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Kau Inoa and the Akaka Bill: Hawaiian Sovereignty

Brittany has lived on the Big Island of Hawaii for most of her life and enjoys writing meaningful content that is helpful to others.

UNkau inoa movement is against Kau Inoa.

UNkau inoa movement is against Kau Inoa.

Hawaii is a place that has been praised for its racial and ethnic amalgamation. Because of its immigration history, Hawaii has become a melting pot of culture, where many races develop the same ethnicity and culture. Recently, movements arose in Hawaii which attempt to give the land back to Native Hawaiians. Many Native Hawaiians believe that Hawaii was taken illegally, so they feel they have the right to take their land back.

One such movement is Kau Inoa, which aims to create racial and ethnic purity in Hawaii. Through research, we will understand why both Natives and Non-Natives join or leave this movement. Because Non-Hawaiian Natives are not included in the Kau Inoa movement, support has gone down as members realize that their families would have to leave Hawaii if the movement succeeds.

Kau Inoa Movement

Kau Inoa Movement

What Is Kau Inoa?

Kau Inoa is a movement that aims toward nationalizing the Hawaiian Islands. If the movement succeeds, only residents with Native Hawaiian ancestry will be allowed to stay in Hawaii.

“Kau Inoa” translated to English means “To Place Your Name,” which has become the movement’s slogan. Native Hawaiians in favor of Kau Inoa register to have their name placed on a list. If they qualify, they will receive an ID card as well as a Kau Inoa T-Shirt.

To qualify, a person must have:

  • A birth certificate with their Hawaiian Ancestry noted, or, if they do not have it noted on their birth certificate, they must have other documents that prove ancestry (i.e. mother’s birth/death certificate).
  • A stamped legal document from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Kamehameha School's Ho'oulu Hawaiian Data Center, or OHA's (Office of Hawaiian Affairs) Operation Ohana or Hawaiian Registry programs.

What Is the Akaka Bill?

The Akaka Bill (in its many forms) was created by Daniel Akaka in 2000. This bill proposes that Native Hawaiians should be allowed their own nation under the authority of the United States. Basically, Native Hawaiians can choose to live in their territory, which isn’t very much. The area known as Hawaiian Homelands is a land that is dedicated to Native Hawaiian residents; this is where they would live if the Akaka Bill was passed.

Why Do People Support Racial Purity?

Hawaii is racially accepting—or it should be. In a 2005 census survey, 21% of Hawaii’s population listed themselves as more than one race. In Hawaii, there is a name for it too: Hapa. Linda Lingle (Hawaii’s last governor) says Hawaii is “a model for the world” (Kasindorf 2007:1). She also notes that every one in two marriages crosses racial lines; this is more than any other place in the United States (Sullivan 2005:1). Unfortunately, racial acceptance isn’t a reality in some cases. USA Today published an article that discusses racial violence (Kasindorf 2007:2). It focuses on recent, race-related crimes in Hawaii, noting that there is racism toward the white (haole ) Western world.

Hallden, Grand and Hellgren write:

“Being an immigrant, or belonging to an ethnic minority, often means belonging to a category of disadvantage in today’s Western multiethnic societies. This disadvantage is not based upon a particular ethnicity, but could rather be understood in terms of being defined as the Other – something that affects certain ethnicities more than others” (Hallden, Grand, and Hellgren 2008: 4).

It is possible that Native Hawaiians feel that they are “The Other” even though they were the original inhabitants. They feel like the minority because they do not have direct control over the government. Many members of Kau Inoa dislike the fact that Governor Lingle was born in Missouri (Conklin 2007:2).

In Kau Inoa and Pro-Akaka Bill media, they emphasize the illegal annexation of Hawaii. In 1893, Queen Liliokalani was put under house arrest and gave the US military control over the isles because Western men were discouraging her as leader of the nation. Grover Cleveland was against the expansion of the US and he put the Queen back into power.

On July 7, 1898, William McKinley signed the Newlands Resolution, which made Hawaii a US Territory. In 1993, the US (under President Clinton) apologized for the "suppression of the inherent sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people.” This is called the “Apology Bill” (Public Law 103-150).

Because most Hawaiians believe that Hawaii was taken illegally, they choose to promote Kau Inoa over the Akaka Bill. A student at Occidental College says:

“I have placed my name on Kau Inoa's list. I think this is a good way to get all of the Native Hawaiians together for activism and other needs.

“However, I'm not sure on the Akaka Bill. It would create a ‘nation within a nation’ situation and though this is good, if Native Hawaiians wanted total independence, it would be impossible at that point. In this point of my life, I'm not sure which I would want.

“I believe that Senator Akaka was doing what was best overall for his people, however, the Bill probably won't get passed in his lifetime or in mine. America can't live without Hawai'i” (April 2010).

Hawaiians want to be completely separate from America, because they see themselves as part of the Orient—against Western imperialism.

