In Hawaiʻi Governor Ige’s declaration of a “state of emergency,” or media coverage referring to the protection of Mauna Kea as a “moment” of Hawaiian activism, there emerges an implicit adherence to the view of this conflict as an “event.” In this schema of the “event,” we find that agents and causes are organized along clean binaries: sacred and profane, extractive capital and flat rejections of it, settler state logics and its alternatives like Indigenous-anarchism. But what if we see the mass movement to protect Mauna Kea not as an “event” of state violence or a moment of emergency, and instead focus on relations implicit in quotidian practice? In this article, I argue for seeing Mauna Kea not as an event, but as a structural dynamic confronting us in the guise of an event. I also show how this alternative reading of Mauna Kea, and attention to the “everday,” has ramifications for how we might theorize Kanaka ʻŌiwi struggle.
When kiaʻi Holt Takamine declared a state of emergency for the Lāhui—the nation of Hawaiʻi—she enacted a refusal to accept the US occupation of Hawaiʻi and the US settler state’s calculated attacks on Hawaiian forms of life. To call a state of emergency for the Hawaiian nation is to reverse the postcolonial metaphors of resistance and protest in favor of Hawaiian modes of governance that pre-date and work against the grain of a prolonged belligerent military occupation and settler state violence.
Hawaiians are asserting our commitment to protecting our forms of life. In turn, we are asserting that the legitimacy for refuge from the seemingly never-ending mutations of settler state violence comes from its own positive ontology—Ea—rather than from a position against or in opposition to the state. Ea is the breath and breadth of Hawaiian sovereignty. It did not emerge as a reaction to US occupation but rather thrives, flourishes, and creates in spite of coordinated attacks against Hawaiian forms of life.
Since 2014, the settler state of Hawaiʻi arrested, detained, and punished over 300 Kānaka ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiians) and our allies for defending our ʻāina from desecration. From wind turbines at Kahuku and Kalaeloa to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna a Wākea, settler projects predicated upon the discourse of “the greater good” continue to violate our native lands and bodies. Indeed, as the police continue to show up in droves at these sites prepared to brutalize, arrest, and criminalize Kānaka ʻŌiwi and those who stand with us, so, too, do these projects built on our stolen land continue to constitute a particular kind of colonial violence.
When we consider a history of occupation and settler colonialism in Hawaiʻi that brings to the fore police and carceral violence, the mass deployment of settler state militias (whether the police or the military) on Mauna Kea and other sites of resistance in the Hawaiian Islands seems less and less surprising. It was, in fact, the same force that imprisoned Liliʻuokalani in ʻIolani Palace for a year, that bombed Kahoʻolawe and continue to bomb Pōhakuloa relentlessly, that have detained and cited Kānaka fighting for our ʻāina and our community. Such forces that enact violence against Indigenous peoples and our lands constitute the settler state through the continued projection of a futurity where the occupation of our lands and the policing of our bodies continues to be the norm. In this essay, I ask what it would mean to consider an “otherwise,” a future for Kānaka ʻŌiwi that is grounded in our resurgence and relations to ʻāina. In other words, I ask what might it mean to, following Kanaka ʻŌiwi scholar Maile Arvin, regeneratively refuse the settler futurity of the TMT and the carceral logics it demands.
On the eve of July 17th, 2019, Governor David Ige signed and released an emergency proclamation statement. The purpose of an emergency proclamation is “to provide relief for disaster damages, losses, and suffering, and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people.” This, however, is not taking place.
The state governor issued this administrative rule to enact and exercise an extraordinary usage of police powers, at the same time, suspending current state laws and regulations. The obfuscation of this proclamatory act to adjourn current state legal regulations undoubtedly authorizes the expansion of police powers and unethically creates a policy of violence against the bodies of Kanaka Maoli protectors who are upholding, with true integrity and nonviolence, the defense of Mauna Kea. In addition, the governor’s abuse of power in issuing an emergency proclamation is unethical, disgraceful, and itself a form of aggression. Ige, in his own words from 2018, returns “to the old ways of machine politics and backroom deals, allowing special interests to outweigh the public interest and personal gain to be placed before the collective good.”
In fact, Ige’s proclamation is a “protection” for a special interest: The Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC. There is no protection for the welfare of people, both Kānaka Maoli and allies who reside in these islands. There is no relief, nor protection, from damages and losses when an obscene edifice is built on the backs of the lands, waters and native species.
