THE SENATE

S.C.R. NO.

215

THIRTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2021

S.D. 1

STATE OF HAWAII

H.D. 1

 

 

 

 

SENATE CONCURRENT

RESOLUTION

 

 

RECOGNIZING THE HISTORIC, CULTURAL, AND STRATEGIC CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE PEOPLES OF OCEANIA, OF WHICH HAWAII AND THE FREELY ASSOCIATED STATES ARE A PART.

 

 

 


WHEREAS, the quasi-continental region of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean constitutes what has been described by renowned Tongan scholar Epeli Hauofa as a "sea of islands", with interconnections of history, culture, and strategic interests; and

 

WHEREAS, some historians argue that civilizations in Oceania did not consider the boundary of their islands as being limited to their shorelines but rather perceived space in a much broader sense of space that extended far across the sea and sky; and

 

WHEREAS, the diverse cultures and peoples of Oceania have significant deep and historic ties amongst each other, such as the contemporary theory that Pacific Island peoples are all originally migrants from Taiwan and Southeast Asia; and

 

WHEREAS, other commonalities include an Austronesian linguistic background, hundreds of years of trade across the Pacific prior to western contact, similar understandings of spirituality such as the concept of mana, as well as similar cultural practices such as the use and preparation of taro; and

 

WHEREAS, the geographical and anthropological descriptions of Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia are western categorizations of the Pacific Islands that by themselves do not fully capture the complex and diverse nature of cultures in Oceania; and

WHEREAS, the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) are international agreements between the United States and the independent nation states of the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, collectively known as the Freely Associated States; and

 

WHEREAS, these compacts allow the United States to operate armed forces in the Freely Associates States and to utilize land for operating bases and, in turn, guarantees that the United States is responsible for protecting these affiliate countries; and

 

WHEREAS, the United States provides these countries access to many of the United States' domestic programs, including disaster response and recovery programs under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, some United States Department of Education programs including the Pell Grant, and services provided by the National Weather Service, the United States Postal Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and United States representation to the International Frequency Registration Board of the International Telecommunication Union; and

 

WHEREAS, the area in which the Freely Associated States are located is incredibly strategic, lying directly on the way from the United States to Asia and Australia, and whoever controls those waters controls American access to the entire Indo-Pacific region; and

 

WHEREAS, these states were all integral to the Allied victory in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, with the Gilbert, Marshall, Mariana, and Palau Island campaigns becoming the first steps in the drive across the central Pacific by the United States Pacific Command; and

 

WHEREAS, these victories were crucial in neutralizing Japanese bases in the central Pacific, supporting the Allied drive to retake the Philippines, and providing bases for a strategic bombing campaign against Japan; and

WHEREAS, the fifty-five immigrants from Micronesia who arrived aboard The Stormbird in 1877 were some of the first plantation labor migrants to Hawaii; and

 

WHEREAS, historians note that the number of Micronesian migrants brought to work on plantations increased to over fifteen hundred in the next few years; and

 

WHEREAS, King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiolani regularly invited Micronesian chiefs and community leaders to birthday celebrations and events at Iolani Palace as a sign of appreciation and hospitality; and

 

WHEREAS, contemporary treaties arising out of the special and unique relationship between the three COFA island nations and the United States allow island citizens to enter the United States without work permits or visas to study, live, and work and to access benefits available to United States citizens, such as driver's licenses and health care; and

 

WHEREAS, the federal government estimates that there are currently over twenty-five thousand COFA migrants living in Hawaii; and

 

WHEREAS, citizens from the Freely Associated States volunteer to serve in the United States Armed Forces at per capita rates higher than most states; and

 

WHEREAS, there is a negative perception of COFA migrants in Hawaii as people who drain resources and are racial opponents, which has manifested through discrimination against citizens of the Freely Associated States in access to housing, education, and employment; and

 

WHEREAS, despite these hardships and challenges, COFA migrants participate in economic activities by providing labor, consuming goods and services, and paying fees and taxes to the government, such as an estimated contribution of $336,200,000 to the Hawaii gross domestic product in 2017; and

WHEREAS, COFA migrants also contribute to the vibrancy of indigenous cultural practices in the State, helping to keep native cultural traditions alive in the modern day as best illustrated by the late Mau Piailug of Satawal and his entire genealogy, whose contributions of their own traditional ocean navigation resulted in a cultural revolution for native Hawaiians to reconnect with a part of their culture that was being lost; and

 

WHEREAS, the COFA island families residing in this country should be fairly treated in recognition of their contributions and the special and unique relationship between the Freely Associated States and the United States; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the Thirty-first Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2021, the House of Representatives concurring, that this body recognizes the historic, cultural, and strategic connections between the peoples of Oceania, of which Hawaii and the Freely Associated States are a part; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this body recognizes the contributions and accomplishments of the COFA community in the State of Hawaii and the broader United States; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this body condemns racial or cultural discrimination, violence, and defamation against COFA citizens; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this body recognizes the geo-strategic importance of these nations to the national security of the United States and Hawaii against foreign adversaries, particularly in light of current aggressive and illegal posturing and exertion of influence by the People's Republic of China in the region; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this body respectfully requests the United States Congress to continue to support economic and scientific assistance to the Freely Associated States; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this body urges the Governor to collaborate and exchange best practices with the heads of states of these nations on commonly shared policy issues such as combating sea level rise, ecological protection, and promoting indigenous rights; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this body urges the Governor to implement programs and training to combat discrimination against Pacific Island communities, including expanding language access and countering bullying against COFA students in public schools; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Concurrent Resolution be transmitted to the Hawaii Congressional delegation, Governor, Director of Labor and Industrial Relations, Director of Health, Director of Public Safety, Superintendent of Education, Chairperson to the Hawaii Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and Consulates General of the Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Federated States of Micronesia.

Report Title:

Recognition; Compact of Free Association