Poka Laenui’s involvement in the work of the WCiP

Adam Manalo Keawe Camp asked me several questions dealing with my involvement in the drafting of the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Believing that the topic is one of general interest, I share my response with you.

1. What was your role in the drafting process of UNDRIP?
I first became involved in this United Nations process in about 1983 as the elected Vice President of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. The pathway for me to get there was a result of my search for an international body which could examine the decolonization of Hawaii, looking at this matter from an international legal rather than an American colonial process. I had been elected to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 1982 representing the Oahu seat under a platform of using the office as a steppingstone to forward our right to independence. Once taking office, I made it very well known at OHA that I would seek avenues beyond the Hawaii State or the U.S. government’s jurisdiction for decolonization. T.C. Yim, Executive Director of OHA saw a magazine article about a regional meeting of the Pacific region being called in Australia. Upon inquiry, I was able to secure an invitation for myself, Rod Burgess (trustee) and Francis Kauhane, OHA Staff, to attend this conference. This was our first introduction to such a regional conference of indigenous peoples. I was able to present Hawaii’s story.
From this Australian gathering of the Pacific region of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP), a second gathering was scheduled in which the full WCIP would gather, including all 5 of its regional organizations (N. America, Central America, South America, Scandinavia, and the Pacific). I attended that gathering held in Panama City, Panama. The Hawaii delegation included Rod Burgess, Francis Kauhane, Uncle Harry Mitchell, and myself. At that gathering, I had the opportunity to present the Hawaii case for decolonization to the general body. I also participated in the drafting and review of the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples for the WCIP and after elections of the Executive Officers of the organization, found myself elected as the English Speaking Vice President for the WCIP, which had a Spanish speaking Vice President and a President. I was subsequently appointed as the political spokesperson for the WCIP to attend the UN’s Working Group on the Drafting of the Rights of Indigenous Populations. The name was later changed from “Populations” to “Peoples.”
The UN working group met over several years with essentially two agenda items, the first to review relevant events affecting indigenous peoples of the world and second, to begin drafting a declaration of the rights of indigenous people. As to the second item, I was put in charge of submitting proposals and debate on submitted proposals from governments, non-governmental organizations, and indigenous peoples and organizations. I also saw as my responsibility, to organize and assist in submitting interventions from other indigenous peoples, often members of the WCIP, but also to bring in other indigenous peoples from the Pacific and Asia, many of whom were not aware of the process occurring at the U.N. One result was the formation of the Pacific Asia Council of Indigenous Peoples, formed here in Hawaii which included people from India, Sri Lanka, Japan, China, Philippines, Burma, Australia, New Zealand, Guam, Tahiti, Kanaky, Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Hawaii. Madame Erica Dias, Chairperson of the UNWGIP, was also in attendance at this Hawaii meeting.
In this capacity, I assisted in the drafting and at times, the presentation of interventions on behalf of indigenous peoples who were unable or too afraid of making their own presentations for fear of repercussions back in their homeland. Some of these people were involved in wars in their homeland. Copies of such presentations should be maintained by IWGIA operating out of Geneva, Switzerland.

2. Were there other Kānaka Maoli who participated in this process that we should recognize?
The first person I am aware of who participated in this process as well as in the WCIP was Kawaipuna Prejean who attended the first UN WGIP as well as the organizing meeting of the WCIP in Canada. After my initial attendance at the WGIP, others from Hawaii also attended, some with me and others via other organizations. Carl `Imiola Young, Marsha Joyner, and Ululani Beirne accompanied me in my early travels. Mona Bernardino worked with the UN staff as well. Ka Lahui Hawaii also sent individuals from that organization in the later years. Other organizations were also present.

3. How is UNDRIP relevant to Kānaka Maoli today?
The United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples is relevant to the Kanaka Maoli as an international statement of rights. It is beyond the colonial statement of a country which attempts to define the indigenous peoples they find residing within their claimed territories. It needs to be clearly understood that the defined rights of indigenous peoples within a colonial state is merely the domestic law of that state which continues in that international crime of colonialism.
Especially in the case history of Hawaii, the assertion of Native Hawaiian rights is only as strong as the legitimacy of the U.S. assertion of jurisdiction over the Native Hawaiian people and the territory of Hawaii. But a study of the aggression of the United States against the Hawaiian nation, juxtaposed against the rights of the Native Hawaiian people, will bring new light to the situation of the Native Hawaiians.
Beyond the indigenous question, UNDRIP would raise the essential question of the continued colonization of Hawaii, once an audience is made aware of the history of Hawaii from an international perspective.

