lists the names of the two presidential candidates: Frederic Mark Iaikakuukainoakamanaokealoha “Kaina” Yasuhara and Mark Castro, but while Yasuhara had a short candidate’s statement available, no biographical information was available for Castro, and neither Figueroa nor his lawyer, Thayer “Ted” Lindauer, would give us phone numbers or e-mail addresses to speak with the candidates directly.

Figueroa is wary of who might be interested in his project. He says his Web site is being monitored by the White House, foreign countries and the CIA. “Barack is having a hard time dealing with me,” he says. “I love him dearly, and he knows what I’m doing, because I copy him on everything that I do. The day of reckoning will come down, that this will happen. I want to sit down with Mr. Obama, one-on-one, and discuss the issues of national security and of fair compensation.”

By fair compensation, Figueroa means $20 billion—the amount of money he figures the U.S. federal government owes Hawaii for the use of Hawaiian lands. This money would fund the newly minted Hawaiian government and finance Hawaii’s transition from U.S. to home rule.

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Honolulu Magazine July 2019
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