In case I haven’t said so yet, my apologies that posts have gotten especially infrequent. I am studying for PhD comprehensive exams, and have just gotten so busy… but, come June or so, once exams are over, I expect to be able to blog more often again. And, since I’ve been reading tons of books for the exams, I will have tons of book reviews to be able to post. In the meantime, here are a few quick hits, of news items that have come across my dash in recent weeks.
*A UN Tribunal has ruled that the UK government acted illegally in allowing the United States to build military bases in Mauritius. According to a second Guardian article, the crux of the issue is that
In 1965, three years before Mauritius was given its independence, the UK decided to separate the Chagos Islands from the rest of its then Indian Ocean colony. The Mauritian government claims this was in breach of UN general assembly resolution 1514, passed in 1960, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies prior to independence.
Situations are different all around the world, and legal challenges to US use of Hawaiian and Guamanian (Chamorro) land will, presumably, have to take different approaches. The situation seems to be oddly reminiscent of Okinawa, in a way, as the UK and US seem to have conspired between the two of them to use Mauritius (Chago Islander) land in this way without giving the islands any voice in the matter, much as the US and Japan have conspired to use Okinawan land as they see fit without giving a care to what the Okinawans want. Of course, the situation in Okinawa is actually quite different, as all of Okinawa remains Japanese territory, and so the UN resolution forbidding the breakup of colonies prior to independence doesn’t apply.
Still, this is some good news for the Chagos Islanders, it would seem. Time will tell how it plays out, whether the islanders will really get their land back, and so forth.
An aerial photo of Diego Garcia atoll, separated from Mauritius prior to independence, to form the core of the British Indian Ocean Territory, which was then given over to US military use. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
*Meanwhile, on a related note, the government of New Zealand continues to move forward with what a UN report describes as imperfect but nevertheless “one of the most important examples in the world of an effort to address historical and ongoing grievances of indigenous peoples.” The Honolulu Star-Advertiser tells us the New Zealand government has given dozens of Māori iwi (tribes) large swaths of land to manage, and millions of dollars in legal settlements connected to claims against the government for breaches of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.
The Treaty of Waitangi was a treaty signed between the British Crown and over 500 Māori chiefs, and is the founding document of the colony, and later the independent country, of New Zealand. As is so often the case in these sorts of things, the English-language and Māori-language versions of the Treaty do not match up perfectly, leaving plenty of room for debate and dispute. But the NZ government has, from what little I understand, been perhaps the best in the entire region at attempting to address claims and settle them generously, with an eye to righting past wrongs and doing right by the Māori people, who form roughly 15% of the population of the country, and who, as the indigenous inhabitants, not only have certain rights to the land and so forth, but who also play an important part in the fabric of New Zealand culture and society.
Since 1995 or so, the government has settled over 72 claims from Māori iwi, and hopes to settle the last currently on the table by 2017. One of the most recent settlements, the occasion for this Star-Advertiser article, went to the Ngāi Tūhoe tribe, who received NZ$170 million (US$128 million), and rights to manage the national park they claim as their home. Each iwi has managed its settlement money differently, with some being more successful than others in their investments. The Māori certainly seem to have a more positive relationship with their government – or at least moving in that direction – and with the people of New Zealand more broadly, a different place within the culture and society, than do Native Americans & Native Hawaiians in the US, or indigenous peoples in many other colonial countries in the world. It would be wonderful to see similar things happen for the Hawaiians, for the Ainu, and so forth, but, every situation is different, and terribly complex, and only time will tell how these things might be able to evolve.
The Māori marae at Whenua Rangatira, belonging to the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei hapū (sub-tribe). Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
*Finally, today, a blog post by Dr. ‘Umi Perkins on The Ten Most Pervasive Myths About Hawaiian History. I suppose one might need to know at least some basics of the narrative, and the key controversies/issues, in order to understand what Perkins is talking about, but this is an excellent jumping-off point for learning more, beyond that.