4. Being that UNDRIP is non-binding and that the US is not a signator but supports it, how could UNDRIP help with asserting Kānaka Maoli rights under the State of Hawai’i?
UNDRIP should be held up as a minimum international standard by which indigenous peoples rights should be regarded. While these described rights cannot be considered mandatory, arguments can certainly be made for their persuasive international importance, as a matter of human rights of indigenous peoples. These rights should also be understood and used by those arguing for indigenous peoples. The only thing that separates these rights from their application to the Kanaka Maoli is the theft of the Hawaiian nation by the United States. There is no other legitimacy in law or logic for the State of Hawaii to use its power over Hawaii.
5. What are the key points of UNDRIP that you feel Kānaka Maoli should know? All of it is important. The situations will define what is relevant at the time. The whole document should be studied and determined what is applicable.

6. How are indigenous peoples defined under UNDRIP and do Kānaka Maoli fit that criteria?
It depends on how one defines Kanaka Maoli. If it is defined as the indigenous race or people of Hawaii, the Kanaka Maoli would fit the definition.
If it is defined as an individual who is true, civil, pono, upright, . . ., that definition would be much broader than just an indigenous person.
The international standard used in the UNDRIP is that an indigenous person is one whose people pre-existed the people who today govern the territory over which is the subject of the declaration. That’s a pretty messy definition, unsatisfactory in many instances.

The UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and its resulting Declaration must be understood as a process and as a product. The many years of drafting of the document first reviewed the conditions of the indigenous peoples around the world, drawing them into Geneva, Switzerland,, to see and hear of their plights. This became a major introduction of the indigenous people from around the world to the international venues, and to Europe of the indigenous peoples. It became an opportunity for exposure, especially of indigenous peoples, their histories, cultures, and conditions to the world.
The UN declaration is the product which stands as a minimum standard of what the rights should be of the world’s indigenous peoples. While it is not binding on nations, it stands as a statement of such rights to which indigenous and colonial governments can look to as a fundamental standard.
Poka Laenui, Former political spokesperson

Join the First Family on a summer trip to the great American outdoors

In celebration of the upcoming 100th anniversary of our National Parks, the First Family will spend this weekend traversing New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns and Yosemite National Park. Here’s how you can join in on the adventure:

  • Follow along right here! We’ll be updating you here all weekend with photos and videos of the family’s adventure.
  • Get to know President Obama’s historic conservation recordHe has protected more than 265 million acres of America’s public lands and waters — more than any other president in history.
  • Plan your visit: Find your nearest adventure at findyourpark.com
  • Get to know America’s public lands with this handy guide. From California’s epic King Range Conservation Area all the way to Washington D.C.’s Thomas Jefferson Memorial, this is your one-stop-shop for what you need to know before your next adventure.
  • Spread the word: Share photos of your favorite park using the hashtag#FindYourPark!

Follow Along Click HERE

Forgiveness and Healing (Ho`oponopono)

BY Pōkā Laenui
August 5, 2018

Queen’s Prayer (Ke Aloha O Ka Haku) – by Queen Lili`uokalani
`O kou aloha nō
Aia i ka lani
A `o kou `oia `i`o
He hemolelo ho`i

Ko`u noho mihi `ana
A pa`ahao `ia
`O `oe ku`u lama
Kou nani ko`u ko`o

Mai nānā `ino`ino
Nā hewa o kānaka
Akā e huikala
A ma`ema`e nō

No laila e ka Haku
Ma lalo o kou `eheu
Kō mākou maluhia
A mau loa aku nō

Princess Ka`iulani

Queen Lili`uokalani Your loving mercy
Is as high as Heaven
And your truth
So perfect

I live in sorrow
You are my light
Your glory, my support

Behold not with malevolence
The sins of man
But forgive
And cleanse

And so, o Lord
Protect us beneath your wings
And let peace be our portion
Now and forever more

Source: Composed by Queen Lili`uokalani, March 22, 1895, while she was under house arrest in `Iolani Palace. This hymn was dedicated to Victoria Ka`iulani, heir apparent to the throne.

Forgiveness is often accompanied by forgetting. It does not necessarily go hand in hand. Should it?

