Out of a basement office in ‘Ele‘ele, Dayne Aleka Nakaahiki Kane Kanakaoli Poikauahi Aipoalani is organizing a movement to reclaim the known islands of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau and “all existing mineral, water, oil and liquid rights” from the state and the federal government.
Aipoalani claims that nearly 3,000 people, by word of mouth, have rallied to support his efforts in “righting the wrongs perpetrated by the federal government on the people of ‘Atooi’ (currently known as Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau) after the forced surrender of Queen Lili‘uokalani in 1893,” Aipoalani said.
Aipoalani and his advisers, representing the “native Customary Chiefs” declared in a recent letter to Gov. Linda Lingle that they “expect Atooi to once again be a separate sovereign nation controlled entirely by the rightful heirs and owners, the Ali‘i.”
The autonomous and self-governing kingdom would be called The Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi.
In the letter, Aipoalani also claims his ability to show documentation of his rightful title of Ali‘i Nui, heir to governance and ownership.
In a recent interview with Aipoalani, Kekaha Kupuna and retired teacher Jose Bulatao, supporter Dana Gonzales, executive assistant Freddie Patricio and Wiremu O Terangi Carroll, the group expressed their intention to keep the current residents and county offices on-island — “That’s what separates us from the sovereignty movements that want to kick everyone off. We welcome everyone, including landowners who are already here. Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians. This is about steering the destiny of our people and our land, for the keiki, for the future,” said Aipoalani.
In his “declaration of ownership,” Aipoalani wrote in November 1994, “It is further declared that all known rules and laws pertaining to homestead acts known on the planet earth, are hereby declared invalid on the above listed areas.”
He explains that a “Notice of Trespass” from the state’s Agribusiness Development Corporation dated Jan.19, 2007, sent to his home after he had visited burial grounds, caves and sacred cultural sites on state-owned Kekaha land, further pushed him to seek “his rightful claim.”
Referencing Customary Chiefs in Alaska and the Navajo Nation, Aipoalani and his supporters explained their passionate plight in “bringing light, the light of God, to the people,” and that with the current state of “over-development and disregard for the population is a form of ethnic cleansing. Our people are forced to rent, not own, and move away to the Mainland.”
The group feels the state should be “compelled to uphold the laws and correct a longstanding illegal wrong,” by returning the land and its resources to “the rightful consanguine heir of this native land and nation.”
The group expressed hopefulness in this movement, especially because “this is the age of information, there is a new attitude towards indigenous cultures to pay respect and be sensitive to their suppression that has gone on too long,” said Bulatao.
The Hawaiian Homeland Department visited Aipoalani at one point and offered him land. “They tried to bribe me with a little hill,” he said. “That wouldn’t solve the problem.”
Yet, other movements seeking autonomous rule have accepted similar land offers. In the village led by ‘Bumpy’ Kanahele in Pu‘uhonua O Waimanalo on O‘ahu, The Los Angeles Times quoted Kanahele about the 45 acres given to him by the state to live on with 80 other people and govern on their own, “Standing here on your land, not owing anything to anybody, not being afraid of anyone, knowing you fought the right fight with attitude — and looking out at that. This is the beginning, brah, just the beginning.”
Aipoalani feels accepting land from the state is a limited compromise, and his movement is not willing to work under the state. “It’s a broken system. We need better education, better roads, sustainable food sources, less development,” he said, “something that cannot happen for Kaua‘i unless the entire system changes and the power, the land, changes hands.”
When asked if this movement is willing to work on their goals through the system already in place, Bulatao explained, “We can’t just sit by and say, ‘That’s the way it is,’ we need to be proactive. If we don’t, there will be eventual doom, abuse, and more misuse that our finite resources can’t handle. We are here to take care of the ‘aina.”
While Lingle has acknowledged receiving Aipoalani’s March 5 letter by phone, as well as signed copies of ‘receipt’ from Kaua‘i Mayor Bryan Baptiste and the Kaua‘i County Planning Department of the “declaration of ownership,” the group is still “patiently and confidently” waiting to receive a full response and cooperation from the U.S. government on returning Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau to The Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi and Ali‘i Aipoalani.
The group invites interested supporters, of all ethnic backgrounds, to contact them.
They are currently looking for office space. Contact Polyfirstname.lastname@example.org or write P.O. Box 50596, ‘Ele‘ele, 96705.
• Keya Keita, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or email@example.com.