Excerpted From: Holly K. Doyle, Kala: Disentangling Kamehameha Schools from the 2022 Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report While Actualizing Social Healing Through Justice for its Kanaka Maoli Students, 46 University of Hawaii Law Review 2 (Winter 2023) (603 Footnotes) (Full Document)

HawaiianLogoKanaka Maoli artist, activist, and scholar Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio describes the current time as one of hulihia. A time of overturning, of “chaos and creation, and abundance and fear.” She thinks of the global COVID-19 pandemic (which leaves over seven million people dead at the time of this writing) and the attempted insurrectionist coup following President Biden's inauguration. But, she notes, part of hulihia is also “all of the beautiful uprising” by Indigenous groups asserting their right to self-determination and by the Black Lives Matter movement to end white supremacist violence against Black people globally. She observes that times of transformation are difficult and painful. They always have been. But she finds resolve in knowing “[t]his is what it feels like to tear down violent systems” and “create the world we deserve.”

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland also knows that “work[ing] toward a future we are all proud to embrace” means experiencing the difficulty and pain of acknowledging historic injustice and its persisting wounds. A member of the Pueblo of Laguna and the first Native American cabinet secretary, Secretary Haaland lives with the intergenerational trauma caused by centuries of state-sanctioned physical and cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples. She is the granddaughter of two generations of United States Federal Indian Boarding School survivors.

“From the earliest days of the Republic,” the United States conspired to take Native land for the benefit of the emerging country's white inhabitants by kettling Indigenous peoples into sedentary lifestyles, pushing them into debt and eagerly accepting repayment in land. Boarding schools advanced this effort by separating Native children from their families, severing their cultural, physical, and economic connection to the land, and destroying Native identity. Canada's residential schools did something similar. So when Secretary Haaland heard the news that the Tk'emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation discovered the remains of 215 children at Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada, she immediately thought of her grandparents. That they too could have been buried in unmarked graves at United States boarding schools impelled her to launch an investigation on “[this] side of the border.”

Of the 408 boarding schools identified in the Department of the Interior's investigative report, Hawai'i hosted seven. Four broad criteria employed by the department to compile the first official list of Federal Indian Boarding Schools cast a wide net, ensnaring even those schools established by ali'i “to train future monarchs” of the Kingdom of Hawai'i and for the“enlightenment and elevation of the Hawaiian race[.]” Kamehameha Schools is among those implicated.

Ke Ali'i Bernice Pauahi Bishop established the perpetual charitable trust that is Kamehameha Schools in her 1883 will. Intending to safeguard keiki ' iwi--and, thus, Knaka Maoli--futures against the “rapid social changes occurring at the time, Pauahi considered education the means toward future advancement of Hawaiian children.” In this way, Kamehameha Schools is distinctive. Nearly all other Federal Indian Boarding Schools were created by the federal government itself--or by religious institutions and organizations backed by the federal government the express dual purpose of Native land dispossession and forced assimilation.

But several assimilative tactics wielded against Native children in continental Federal Indian Boarding Schools were also brought to bear against Kanaka children by Kamehameha Schools' five original trustees. Kanaka Maoli scholar and current Kamehameha Schools Trustee Dr. Noelani Goodyear-Ka' pua exposes the similarities. Both Kamehameha Schools and Federal Indian Boarding Schools shared a white supremacist, cisheteropatriarchal and imperialist curricula of cultural suppression and assimilation resulting in persisting “racialized and gendered violence” and economic pigeonholing. The five original trustees were the white sons of Protestant missionaries (though one was a missionary himself), staunch annexationists, capitalists, sugar investors, and Committee of Safety members. For actions like theirs, President Clinton--on behalf of the United States--formally apologized to Knaka Maoli and committed to reconciliation efforts in 1993.

Dispiritingly, promises of reconciliation to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians made by United States officials remain largely unfulfilled. In 2000, for example, then-Assistant Secretary of the Interior Kevin Gover, a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, apologized on behalf of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He expressed his “profound sorrow for what [the] agency ha[d] done in the past.” For the “ethnic cleansing and cultural annihilation the [Bureau of Indian Affairs] ... wrought against American Indian and Alaska Native people [.]” “Worst of all,” Gover lamented, “the Bureau of Indian Affairs committed these acts against the children entrusted to its boarding schools, brutalizing them emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually.” But Gover could only apologize on behalf of the agency and did so arguably without the staunch support of President Clinton's administration. As for Knaka Maoli, “despite several efforts, the issue of reconciliation for [] past injustices has, thus far, eluded Native Hawaiians.”

