Tibetan protests in late November, 2012, included a further increase of individuals committing self-immolation. 1 With that, the Tibetan movement itself has risen to another level.
But of the various indigenous movements world-wide, Tibet’s has had no doubt the most public exposure; perhaps with the exception of Palestine. There is, e.g., the Mayan movement in Guatemala with a history of oppression against them from successful U.S.-backed governments/regimes. But I don’t see the slogan, “Free Guatemala” on bumper stickers. (I apologize if this sounded sarcastic.) In his book, “American Colonies: Volume 1 of the Penguin history of the United States,” (2002), Alan Taylor cites indigenous populations in the Americas before European contact at an estimated 50 million to 100 million more. In “American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World” (1993) by Oxford University Press, it states that "[t]he destruction of the Indians of the Americas was, far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world."
Death tolls are one way to show that one movement deserves as much attention as another.
One with, at least, minimal worldwide exposure is Native Hawaiian self-determination. The following historically compares the more publicized with the less publicized (This is NOT to imply that one is better than the other, and visa versa.):
Tibet: Habitation may have existed about 21,000 years ago. About 3,000 years B.C., a Neolithic immigration from northern China settled in Tibet. But what still exists “is a partial genetic continuity between the Paleolithic inhabitants and contemporary Tibetans.” 2
Hawai’i: From about 100 B.C. to 300 A.D., the first Polynesians, coming from the Marquesas, settled in the islands. 3,4 Around 1300 A.D., Tahitians may have arrived to settle, and as a result conquered the original inhabitants. 5 Another scenario is that Tahitians and other Polynesians arrived in what became a single, extended period of contact. Either way, Native Hawaiian identity was eventually forged.6
Tibet: “Linguists generally classify the Tibetan language as a Tibeto-Burman language of the Sino-Tibetan language family.”7 A combination of languages have also been spoken in the Himalayas.8
Hawai’i: This language originated as an oral tradition. In the early 1800s, missionaries arrived in Hawai’i, and with Native Hawaiians as the source, constructed a written language. Influenced by the United States, English is predominantly spoken, with other languages less so. From the late 1800s up to recent history, the Hawaiian language was initially illegal. But with the emerging of Hawaiian assertiveness, the language is reviving.9
Tibet: Originally, Bon was the indigenous belief. The importing of Buddhism spread through Tibet, making Bon marginalized and suppressed and continued to be a “serious setback.”10 But Bon still lives on, the 14th Dalai Lama recognizing it as the sixth principal spiritual school of Tibet.11 Conflicts and rivalry between sects existed within Tibet’s feudal period, but now as well.12
Hawai’i: Religious practices originated among the inhabitants as early as 500 A.D.13 The religion is polytheistic. The major gods are Kū, Kāne, Lono and Kanaloa. But the deity that is well-known is the volcano goddess, Pele. Kahuna, similar to shamans, communicated with the gods.14 A Tahitian priest named Pa’ao in Hawai’i, importing what is known as the Kapu (taboo) system about 1200 A.D. This consisted of various daily restrictions on commoners’ lives. Probably the most important and constructive is Mālama ‘Āina, i.e., “caring for the land.”15
Tibet: Tibet is a plateau region north-east of the Himalayas within China.16 Originally, Tibet was a separate entity.
Hawai’i: The islands rest on the Hawaiian Ridge, created by a fissure within the ocean. 17 Up until 1778, Hawai’i was virtually isolated. After 1778, depopulation and haole (foreign) immigration eventually made them a minority, “a stranger in their own land.”
Tibet: Tibet interacted with its neighbors for centuries. The overall population worldwide is estimated to be about 5.6 million. 18 Even with the China child policy, the population isn’t disappearing any time soon. (But there are accusations of cultural genocide.)
Hawai’i: Before 1778, The Native Hawaiian population numbered about 800,000 to one million. After 1778, the population was decimated. By around 1890, a little over 100 years later, the pure native population dropped to 39,000.19 Today, there are only about 5,000 pure natives left. The rapid decimation brings the word, genocide, to mind. The population of pure and/or mixed Hawaiians was estimated at 401, 162.20
Despite whatever historical differences, the bottom line is self-determination for Native Hawaiians and Tibetans. For China-Tibet relations, the assertion is made that Tibet is a part of China, based on historical factors. But this is only partly accurate. Going back to the historical roots, Tibet was separate, and thus has a strong case for self-determination. If it’s agreed upon, a start for negotiations could begin: A neutral UN committee created for this purpose could monitor and mediate, making it only a Tibet-China affair.
Interference is a potential threat. Already, a U.S. neo-conservative think tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, wants to treat Tibet as a strategic issue rather than a moral one in the name of “security,” 21 Given the neo-cons, the strategy may include provoking something…perhaps another imperial war? It’s already been indicated during the Cold War, with the CIA conducting a secret war in Tibet… “a covert war fought with Tibetan blood and U.S. sponsorship.” 22
The U.S. has been entrenched within Hawai’i, with an imperial military presence and a “plastic” tourist industry. Hawaiians should be able to seriously negotiate with the U.S. government for self-determination. Ignoring or brushing aside the idea, especially by Republicans, shows a lack of understanding, or not wanting to understand, Hawaiian history.
For both Hawai’i and Tibet, a major chance for serious negotiations rests ultimately with the noninterference of imperial motives from the world’s only superpower. It can well afford to do that, and contribute constructively.
1) Bodeen, Christopher, “Two Dozen Tibetans Set Themselves on Fire This Month,” (12/29/2012) AP (RSN).
2) Lee, Peter, “Tibet’s Only Hope Lies Within,” (7/05/2011), The Asia Times (Wiki).
3) Kelly, Marion, “Dynamics of Production Intensification in Pre-Contact Hawai’i,” (1986) World Congress of Archaeology.
4) Kirch, Patrick, “Hawaiki,” (2001) Cambridge University Press (Wiki).
5) http://www.deephawaii.com, “A Brief History of Hawai’i 300AD ~ 1900,” Hawaiian History.
6) Kirch, Patrick, “Hawaiki,” (2001) Cambridge University Press (Wiki).
7) Kapstein, Matthew T., “The Tibetans,” (2006) Blackwell Publishing.
9) “Native Hawaiians,” Wikipedia.
10) “Bon,” Wikipedia.
12) Parenti, Michael, “Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth,” (1/2007) Michael Parenti-Political Archive.
13) http://www.deephawaii.com, “A Brief History of Hawai’i 300AD ~ 1900,” Hawaiian History.
14) “Hawaiian Religion,” Wikipedia.
16) “Tibet,” Wikipedia.
17) http://www.deephawaii.com, “A Brief History of Hawai’i 300AD ~ 1900,” Hawaiian History.
18) Fischer, Andrew M. (2008). "Has there been a decrease in the number of Tibetans since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951?" In: Authenticating Tibet: Answers to China's 100 Questions, University of California Press.
19) Kelly, Marion, “Dynamics of Production Intensification in Pre-Contact Hawai’i,” (1986) World Congress of Archaeology.
20) U.S. 2000 Census “Native Hawaiians,” (Wiki)
21) Biron, Carey, “Morality Versus Strategy in US Tibet Policy,” (5/07/2012) Inter Press Service (RSN).
22) Conboy, Kenneth/Morrison, James, “The CIA’s The Secret War in Tibet,” (2002) University Press of Kansas.