Who are Hawaiian Citizens and Hawaiian Subjects?
“Nationality” means the legal bond between a person and a State and does not indicate the person’s ethnic origin. Everyone has the right to a nationality. (European Convention on Nationality)
One of the earliest laws in Hawaiʻi dealt with citizenship (nationality – not ethnicity;) it was part of King Kamehameha III’s Statute Laws 1845-1846. The Chapter for that law was headed: “Of Subjects and Foreigners” and the specific Article was labeled “Aliens, Denizens and Natives.”
Following is the law concerning Hawaiian citizenship, part of King Kamehameha III’s Statute Laws 1845-1846 (first, the original law in Hawaiian; then, the English translation:)
Pauku 3. O na kanaka a pau i hanau malalo o ka malu o keia Aupuni, ina na na makua o ke Aupuni e, a ina na haole hoohiki i kanaka Hawaii, a ina na na kanaka maoli, a me ka poe i hanau ma ka aina e, ina no keia Aupuni na makua, a mahope hele mai na keiki e noho haanei, e manaoia kela poe a pau, he aie i ka hoolohe i ka Moi, ke alii ka lakou ma ka hanau ana, a e kau no ke kanawai o keia Aupuni maluna o lakou.
O na kanaka a pau i hanau ma na aina e, ina no ka aina e na makua, a hoohiki ole hoi e like me ka olelo iloko o keia haawina alaila. e manaoia lakou he lahui e, a e hanaia’ku lakou e na’lii o keia Aupuni pela, e like nae me ka olelo o ke kanawai.
Section III. All persons born within the jurisdiction of this kingdom, whether of alien foreigners, of naturalized or of native parents, and all persons born abroad of a parent native of this kingdom, and afterwards coming to reside in this, shall be deemed to owe native allegiance to His Majesty.
All such persons shall be amenable to the laws of this kingdom as native subjects. All persons born abroad of foreign parents, shall, unless duly naturalized, as in this article prescribed, be deemed aliens, and treated as such, pursuant to the laws. (Ka Huli Ao Digital Archives – Punawaiola-org)
Hawaiʻi followed the Anglo-American common law rule of “jus soli;” those born in the country and subject to its jurisdiction is a citizen. The common law rule traces back to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.
Subsequent interpretation of the laws and practices affirmed who were Hawaiian citizens and what rights and obligations they possessed.
In 1850, HW Whitney, born in Hawaiʻi of foreign parents, asked the Minister of the Interior, John Young II, about his status. The question was referred to Asher B Bates, legal adviser to the Government, who replied …
… “not only the Hawaiian Statutes but the Law of Nations, grant to an individual born under the Sovereignty of this Kingdom, an inalienable right, to all of the rights and privileges of a subject.” (Hanifin)
In 1856, the Kingdom’s Supreme Court decided Naone v. Thurston, recognizing that persons born in Hawaiʻi of foreign parents were Hawaiian subjects.
On January 21, 1868, the Minister of the Interior for the Hawaiian Kingdom, His Excellency Ferdinand Hutchison, stated the criteria for Hawaiian nationality:
“In the judgment of His Majesty’s Government, no one acquires citizenship in this Kingdom unless he is born here, or born abroad of Hawaiian parents, (either native or naturalized) during their temporary absence from the kingdom, or unless having been the subject of another power, he becomes a subject of this kingdom by taking the oath of allegiance.”
Subsequent laws through the Republic, Territory and State provide that “All persons born or naturalized in the Hawaiian Islands, and subject to the jurisdiction of the Republic, are citizens thereof.”
Today, there remain ongoing claims and discussions about restoring the Hawaiian Government that was deposed on January 17, 1893 and replaced by the Provisional Government of Hawaiʻi, later the Republic of Hawaiʻi, then annexation and statehood.
The Hawaiian nation was overthrown … not the Hawaiian race (it was a constitutional monarchy, not race-limited.)
Yet, to date, apparently, the only people permitted to exercise their rights related to discussions on restoration, reparation, sovereignty, independence, etc related to the Hawaiian nation have been those of one race, the Native Hawaiians.
In the ongoing nation-building exercise, lately there was Kau Inoa (registration of Native Hawaiians in Hawaiʻi and abroad who will be a part of the new Hawaiian nation and receive benefits provided by the new government,) later Kanaʻiolowalu (registration on an Official Roll and joining together to rebuild a Hawaiian nation,) and now Na‘i Aupuni (who are guiding an election, convention and ratification process where Hawaiians who wish to participate can be heard.)
Kanaʻiolowalu limits participation to “lineal descendant[s] of the people who lived and exercised sovereignty in the Hawaiian islands prior to 1778”; a goal of the registration is “self-recognition of our unrelinquished sovereignty”. The latter and latest, suggests an ʻAha (“convention … gathering of elected delegates”) that may conduct a ratification vote.
Likewise, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (Akaka Bill,) and groups like Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi, Nation of Hawaiʻi, Ka Pakaukau, Poka Laenui, Hawaiian Kingdom, Hawaiian Kingdom Government and the rest seem to seek to restore or reclaim on behalf of Native Hawaiian. (This does not even count the endless rhetoric on social media.)
A Hawaiian citizen or subject is someone that has the political status of being a Hawaiian national. And it’s not limited to the native race or the aboriginal blood. (Keanu Sai)
If annexation did not happen, today descendants of Hawaiʻi-born or foreign-born naturalized Hawaiian citizens (with no proof of later naturalization to another nation) are still Hawaiian subjects, as their predecessors were in the Kingdom era. (Keanu Sai)
All Hawaiian citizens lost their nation in 1893 … Hawaiian citizens with their varying ethnicities, not just those who lived in the Islands prior to 1778.
Listening to the ongoing rhetoric, some seen to argue that only those of the Hawaiian race have rights and benefits of the Hawaiian kingdom (including claims to the ceded lands).
Why aren’t all Hawaiian citizens included in the recognition and sovereignty discussions and decisions today?
The kingdom was not raced based; all citizens (Native Hawaiians, born here or naturalized) have “an inalienable right, to all of the rights and privileges of a subject.”
(The text and translation of documents here are from Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, William S. Richardson School of Law.)