Thursday, July 07, 2016


Politico - July 4,2016

As the United States celebrates its independence from Britain, this year the holiday comes with a historical twist: Britain has just declared its own independence from Europe. And the sudden, dramatic decision is inspiring a number of local movements in the United States.

The spirit of Brexit—the people of the U.K. throwing off the yoke of an oppressive empire across the water—has invigorated secession movements across America, knots of people from Vermont to Hawaii who envision a future in which they break off from a nation too big, too distant or just too weird to feel like home anymore....

...Possibly the least pronounceable of all the proposed U.S. exits, Hawexit might have the most legitimate history—and most serious ongoing legal conversation. In the wake of Brexit, POLITICO spoke to Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, who was a consultant for the Nation of Hawaii’s Hawaiian Sovereignty Advisory Commission. Would Britain’s vote breathe new life into the Hawaiian independence movement? “Certainly, any collapse or breakup of an imperial entity like the EU…will have an impact on the Hawaiian independence movement and give them some encouragement,” he said.

The Nation of Hawaii is not a state-funded group but is Hawaii’s oldest independence organization. Its leader, Dennis Pu‘uhonua "Bumpy" Kanahele, is “head of state” and has been fighting for Hawaiian sovereignty for years, asserting that the state’s treaty with the United States is illegitimate. Bumpy sees his state as very different from the other American states that would secede, though—not only because of Hawaii’s unique history (the first settlers of Hawaii arrived as early as the fourth century, and the proud monarchy of the kingdom ended with Queen Lili'uokalani’s losing control to American businessmen and annexationists in what amounted to an unofficial coup), but also because the Nation of Hawaii already has its own land and unique culture. In 1993, Kanahele negotiated with the state a 55-year lease on the land of Pu`uhonua `o Waimanalo. Since 1994, native Hawaiians have been living on this territory and have organized their own system of governance. 

When I asked Bumpy if he thought that Brexit would have an effect on his quest for independence, he said, “To me, the most important part of that is the language that is being used by other countries, ‘national sovereignty,’” and he emphasized the fact that Scotland’s seeking independence from the United Kingdom was more similar to Hawaii’s situation. 

It’s true that the Hawaii independence effort does stand apart from its counterparts in other states. Where other separatist movements tend to exist on the political fringes and flare up after Brexit-like events, winning independence back from the United States is a perennial issue in Hawaii, with a serious local constituency. The issue has even made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court several times. Many Hawaiians, like Bumpy, see the original U.S. treaty as illegitimate, and a multitude of social groups coexist and peacefully advocate for their nation’s independence...