Donald Trump and Hawaii's Indian Land

Frederich Trenchard

The one thing the 50 states that make up the United States of America (not counting insular territories) have in abundance is their claim to land. That vast amount of land is in large part Indian and Indigenous peoples land. There are some who say this enormous quantity of land, the New World, accounts for what Mr. Trump refers to in his stump speeches as that lost American greatness.

Land and buildings go together. Having some kind of enterprise inside a building is where the money is. Mr. Trump constructs buildings and his many enterprises come up with ways to use buildings to generate large amounts of cash. Along with this comes jobs.

So it is not unreasonable to consider it natural for Mr. Trump to look out across the vast reaches of American land and see springing up a vast number of new buildings and jobs.

A native Hawaiian Chief, Maui Loa, also had the same vision, so he got in touch with one of the Trump Organization's top executives and convinced him to analyze the Indian land situation in the 50th state, Hawaii. Chief Maui Loa also contacted some Indian tribes considered Indian Country's top job makers.

Donald Trump and the late Senator Dan Inouye cannot be two more different kinds of job makers. Senator Inouye made jobs using insider Democrat party pull and federal funding. Mr. Trump bought or leased land then put up buildings, residential (like his father) and commercial. Hotels and casinos, mostly. Shopping Centers for the middle class were never an emphasis of Mr. Trump. Trump's casino buildings feature upscale shopping for well-heeled players. Indian tribes concentrated on commercial buildings with casinos to generate cash and jobs.

Land in Hawaii is at a premium. All of it is, according to the standard Native American Indian title land policy, Indian land. Indian land that is not terminated has inherent protection as to its use by Indians for housing, agriculture and commerce by federal superintendence. This is not really up for debate any more than can social trends have power to alter the public land laws of the United States is up for debate.

The Trump Organization, when contacted by the Chief of the Hou 1778 Hawaiians, Maui Loa, was recovering from the result of the work of Hawaii's Senator Dan Inouye and the Mashantucket Pequot resulting in opening up Foxwoods. It's closer proximity to New York City dealt an economic blow to the casinos along the old boardwalk following the Jersey shoreline.

Trump briefly branched out with a strategy then of opening several smaller Indian casinos located where, due to tourism, casinos were springing up. The remote locations, mostly, of reservations, however, did not always match the demographics necessary for drawing large numbers of players from nearby urban centers.

Hawaii had no industrial factories that were shipped out to Japan or China or Mexico. Hawaii's buildings are upscale hotels, like the Taj Mahal. The West Coast, California mostly, and Asia are the nearby urban centers that Hawaii's tourism buildings were designed draw from.

Hawaii has two kinds of legal gambling. State legalized Charity gaming and a lottery for choosing who is eligible to purchase a condo. IGRA Class II. There is also an underground, ugly form of local mob controlled table and slot gambling that seems to be tolerated by virtue of its political connections. When Hawaii's tourism leaders say they hesitate legalizing casino gambling due to the influence of organized crime, this is what they fear. Hawaii's lawmakers are isolated so being arbitrary comes naturally.

Even while Senator Inouye was providing assistance, in the form of connections to financing from Asia for the Mashantucket Pequot, the senator had a perennial bill in the Hawaii state legislature. It would have legalized cruise ship gaming for the same Asian corporation that initially lent Foxwoods the sum needed to start up the Mashantucket Pequot's amazingly successful enterprises.

Senator Inouye and his friends and associates exercised a great deal of influence over how land is used in Hawaii. Any perceived confusion over land use by Hawaii's own Indians was manufactured by Inouye and Company to prevent a native Hawaiian tribe from challenging absolute control over land use by the state.

So, while Hawaii back peddles, Congress does two significantly related things. One, it blocks any kind of congressional legitimization of a federal version of Senator Inouye and Company's offbeat state version of standard federal Indian land use policy and practice. Two, it passes the HEARTH Act. The HEARTH Act can be thought of as an inspired extension of the IGRA. Indian land is able to become as valuable as any other land anywhere in the vast lands of America, including in Alaska and Hawaii.

Fighting off relentless attacks from state government and local government and from a hostile public, Chief Maui Loa's leadership of the Hou 1778 Hawaiians is determined to clean up the mess made in Hawaii when it comes to land use so native Hawaiians can prosper as Congress intends.

The Hou 1778 Hawaiians is included in the only native community in the 50th state already recognized by Congress in a statute passed in 1920. It set aside reserved lands when the public land laws came into play in the Territory of Hawaii. The Hou's enrollment consists of native Hawaiians, using a federal definition of 50-100 percent blood quantum, the nearest kinship group, as prescribed in that statute.

The Hou's law suit can be read through Pacer. It is Hou and Chief Maui Loa versus United States Department of Justice, in Hawaii Federal District Court. The position of the Justice Department is that the United States has no concrete trust responsibilities whatsoever to any Indian tribe, nation or individual, so it did nothing wrong in not protecting native Hawaiian land use takings by local government and the public. 

Frederich Nicholas Trenchard, MFA, was a visiting professor at a University in Hawaii when he met Kahuna Kamuela Price, Elder Counsel of the Hou 1778 Hawaiians. Advocating for the native Hawaiian then became a lifelong pursuit.

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