‘These Are Our First Roadways’: Internet Access and Self-Determination in Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo Thumbnail
Growing the Internet 14 October 2019

‘These Are Our First Roadways’: Internet Access and Self-Determination in Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo

By Brandon MakaawaawaGuest AuthorDeputy Head of State, Nation of Hawaii

The establishment of Pu‘uhonua o Waimānalo in 1994 was a significant milestone in the native Hawaiian movement to regain independence from the United States, which overthrew its kingdom in 1893. The United States formally acknowledged its role in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in a law adopted by Congress in 1993 known as the Apology Resolution. A quarter of a century later, the Nation of Hawai’i is levelling up with a new effort in the push for sovereignty: community-led Internet access.

The Nation of Hawai’i is excitedly gearing up for the upcoming build and launch of Hawai’i’s first independent community broadband network in our village of Pu`uhonua O Waimanalo on the island of O’ahu.

As an early adopter of the Internet, the Nation of Hawai’i quickly recognized its potential to support sovereignty and self-determination efforts.

In 1995, the Nation of Hawai’i launched hawaii-nation.org as a way to share its history and updates about current initiatives with the world. The website housed extensive primary-source historical documents, including the constitutions and treaties of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It hoped that by providing access to lesser known parts of history, Hawaiians and supporters around the world could learn and make up their own minds about the true status of Hawai’i as an independent country under occupation.

The vision of our village and Nation still holds true in 2019: to achieve self-determination and self-sufficiency, with a harmonious balance of traditional Hawaiian practices and innovative modern technologies.

Self-determination means a lot of different things to different Indigenous groups and in Hawai’i and across North America. For Nation of Hawai’i, it’s about people having the right to control their own political, economic, social, and cultural futures, free of any outside jurisdictions. Just like it did 25 years ago, the Internet still plays a vital role in that goal.

Access to the Internet also gives us opportunities to explore and engage with the world outside of our oppression – and the limited views of what we were taught. It allows us the freedom to find the solutions we need to ensure a prosperous future for our people.

The Internet also enhances our communication, which is essential to connecting our people within and outside of Pu‘uhonua o Waimānalo to resources. Communication is one of the three main pillars – along with transportation and energy – that comprise the hallmark of sovereignty in the 21st century: connectivity. In order for our sovereign Nation to evolve independently, it is critical that we have control over our connectivity. We consider this national infrastructure, and in many ways, these are our first roadways.

The community network project is very important to helping us achieve our goal of total independence. We currently have some Internet service in our village but it is slow and expensive. Most residents and visitors use data from our cell phones and hot spots to use the Internet, which lags and is unreliable. Having a community-run broadband network will greatly impact our village and the surrounding community because we’ve never had affordable and reliable access to the Internet and the limitless opportunities it can provide.

Having our community become its own Internet provider will generate job opportunities for our people, and also help us build a self-sustaining solution to create more independence for our Nation.

Although the community network project isn’t due to launch until the hands-on technical training immediately after the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit in Hilo, Hawai’i this November, it is already a success. The Internet Society’s training program is creating real excitement in the community and already linking us to unbelievable resources and partnerships.

I believe that once our network goes online, the impacts will be immediately amplified throughout our village. For instance, our video teleconference meetings with community network project partners will be more productive without lagging problems. But the benefits will go even further when you consider that our kids will no longer need to travel outside the community to find a McDonalds or Starbucks with Internet access to finish their school projects.

With the gracious support of the Internet Society and all of their resources, this project is catalyzing an important and timely communication transformation in our Nation. We are grateful for this new and productive partnership that is – like everything we do – rooted in Aloha.

NOTE: While Native Hawaiians are not federally considered Indigenous, the Nation of Hawai’i got its accreditation as an Indigenous Peoples’ Organization during the 16th Session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Want to learn more about how Nation of Hawai’i and many other rural and remote Indigenous communities are connecting themselves to affordable and reliable Internet?

Register to attend the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit in person November 12 to 13 in Hilo, Hawai’i. Can’t make it in person? You can also register for the livestream event.

Want to take your participation a step further? Consider sponsoring the event and joining the movement of people working to ensure Indigenous and Native Hawaiian communities can connect themselves to affordable and reliable Internet.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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