‘Imi Pono Projects continued where Statehood Hawaii left off, focusing attention on Hawaiian independence and justice issues through open public dialogue. Our mission was to promote discussion and strategies of engagement surrounding Hawaiian independence, which includes primary independent research, media content and education efforts.
In recent years, the work of many of Hawaii’s brightest researchers have opened the door to the illegitimacy of annexation and the fraudulent statehood process. Concurrent with this historical, legal and political development, challenges arising from both the state and the federal government on the issues of “Ceded” lands and the Akaka Bill, respectively, continue to challenge the rights that native Hawaiians and kingdom advocates seek. Hawaii’s unique political history has risen to the forefront as evidence of ongoing injustice.
Coupling academic and activist opposition with both the 50th anniversary of statehood and the election of Hawaii-born President Barack Obama, had helped fuel the engagement of these issues with the public in Hawaii and abroad.
In 2006, Statehood Hawaii was officially launched shortly after the Admission Day controversy at ‘Iolani Palace in an effort to engage the public with the various approaches of Hawaii’s statehood. This was not only to include the diverse perspectives of the state and the sovereignty movement, but was also to encompass the ILWU and labor, the history of annexation and the domination of the Big 5, tourism and development, the 100th and 442nd, military and the Cold War, Hawaii’s history of sugar, immigration and our territorial history in general.
Statehood Hawaii was originally created to function as a resource where we could come to understand Hawaii’s statehood history as the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood was approaching. Having initiated this independent project over a year before the founding of the 50th Anniversary of Statehood Commission, we had considered that this work might function as a policy project to engage the state, cultural centers, the ILWU, and the sovereignty groups in a documented forum which could be archived as a 50th anniversary marker. When the state appropriated funding to put together a commission, Statehood Hawaii proposed its objectives at the first public meetings. Over time, it became clear that the state’s plans for a parade and a celebration were going to give way to “cultural sensitivity” in a way that would engage the various perspectives outlined in our objectives.
In 2004, Arnie Saiki (project director of Statehood Hawaii) was hired as the lead historical researcher for the ACM film, “State of Aloha.” As the researcher, he developed a set of general questions and guidelines which were: “Why is Hawaii a state? How did Hawaii become a state? What were the conditions that led to Statehood? And what are the benefits and disadvantages of statehood?
Later, applying this criteria to Statehood Hawaii, he added another guideline, What is the future of Hawaii’s statehood?
‘Imi Pono Projects continues to probe the future of Hawaii’s statehood and present work that seeks to engage the wider community on these issues of Hawaii’s national identity and justice.