This essay examines the politics of the controversial proposal for US federal recognition for Native Hawaiians. It explores a range of historical and legal issues that shed light on the multiple claims that constitute the complex terrain of Hawaiian sovereignty politics. The article provides a historical overview of the events that impact the current situation and then discusses a particular set of contemporary conditions that serve as key elements in catalyzing widespread support for federal recognition—namely, the implications of the recent US Supreme Court ruling in Rice v Cayetano and subsequent legal challenges to Native Hawaiian programs and funding by the US government. It also highlights difficulties with the promise of federal recognition as a solution to "the Hawaiian problem" by looking at lessons from Indian Country, Native Alaska, and the Pacific—especially the US unincorporated territories. Finally, the essay explores the independence movement as an alternative to domestic dependent nationhood.


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pp. 1-27
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