Now, over twenty years later, the Department of the Interior is at last investigating the boarding schools with an eye toward social healing through reparative justice. With Secretary Haaland at the agency's helm and a seemingly sympathetic presidential administration in office, efforts to revive the stalled initiative are underway. After the department published the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report in May 2022, Secretary Haaland embarked on a country-wide “Road to Healing” listening tour. Though she was scheduled to stop in Hawai'i in 2022, Secretary Haaland's visit was postponed and alternative dates are yet to be released at the time of this writing.

What happens next at the federal and state level in the hotly divided present-day political milieu will determine whether “our country is to heal from [the] tragic [boarding school] era.” After passing through the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act hangs in the balance, awaiting action by the full Senate. And though the Supreme Court's decision upholding the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) in Haaland v. Brackeen stunned many, the case remains part of “a terrifying pattern[] in which attacks on Native children are a prelude to broader attacks on tribal sovereignty.” Right-wing special interests will likely continue their campaign against ICWA, and “[t]he fear is that this case is like the first upright domino in a long row. If they can topple ICWA, they can topple everything else.”

In Hawai'i, some worry about what further investigation into Kamehameha Schools will unearth. What is clear is the deliberate policy of cultural suppression, militarization, assimilation, and domestication shared by Kamehameha Schools and continental Federal Indian Boarding Schools. And clear are the calls by Kanaka Maoli cultural practitioners, scholars, and political leaders for the United States to follow through on its 1993 promise to make “'amends with that specific part of history and the legacy of [the boarding schools].’ Hawaiians, too, need reconciliation[.]”

What remains unclear is whether Kamehameha Schools is rightfully included in the Department of the Interior's investigative report given its unique genesis. Even more uncertain is Kamehameha Schools' responsibility in redressing the persisting wounds of United States imperialism that the trust's early leaders helped inflict. A final unknown is what enduring and comprehensive reconciliation for Native Hawaiian Kamehameha Schools graduates--and Knaka Maoli more broadly--might look like.

Kamehameha Schools issued a (difficult to find) statement on May 13, 2022, following the investigative report's publication. The statement did not explicitly acknowledge that Kamehameha Schools is one of seven Federal Indian Boarding Schools that operated in Hawai'i. Nor did it take a position on its inclusion. Instead, the statement spoke to Native peoples' shared realities under western imperialism and racial capitalism. It acknowledged the “contradictions and internal conflicts of [Kamehameha Schools'] own colonial history,” and affirmed the institution's commitment to “transforming over time to serve and uplift our communities through Hawaiian culture-based education.” Investigating Kamehameha Schools' history is central to this transformation, the statement asserted, and to “better know[ing] our truths, engag[ing] in healing processes, and empower[ing] our communities.”

For those who believe in “transparency and accountability, at least in the abstract, and [] see value in recording and remembering history[,]” this statement of recognition may be all that is needed. Others believe Kamehameha Schools has not done enough to “address the actual substance of what occurred in its boarding schools” since the Department of the Interior released its report. And for some legal formalists, examining past issues “through lenses that have developed in the interim” and making reconstructive or reparative “adjustments now to address those sorts of things that have happened in the past” is a “path that leads off a cliff.” What should Kamehameha Schools do, and what guidance exists for practically shaping and strategically charting Kamehameha Schools' next steps and overall aims?

Relying on Kanaka voices, this Article endeavors to shape, guide and, where needed, recalibrate Kamehameha Schools' response to the department's report. It assesses the concepts and particulars of the above questions through law professor and scholar Eric K. Yamamoto's multidisciplinary social healing through justice analytical framework to suggest that while Kamehameha Schools should not have been included in the department's report, the trust should engage in a pragmatic, dynamic and strategic process to foster comprehensive and enduring healing for its students, itself as an organization and Knaka Maoli generally. “The kind of 'justice’ that activates social healing ... cannot be merely an idea or words on paper. It must be experienced.” This Article seeks to actualize that experience.

