09 April 2009
By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
HONOLULU, Hawaii – The U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Hawaiian Supreme Court last week when it decided that the 1993 Official Apology Resolution issued by the Congress to the Native Hawaiians did not constitute recognition of Native Hawaiian rights to their ancestral lands. With this decision, 1.2 million acres of disputed Native Hawaiian lands will be opened for public sale.
In 2002, a Hawaiian state court initially ruled that Hawaii could sell the disputed lands. The case eventually went up to the state’s highest court in 2008, with the Hawaii Supreme Court finding that Native Hawaiians had a claim to the disputed lands. The Court then issued an injunction to prevent the sale of “ceded lands” held in trust until the outstanding aboriginal land claims had been resolved. The Hawaii Supreme Court relied on the 1993 Apology Resolution – an official acknowledgment of the illegality of the U.S. overthrowing of Hawaii’s sovereign government, creation of a provisional government, and annexation of Hawaii as a U.S. territory with the Newlands Resolution – in it’s landmark decision.
The recent Supreme Court’s ruling is extremely dangerous – it accepts the Newlands Resolution as the legal resolution of land disputes, vesting absolute title to the United States over the disputed lands – while ignoring the Congressional Apology which recognized that “the Indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.” J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University, expressed frustration over the Court’s mishandling of the case: “If the Apology Resolution has no teeth in the court of the conqueror, then how is it that the Newlands Resolution that unilaterally annexed Hawaii does? This (ruling) is a legal fiction to cover up the fact that the U.S. government accepted the stolen lands from the Republic of Hawaii government that confiscated these lands after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.”
The U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Hawaii Supreme Court for “further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.”
For more information, please see:
Indian Country Today – U.S. Supremes Rule Against Native Hawaiians’ Land Claims – 6 April 2009
Chicago Tribune – Hawaii: Land Sale Upheld – 1 April 2009
Honolulu Star – Ceded Land Ruling Creates Quick Need for Sovereignty – 1 April 2009
New York Times – Supreme Court Backs Hawaii in Land Dispute – 31 March 2009