One day this past July, I received a message on my Facebook blog from someone named Vanessa. She’d found me on Twitter discussing environmental racism, and said she connected well to writers. I got a rush of anticipation reading her message, in which she asked about writing, but also to spread word of what was happening on the Tsawout (pronounced say-w-out) Reservation, where developers were deforesting land to build an RV park without permission. This introduction and following interview tell the story of how the Saanich/Wsanec are being displaced on their homeland in coastal British Columbia, Canada.
Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics invites submissions for a new blog series on “Native Liberation and Abolition.” We invite contributions from Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, writers, activists, organizers, and artists who can offer insight on the historical and contemporary forms of Native liberation …
by David Uahikeaikaleiʻohu Maile
Settler states criminalize protectors of Indigenous life, land, and water by labeling them ‘threats of violence.’ But, Indigenous protectors are exposing policing to be a precarious performance of settler sovereignty.
“The state reinforces a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed.” –Macarena Gómez-Barris
The State of Hawaiʻi was founded on land stolen from Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. To be clear, it is a U.S. settler state. It formed initially in the wake of the illegal U.S. overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. As the Republic of Hawaiʻi, it granted the unlawful annexation of the Hawaiian islands and transferal of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s national lands to the U.S. federal government in 1898. After being the Territory of Hawaiʻi, the U.S. federal government manufactured the “State of Hawai‘i” in 1959 and institutionalized it as the so-called fiftieth state, without consent from Kānaka Maoli. The legal, economic, political, and social processes for settlement of Hawaiʻi are ongoing to this very day. One pivotal way that settlement has continued is through the criminalization of Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. Particularly, the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i turns Kānaka ‘Ōiwi into criminals to be detained, incarcerated, maimed, removed, murdered, and disappeared. The criminalization of Indigenous people—from Hawai‘i to the Americas, Palestine, and elsewhere—is an eliminatory technique for colonial dispossession. As Kānaka Maoli have been labeled threats of violence to be criminalized for defending our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea from the Thirty Meter Telescope, water protectors of Mnisose, the Missouri River, have been also as a way to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Accusations of violence were used to unleash dog attacks, strip search women, bag heads in hoods, rip flesh from bone with water cannons. The assault on Indigenous life, land, and water at Standing Rock clarifies how, as Chickasaw scholar Jodi A. Byrd laments, “in the United States, the Indian is the original enemy combatant.” For legal historian Lisa Ford, the criminalization of Indigenous populations, across Oceania and America, is an original feature of settler sovereignty. She writes, “The exercise of jurisdiction over indigenous crime performs the myth of settler sovereignty over and over.” What Ford refers to as legal myth literary critic Mark Rifkin calls the empty sign of settler sovereignty, which, performed obsessively over and over again, reveals a hollowness in settler state power to be targeted and antagonized.
But how does the state materially reinforce a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed? In this essay, I suggest it is through the management of threats of violence. To support this argument, I explore settler state policing from the vantage of Kanaka Maoli opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a development project for the astronomy industry at our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea on Hawai‘i island. Analyzing three material objects—an emergency rule, bullet hole, and knee—I track how symbolic threats of violence are manufactured to obscure and exact concrete violences. But, what can an administrative law, image of a hole in a door, and body part of a police officer tell us about threats of violence? Indeed, these legal, visual, and fleshy objects are quite revealing. Interrogating discourses mingling through and amongst them, I argue ‘threats of violence’ is a discursive formation produced by the settler state and dispersed through its institutions of media and police. Weaving together scholarship from Critical Police, Hawaiian, and Indigenous Studies, I demonstrate ‘threats of violence’ maintains a dual function. First, suggesting that Kānaka Maoli who defend Mauna a Wākea from the TMT threaten acts of violence, and are violent threats themselves, rationalizes police intervention by the U.S. settler state. In other words, figurative threats of alleged violence from kia‘i, the guardians and protectors of our mountain, condone material violence against them by police. Second, ‘threats of violence’ defers and tries to erase not only the colonial violence animating the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i, and its deployment of police and their militarized interventions, but also the diversity of violence that TMT does. In what follows, I mine three material objects, offer two interventions, and conclude with one mo‘olelo—a story that lays bare how settler state policing of Kānaka Maoli is a performance of precarity.