Actualizing social healing for Indigenous peoples demands a “contextual legal inquiry [that] start[s] with Native Peoples' unique history and cultural values, explicitly integrating them into a larger analytical framework that accounts for restorative justice and the key dimensions of self-determination.” Social healing through justice is the larger analytical framework guiding this Article's analysis, but it needs altering to properly account for Native Hawaiians' unique history and cultural values. Kanaka Maoli scholar D. Kapua'ala Sproat articulates a bespoke framework for her community that calls attention to “four realms (or 'values') of restorative justice embodied in the human rights principle of self-determination: (1) mo'omeheu (cultural integrity); (2) ’ina (lands and natural resources); (3) mauli ola (social determinants of health and well-being); and (4) ea (self-government).” These four distinctly ' iwi restorative justice values helps the social healing through justice framework home in on the precise medicine that may salve the historical and persisting wounds suffered by Knaka Maoli.

Part II describes the six working principles and four main inquiries composing Professor Yamamoto's social healing through justice praxis. It then infuses the framework with Kumu Sproat's four Indigenous restorative justice values. Part III recounts how unfolding events in Canada catalyzed the United States' first-ever Federal Indian Boarding School investigation. It details the investigation's origins, key findings, and conclusions. Part IV explores Kamehameha Schools' inclusion in the report as one of Hawai'i's seven Federal Indian Boarding Schools by first situating the trust's creation in time and place. It then compares Kamehameha Schools' beginnings, reality, and legacy with that of continental Federal Indian Boarding Schools and embraces their damning similarities in operation and impact. Echoing critical distinctions drawn by Kanaka Maoli scholars, however, it concludes that the department likely should not have included Kamehameha Schools in its report. But Part V argues that--rather than attempting to remove itself from the list--Kamehameha Schools should accept its moral responsibility to finally, and fully, reckon with its history. Part VI concludes by affirming Kamehameha Schools' interest in releasing the ties that bind.

Braided throughout this piece are linkages to ho'oponopono, an ancient familial restorative justice practice for Knaka Maoli. The epigraph is one expression of kala, or release, that ho'oponopono participants invoke after the transgression has been forgiven so that both harmer and harmed are no longer bound together by the wrongdoing. Knaka Maoli--and other Indigenous groups--are not yet in a place to speak this prayer of release. The United States does not yet deserve it. Maybe Kamehameha Schools does not either. I hope this Article will help change that.

[. . .]

We are in a time of hulihia--a time of reckoning and transformation. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland pursued this reckoning with the spirit of 'oia'i'o, “unvarnished truth,” when she launched the Department of the Interior's Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. 'Oia'i'o “is the spirit of truth specified in ho'oponopono.”

Ho'oponopono teaches us that only when the “'telling of all the essential material, no matter how painful,”’ is complete, can harmer and harmed reach remedy and release. Hard truths about Kamehameha Schools emerged from Secretary Haaland's initiative. Further investigation by the Department of the Interior or Kamehameha Schools itself may unearth even more. Whether the department appropriately included Kamehameha Schools' in the report--alongside Carlisle Indian Industrial School and other infamous institutions--is a worthwhile inquiry and part of this Article's focus. But for all its pivotal differences, Kamehameha Schools' unvarnished truth comprises its legacy of cultural repression. It comprises its existing contentious relationships with 'ohana across Ka Pae ’ina seeking to exercise their constitutionally protected traditional and customary rights and practices.

Ho'oponopono principles suggest that Kamehameha Schools is “burdened with [the] guilt and social discomfort” flowing from its western imperialist entanglements (past and present). This Article seeks to facilitate kala, the “mutual process in which both the instigator and recipient of an offense are released from the [attendant] emotional bondage.” It does so by urging Kamehameha Schools to engage in an Indigenized social healing through justice reparative process to dress western imperialism's persisting wounds through strengthening mo'omeheu, 'ina, mauli ola, and ea.

Only then can “[b]oth [Kamehameha Schools and Knaka Maoli] 'let go of the cord,’ freeing each other completely, mutually and permanently.” Only then can they speak the words. “Ke kala aku nei au i 'oe a pl n ho'i ai e kala ia mai ai,' or, 'I unbind you from the fault, and thus may I also be unbound from it.”’ That is the collective prayer of release. And this is mine: “Ua pau ka hana. Ku'ua n ' lelo. The work is complete. Release the words.”

University of Hawai'i at Mnoa William S. Richardson School of Law, Class of 2024 (Anticipated).