An injury to one locks the injured party into a relationship with the one who does the injury. That relationship can imprison the injured party and sometimes become so overwhelming that it becomes the driving force of one’s life. It takes away one’s freedom.

To free oneself, one must learn the art of forgiveness. But forgiveness does not need to go along with forgetting. And that is the mistake and trap we too often fall into.

One can forgive, but not forget. One can remember the injury and if necessary, every detail of its occurrence and continuity. But do not let the injury and that memory drive the control over one’s thoughts.

Forgiveness can purify. Remembering brings about caution and protection against a repeat injury.

Passion, humanity, and aloha provides the continuing strive for ho`oponopono, for correction, and for making things right again.

Forgiveness is an essential element in healing, but it is only the first step. It allows for the full process of making things right to take place. It allows the injured party to overcome the injury and becoming a full participant in making things pono. Remembering, passion for justice, humanity, and aloha are all essential elements and cannot be excluded.

I sometimes hear of the call for forgiveness over the theft of our Hawaiian nation as a necessary step for our people to move on. I’m not willing to let it go so flippantly. Nor is a mere “National Apology” by the thief adequate to move on. There must be far more to make pono than to simply cast forward those words of forgiveness and apology, as if they are magical spells!

We must engage in a process of healing, and such a process calls for many things including forgiveness. Before forgiveness must come confession – which the U.S. government has done with its Apology Law. But confession must be followed with making things right, such as the return of the item stolen – sovereignty, and the removal of the damage which continues to persist as a result of the act for which an apology is called for. That healing process must engage not only the culprit who has committed the wrong – like a thief sitting in judgment of itself, but must include as an equal partner, the victims of that wrongful act.

Hawaii will never be at peace with the thief unless and until we have made things right, until we have achieved a true practice of Ho`oponopono among us all.

He ko`u mana`o. (Just my thoughts)
Pōkā Laenui

Resolution ending discrimination against Hawaiian Nationals


1. Whereas current State laws forbid discrimination of a person’s national origin, race, color, religion, disability, sex, marital status, sexual orientation and age.

2. Whereas discrimination is practiced against many of our indigenous people whom the State legislature of 2011 in Act 195 recognized as the Native Hawaiian people, who declare themselves members of the Hawaiian nation or as “Hawaiian nationals”.

3. Whereas discrimination is practiced against many others residing in Hawaii who may not be Native Hawaiians but who also come from the same legal, historical and philosophical foundation to claim themselves as members of the Hawaiian nation or “Hawaiian nationals.”

4. Whereas an individual’s declaration of one’s nationality stems from one’s sense of loyalty or allegiance, a response which comes from the soul, a consequence of one’s familiarity, one’s education, one’s attachment to principles, from a study of genealogy and history, an acculturation to a place, a community or society, one’s sense of honor and integrity, or an understanding of applicable laws of the land;

5. Whereas Hawaii’s history and its current relationship with the United States of America is a history of U.S. aggression, collusion, regime change, cession and questionable form of annexation as a “Territory” and subsequently, as a State of the United States union;

6. Whereas, Hawaiian nationality stems from the Hawaiian nation which had organized itself into a state in international affairs and which evolved into a Constitutional Monarchy form of government and which gained international standing as a nation-state prior to U.S. aggression in 1893;

7. Whereas, the Hawaiian nation was an inclusive society welcoming people of all nations, color and religion as equal before the law;

8. Believing that all barriers to full participation in all private and public affairs in the Hawaii society of Hawaiian nationals should be removed;

9. Believing that certain areas of conflicts should be addressed to include to the maximum extent possible, Hawaiian nationals in the broad society’s areas of Education, Employment, Housing and Public Accommodations, Lending, Law Enforcement /Police Conduct, Voting Rights, Jury Service, Military Service, Health Care, Public Safety, Public office holding, and Licensing.


