The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits takes place in Hawai’i in a “not too distant” future. As I work my way through the second draft, it became obvious to me that I wanted that future to consist of a recently restored Hawaiian Kingdom, one that (within the context of my fantasy novel) is still in a state of initial transition, yet is firmly established as a international, political, plausible reality.
In other words, in the future described in my book, the United States and its military is in the process of removing itself as per agreements and treaties made with those who represent the new Kingdom government and its multi-ethnic subjects: Kanaka Maoli (“native Hawaiians”) and descendents of Hawaiian Nationals who were subjects of the Kingdom at the time of the theft and occupation of Queen Liliu’okalani’s government and kingdom (1893). (The Queen is pictured below.) Kingdom restoration is now a “done deal” (in the book) and everyone living in Hawai’i has to deal with it, one way or another, including the Hermits of Hermitville on Hawai’i Island.
Before I get into what this means for my work of fiction, please check out the reality. For historical background, political considerations, legal context, international status, and current affairs regarding the actual Hawaiian Kingdom, you can go to Hawaiian Kingdom Blog, particularly this entry: U.S. Commits “Acts of War” against the Hawaiian Kingdom (Jan. 17, 2018). My novel may be a fantasy, but there are good reasons for considering restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom as possible, plausible, and righteous, though it is not yet in a politically negotiated process with the U.S. (even if it should be).
Back to the book. Like everyone else who is not an actual descendent of a Kingdom citizen circa 1893, the Hermits of Hermitville have been living in Hawai’i as settler/colonists in a belligerently occupied nation (until the restoration of the Kingdom, of course). This status is at first unknown to them, as they’ve drunk the standard American “Hawai’i statehood” Kool-Aid. This is a status that Hermitville’s founder, winery heiress Ginger Croom, doesn’t understand either until she’s about ten years into her settlement on two, twenty-acre agricultural lots in the Puna District of Hawai’i Island. While she still doesn’t quite understand the land title issues, she does come to understand that a great wrong was done and she’d like to do something to give back to the community. Her way of making amends–or reparations–is to give over one of the twenty-acre lots to five Kanaka Maoli families who have direct ties to that land and she also establishes a building fund for them (in keeping with American philanthropic tradition). She keeps the remaining lot for the Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective. Like most people who purchase real estate in Hawai’i, she believes in her fee simple ownership. As a wealthy person, she also still thinks of what she’s done as a “gift.”
This means that when Ginger writes her will (and this is important to the plot), she assumes she can transfer ownership of this remaining twenty-acre plot to whomever she chooses, in the first case, to her brother Sidley.
But Ginger and the rest of the Hermits never reckoned on the actual restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom in their lifetimes, and now the question is whether to ask to become naturalized citizens of the Kingdom–and if granted this and if permitted to stay, to renounce U.S. citizenship–or to return to the continental U.S. The Hermits, being a fairly progressive bunch, are strongly considering asking to stay, but they too don’t understand that even if they are granted citizenship, that the twenty-acre land base of Hermitville may very well be given back to its original owners, who are most likely Kanaka Maoli.
I asked a couple of my Kingdom activist friends for some guidance as to what might happen in a restored Kingdom government, regarding a will created by someone who is not a descendant of a Kingdom subject (on or before 1893) but who has made provisions for transferring ownership of Hawaiian land to an heir. One friend [a former lawyer–waiting for permission to use his name] talked about the initial seizure of much of Hawaiian land by (1) the U.S.-backed, so-called “provisional government” (an act of war) and (2) the later U.S. “territorial” government (there was no treaty of annexation, by the way), and (3) the “state” of Hawai’i. He said:
“There were raids on estates, the government, etc. I would EXPECT that these deceitful and fraudulent land transactions will be examined and evaluated AND, when good reason is found, that these deeds and/or other methods of conveyances will be reversed AND the lands returned to their rightful title owners, or if none can be found, to the valid konohiki of those lands OR, if not valid, to the government.”
Note: Wikipedia defines konohiki as “a headman of a land division or ahupua’a of the Kingdom of Hawaii who administered the land ruled by an ali’i chief.” This definition is in accordance with that found in the Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert (p. 166).
Lynette Cruz, Ph.D., Kupuna at Hawai’i Pacific University, commented, “Might have an issue with title transfers after 1893.” [Update: thank you, Lynette, for correcting my terminology – “subject” is the correct term, not “citizen.”]
In present day Hawai’i, complex discussions of the validity of land title after 1893, based on the Hague World Court of Arbitration’s affirmation of the continuing existence of the Hawaiian Kingdom (but not the government) as per Larsen Vs. the Hawaiian Kingdom, have featured in some cases of foreclosures and defective title.
Unknown to the Hermits, however, forces even more complex and mysterious than Hawai’i land title matters will soon force them into an even more complicated relationship to the question, “Should I stay or should I go?”