Indigenous Hawaiian candidates make bid for Congress, Governor

Kaniela Ing campaigns on Indigenous values. (Campaign photo via Facebook).

Mark Trahant

This week's primary election focus: Kansas, Washington and Hawaii #NativeVote18

Hawaii’s Kaniela Ing may be running the most Indigenous campaign in the country. Every day he campaigns on why it’s so important to have a Native Hawai’ian voice and values in the Congress.

There are six candidates running for that House seat, including a former member of Congress, Ed Case. The primary is Saturday.

“The US overthrow of the Hawai’ia Kingdom in 1893 is a great injustice,” the Ing campaign said on its website. “As Hawaiian Affairs Chair in the State House, Kaniela has been a champion for Native causes. In Congress, he will continue our fight to ensure true self-determination and prot‍‍‍ect our sacred places, cultural heritage, and natural resources.”

Last year Ing challenged Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg over lands that Ing said should remain open to Native Hawai’ian for traditional uses. Zuckerberg had built a wall around the property.

“I called Mark Zuckerberg a modern-day colonizer, and it made some international news. After a couple of weeks of these headlines and the two sides going back and forth, he dropped the lawsuit,” Ing told In These Times. “ We did win that battle. It’s still ongoing. There are no lawsuits anymore but they still haven’t gotten the land back, and Zuckerberg still has a wall built around his property. These Hawai’ians are just looking to fish, or get to the beach. This issue has really brought some of the injustices we’ve been facing for years to the attention of the world.”

Ing told Jacobin radio that as a Native Hawai’ian politics found him because fighting for rights has always been a part of his life. “Though many Native Hawai’ian don’t see Hawaii as a state,” he said. “Many continue to recognize us as an occupied nation that still has its sovereignty. They’re fighting to be recognized as independent. That still exists.”

At a recent debate, Ing said there needs to be more of a push back against Democrats, a party that he said is often hypocritical. “The Obama administration deported a record number of undocumented immigrants, but no one wants to talk about that because Trump’s the big bad deporter. Trump is terrible on these issues! And the way he talks and thinks about undocumented immigrants is grotesque. Obama was a lot more thoughtful, don’t get me wrong. But we need to understand where we lost a lot of our support over the years,” he told In These Times. “It’s whenever we decide to compromise with the uncompromising. We’ve really got to stand strong in our values. The Affordable Care Act, there were 40 Republican amendments made for zero Republican votes. We had an opportunity to go for a public option or even a single payer proposal then but we didn’t take it because we were afraid of the healthcare and insurance lobby. That’s why it’s important that we shift the conversation away from one of compromising. We know that Republicans—at least not recently—will never compromise in good faith.”

As a legislator and now a congressional candidate, Ing has promoted energy self-sufficiency for Hawaii completely by 2035. He says this is the kind of conversation that should be going on in Congress.

The cost of living in Hawaii is pretty much a universal campaign theme. “Costs have skyrocketed in Hawaii,” he says in his campaign materials. “Working people and middle-class families are being squeezed out of town b‍y international investors. Just look at Kaka'ako: luxury condos going for $20 million a‍‍‍piece, right next to veterans and Native Hawaiians sleeping on the street. Local people can barely afford shop at Ala Moana anymore.”

Andria Tupola on the campaign trail. She is leading the polls for the Republican nomination for governor. (Campaign photo via Facebook).

That idea of a Hawaii that is too expensive for the next generation is very much a part of the campaign of Andria Tupola too. But her solutions are quite different from the ones Ing would propose. Tupola is Samoan and Native Hawai’ian. And as one of her supporters recently put it, “a definite maverick and now in a long long long shot trajectory to be Hawaii’s next governor, she is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dull and dreary slog to November.”

Tupola is running against two other Republicans for the nomination. One of her opponents, John Carroll, an 88-year-old conservative, recently said that there should be a referenda on the Kingdom of Hawaii (not the standard fare from a Republican.) “Hawaii has been illegally occupied by the U.S. military for generations, and the kingdom is still recognized under international law, he said in Civil Beat. So the solution, he said, is a vote of the people. But Civil Beat points out Carroll has virtually no chance of getting elected.

The Tupola campaign says lower taxes will make Hawaii more affordable. She is a legislator, one of the few Republicans in the legislature. She says in her campaign materials that is "firm in her commitment to hear from the people of Hawaiʻi. Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued. The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Rather than focusing her energy on the insiders and political elites who have controlled Hawaiʻi’s government for too long; Andria is talking to working families, nurses, teachers, truck drivers and small business owners who have kept Hawaiʻi going despite the current government’s ineffective decision-making. The PEOPLE make the state of Hawaiʻi and they must be heard."

She told Civil Beat that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is failing in creating an environment that would enable Native Hawai’ian to “thrive and she “fully support self-sufficiency for Native Hawai’ian and the self-determination of Native Hawai’ians” as well as “the preservation of the values, traditions, and culture of Native Hawai’ians.” She said more money would be needed to build infrastructure and economic development for Native Hawai’ian communities.

Tupola is one of three Native American candidates for governor, Republican Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma and Democrat Paulette Jordan in Idaho. Tupola is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

Both Ing and Tupola are reminding people how to vote. Ing tells explains that under Hawaii law (a law he helped make) people can register to vote on election day. And Tupola explains how to cast a Republican primary ballot.

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter -@TrahantReports



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What's ahead in Indian Country Today

Saturday:Donald Trump vs Bernie Sanders? Nah. Sharice Davids says race is about Kansas

Sunday:Washington state profile

Monday: Hawaii profile

Tuesday night / Wednesday morning election results