10. That Hawaiian nationality is to be included in the category of prohibited discrimination as a matter of State policy;

11. That the areas of prohibited discrimination are to include but not limited to Education, Employment, Housing and Public Accommodations, Lending, Public Accommodations, Law Enforcement /Police Conduct, Voting Rights, Jury Service, Military Service, Health Care, Public Safety, Public office holding, and Licensing,

12. That Hawaiian nationals are those individuals who declare themselves to be such and who meet any one or more of the following categories:
i. – Native Hawaiians as defined by a direct lineal ancestry who resided in these Hawaiian Islands prior to the year 1778;
ii. – descendants of subjects or citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom prior to July 4, 1894;
iii. – persons born in Hawai`i, and other individuals who have been a resident
of Hawai`i for a continuous period of five years immediately prior to declaring oneself a Hawaiian national;

13. The State of Hawaii should undertake to address practices of discrimination against Hawaiian nationals by the following:

a. Form the Working Group on Hawaiian Nationality consisting of 21 members to address areas of implementation of this policy and return to the Legislature in 3 years with a report and recommendations on legislative and regulatory adaptations or changes to bring this policy to fruition.

b. The working group shall consist of 10 individuals familiar with the State functions including the legislature, the judiciary, the executive branches, and the functions of the county governments; another 10 individuals of declared Hawaiian nationalities, including individuals familiar in international affairs, in the practice of law, with Hawaii’s educational sectors, and individuals who have staffed or served the Sovereignty Advisory Council, Hawaiian Sovereignty Advisory Commission, Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council, and the Native Hawaiian Convention; and one individual from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs;

c. The selection of members to the working group is to be made from a list of nominees for the 10 members familiar with the State functions, from the various branches, departments and agencies of the State, including the
University of Hawaii Systems, the Hawaiian Homes Commission, and the various county governments of Hawai`i; the 10 members of declared Hawaiian nationalists from a list of nominees by individuals, groups, and associations identifying said nominees and the basis of qualification consistent with the paragraph above; and one member selected by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

d. But for the member selected by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the working group members shall be selected from the list of nominees by the Governor’s office and by two representatives of the State Legislature, one from the House of Representatives and another from the Senate.

e. Members of the working group shall organize themselves in accordance with their own operating rules, and until said rules are adopted, Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised shall serve as the rules of conduct with the member from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs convening the first meeting;

f. Members of this working group shall serve without compensation but may be afforded a per diem and other expenses related to their service;

g. The working group shall be adequately staffed 50% through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and 50% through the State’s General Fund;

h. Annual interim report to the Legislature shall be submitted and on the third year following the adoption of this resolution, a final report and recommendation on implementation of this policy shall be made;


Hawaiian Code of Conduct


                                       INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS

86-641 Puuhulu Road

Wai`anae, Hawaii  96792-2723

Tel: (808) 200-2684





The conquest of a nation is only complete, not by military subjugation, however thorough, but by destruction of the national consciousness.  Therefore, every Hawaiian is responsible to all other Hawaiians for the survival of our Hawaiian cultural identity, our historical memory, our deep and abiding culture of OLA, and our Aloha for our whole environment.  We hereby dedicate ourselves to retain, teach and rescue our Hawaiian national consciousness for the sake of our posterity, our fellow Hawaiians, our nation and ourselves.


  1. Since the Hawaiian language is a fundamental pillar of our identity, we shall make every effort to learn, use, teach and support the sustaining of our Hawaiian language.


  1. Our Children are the most treasured investments of the values and traditions of our culture. We must make every effort to cultivate in our children the pride in being Hawaiian and provide every possible opportunity for them to learn of the values and traditions of our people.


  1. We shall practice Aloha, the heritage from our ancestors, mindful of the virtues of Akahai, Lokahi, `Olu`olu, Ha`aha`a, and Ahonui.


  1. We shall engage in hard work, realizing that laziness breeds unhappiness and weak minds.


  1. We shall continually strive for spiritual development and adopt an attitude of tolerance and understanding to those who conceive of spirituality in a way different from our own.


  1. We shall extend and display respect to all others which reflects our own appreciation of humanity. We shall carry our pride quietly, neither boasting of ourselves nor speaking badly of others – often a dishonest method of self-praise.  Yet we must be unashamed of our principles and honest in our criticisms.


  1. We shall try to avoid conflict and cooperate with those who do not understand us and whom we do not understand; yet, we shall speak our truth openly and stand firm in our own beliefs and right to assert our Hawaiian identity.


  1. We shall be patient, enduring the pains of injustice but never surrendering to or joining such injustice.


  1. We shall respect and engage in humor, the helper to love and affection, the positive expression of humanity.


  1. _________________________________________________________________________________

(To be filled in by you.)

Original Draft circa 1982 by Poka Laenui, plaenui@hawaiianperspectives.orgsettlers-code-of-conduct