Oppositional Forces

Many Hawaiians and non-native residents of Hawaii are opposed to these movements because Hawaii is known to be a place of racial and ethnic inequality. The Akaka Bill will create segregation within Hawaii, which is known to be a place of ethnic and racial equilibrium. There will be land designated for Native Hawaiians and non-natives will not be allowed in this territory. The government is allowing them to open casinos and other outlets to the public which will stimulate their economy. In Ancient Hawaii, there was no currency; if the goal of the Akaka Bill includes restoring the native lifestyle, currency would not be included.

Kau Inoa is different from the Akaka Bill in the way that it attempts to give all of Hawaii’s land back to Native Hawaiians. Hawaii would no longer be a state of the US, but rather its own nation; ironically, this detachment would not include depleting the institutions currently in Hawaii. The Kau Inoa movement strives to create a society in which the American corporations continue to do business there, but the only people allowed to live, work and operate there must be of Native Hawaiian descent. In a place where there is praised racial and ethnic equality, Kau Inoa plans to remove all non-Hawaiians from the land—ridding it of its futuristic, societal qualities.

The Akaka Bill and more intensely, the Kau Inoa movement, causes segregation and splits up families (Ohanas). Many families, Native or otherwise, would be separated due to the effects of Kau Inoa. As immigrants continued to reside in Hawaii over the last century, Hawaii has become a place of acceptance:

“The Hawaiians as found by Captain Cook (1778) were already a people of mixed racial origin but they had been isolated for so long a time that they may be regarded as a people of stabilized race mixture and they had a stable social organization. This new intrusion of foreign blood in the last century and a half is further complicating the mixture and the time has been too short to permit of its stabilization or of the development of a stable social organization” (Adams 69).

If Kau Inoa is put into effect, many families will be separated. Because of Kau Inoa’s deceptive media attention, the movement’s ultimate goals were not clear to the public at first. Their advertisements are not clear on their goals and leave the public wondering if they should join a movement simply because they are Hawaiian.

What it means to be Hawaiian has changed over time. Hawaii is said to be one of the most amalgamated society. Why would a movement focus on ridding Hawaii of this unique and futuristic quality? BJ Penn, a former supporter of Kau Inoa, and UFC Champion, made a similar point in his quote:

“…If preserving ‘pure’ native-Hawaiians is the goal, a one-drop-rule registry such as Kau Inoa will not help. The Legacy of the multi-racial Hawaiian Kingdom is ill-served by such desires for racial purity.”

Unkau Inoa is a movement which attempts to make people remove their name from the Hawaiian registry. They place ads to educate the public of the consequences of nationalizing Hawaii.



Wrapping Up

Through research, it can be concluded that Native Hawaiians joins Kau Inoa because they feel that Hawaii was taken illegally by the US. The sense of collective identity and the power of solidarity causes more people to “place their name.” Native Hawaiians also share the feeling that they are “the other” and that the Western influence has destroyed their culture.

Kau Inoa and the Akaka Bill would change Hawaii—and not for the better. Many Hawaiians have come to realize the negative effects of nationalization and the Kau Inoa movement has dwindled. Hawaiians are leaving the movement because they understand its effects: separation of families (‘Ohaha), the loss of an amalgamated Hawaii, and the insecurity of starting from scratch to compose a new government. They have also seen the movement’s lack of progress in the last few years. Some have even come to realize that Hawaii is a place of mixed culture—race—and that segregation through the Akaka Bill, or purity through Kau Inoa will only damage the unique culture Hawaii has now.

Hawaii remains a place where race and ethnicity are no longer an issue; where 50 years after our annexation, we can come to realize that the beauty in Hawaii lies in racial and ethnic equality.

Oppositional forces against the Akaka Bill and Kau Inoa

Oppositional forces against the Akaka Bill and Kau Inoa


  • Adams, Romanzo. “Interracial Marriage in Hawaii: A Study of the Mutually Conditioned Process of Acculturation and Amalgamation.” (The MacMillan Company: New York). 1937.
  • Barth, Fredrik. Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social and Organization of Cultural Difference. (Little Brown: Boston, MA). 1969. 1-38.
  • Conklin, Kenneth. “Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State.” March 2007.
  • Fund, John. "Pluribus Sine Unum: Will the Senate Impose Race-Based Government on Hawaii?" Wall Street Journal. June 5, 2006.
  • Glassman, Sarah. Michael Head. Paul Bachman. David Tuerck. “The Economic Impact of the Akaka Bill: Unintended Consequences for Hawaii.” (The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii: Honolulu, HI). Jan 2009.
  • Goodwin, Jeff. James Jasper. Social Movements Reader: Cases and Concepts. (Blackwell Readers: New York, NY). February 2003. 89-163.
  • Hallden, Karin. Elias le Grand. Zenia Hellgren. Ethnicity and Social Divisions: Contemporary Research in Sociology. (Cambridge Scholars Publishing: UK). 2008. 1-20.
  • Kasindorf, Martin. “Racial Tensions are Simmering in Hawaii’s Melting Pot.” USA Today. March 6, 2007.
  • Niesse, Mark. "Native Hawaiian Government May Become Reality." Associated Press. March 13, 2010.
  • Sailer, Steve. “Interracial Marriage in Hawaii.” Article published and found at:www.iSteve.com. 2010.
  • Sullivan, Paul. “Killing Aloha: The Akaka Bill is Wrong for the State of Hawaii and Wrong for the United States.” (Honolulu, HI). Feb 2005.
  • "Aloha, Segregation: The Akaka Bill Would Create a Race-Based State in Hawaii." The Wall Street Journal. Dec 17, 2009. A26.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2011 Brittany Kennedy


PWalker281 on July 14, 2012:

I've been living on Oahu for five years now, and I remember the Kau Inoa commercials on tv a couple of years ago. At the time, I thought it was a good idea, although now, after reading your article, it's clear I didn't understand what it was about.

