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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.

Kau Inoa vs. Akaka Bill

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.

Qualification Factors:

  • A birth certificate with 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 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 societies. 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 that attempts to make people remove their names from the Hawaiian registry. They place ads to educate the public about the consequences of nationalizing Hawaii.



Wrapping Up

Through research, it can be concluded that Native Hawaiians join 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 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 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