I do understand the frustrations of the Native Hawaiian people though. People of color in the western hemisphere have often been on the short end of the stick vis-a-vis the mainstream powers-that-be. But for me, it's a decision of what I want to focus on - what was done to my people in the past or what I can do now and in the future to make my life better.

Thanks, BrittanyTodd, for this insightful and informative piece on Kau Inoa and the Akaka bill. Voted up and interesting.

Derdriu on November 10, 2011:

BrittanyTodd: Hopefully, this will play out to the benefit of the historically diverse cultural profile of the Hawaiian Islands. It appears that deep-seated feelings are at stake and open channels of communication always are important in such situations. Your article contributes to that open communication with its delineation of the history and progress of the different interests involved.

Thank you for all the illustrative examples!


SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on November 10, 2011:

Actually, the Wall Street movement does have a clear agenda, people are tired of corporations so heavily influencing our government officials. The Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that corporations can be treated like people, which means if corporation happens to like a certain candidate, they can contribute to its campaign. This angers many Americans considering there are many corporations that are now multi-national, and now more than ever non-citizens are influencing government officials. The Republicans are refusing to pass the jobs bill, and similar to the Tea Party, the Occupy movement grew out of people's frustration with the government not meeting their needs. I am going on too much about that, but I can see the goals of all these movements. Occupy Wall Street is becoming more organized here in SoCal now, and honestly I am not participating. I share a lot of their frustration though. Sorry to digress, I suppose Kau Inou is really its own thing in a way.

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on November 10, 2011:

I think there is somewhat of a connection, but this movement is unique because although it is justified, they are based on race. The tea party protests and Wall Street movement are both about structure of our government--not attempting to gain back a nation that was unrightfully taken from them. I don't understand the Wall Street movement, personally. It has no clear agenda, whereas this movement does. Although I do not support Kau Inoa, I understand that the movement has a clear outcome unlike that of Occupy WS or the tea party.

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on November 10, 2011:

I had not known much before Kau Inoa before reading your hub. However, I will argue it is a bit similar to Tea Party protests, Wall Street, etc in that people form groups to one protest government policies, and two to have their voice heard. Maybe they are not standing outside buildings at the moment, but there is an undercurrent with groups like these. Since I have a history degree I have always been fascinated with finding connections between protest movements. Even some of Henry David Thoreau and his protesting paying taxes for the Mexican American War can be traced to civil disobedience protests people have today. I really do not engage in such protests of any kind, not my thing, but I see the connections.

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on November 10, 2011:

No Mac Salad, I totally agree. It's a very confusing movement. I feel like a lot of them don't know what it means. Especially the Akaka Bill.

SweetiePie, the participants in Kau Inoa aren't really active protestors. They like to grow in numbers, but they are not really standing outside of buildings anymore. I think this movement is a little different than others. Many of the movement's participants do not understand what they are signing up for. It's quite different than active protests like Occupy Wallstreet. Kau Inoa is much more quiet and vague.

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on November 10, 2011:

The sovereignty groups probably are similar to Native American groups, or even Tea Party groups that claim to want more autonomy from the US. However, when it comes down to it most people have benefited from living in our country with public roads, public education, unemployment insurance, social security, and medicare, so there is probably just more wanting to have their voices heard than actually wanting to be autonomous etc. Often people form a group with a goal when they feel their needs are not being listened to, etc. Just like now with the Occupy Wall Street protests, people just want the government to listen to them. Protest is a way people get their voice out there.

no mac salad on November 08, 2011:

Hi brittabytodd, your post is very interesting and I agree that "the beauty in Hawaii lies in racial and ethnic equality.". There are several sovereignty groups in Hawaii that seems to have no cohesion. The latest one that's in the news is the Hawaiian Kingdom Government. They locked themselves in the Iolani Palace. Yes, Hawaii is a unique state and many of the things we associate as "Hawaiian", are not "Hawaiian". Pineapple, the ukulele, macadamia nuts, all came in from other cultures. Each culture brings something to the table and makes up what is now Hawaii. I don't know if Native Hawaiian sovereignty groups help or hurt the Hawaiian culture. I remember many years ago, a reporter asked a person of Hawaiian ancestry if she knew what the Akaka Bill was about. The person answered, "oh, we going get money"...

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on November 08, 2011:

Thank you!

thebigbagblog from CYBERSPACE on November 07, 2011:

Great post! Very informative! I had no idea about this and I enjoyed reading it!

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