Succeeding at Seceding?

Movements trying to make the cut

| September 8, 2005

Typically relegated to the political fringe, some secessionist groups in the US have put themselves on the map in recent years.

On a mountainous 45-acre plot in a remote corner of Oahu, 80 native Hawaiians have carved out a community known as the Independent and Sovereign Nation State of Hawai'i. Led by activist Dennis 'Bumpy' Kanahele, the settlement serves as the nerve center for the indigenous movement for Hawaiian independence. The group wants sovereignty on their terms, and they don't see the Akaka Bill -- federal legislation that would grant rights similar to those of Native Americans and Alaskans to native Hawaiians -- as meeting their needs. (A cloture vote on the bill scheduled for September 6 was delayed indefinitely due to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, according to the Hawaiian Reporter.)

Then there's the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), whose website claims that its membership makes it the largest third party in the country. Founder Joe Vogler didn't shilly-shally about where his allegiance lay: 'I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I've got no use for America or her damned institutions.' The group wants Alaskan citizens to get the vote they say they were entitled to in 1958: the choice whether to remain a territory, become a separate and independent nation, accept commonwealth status, or become a state. AIP reached a high point in 1990, when its candidates for governor and lieutenant governor won nearly 40 percent of the votes; ballot box success has since waned.

Remember Ernest Callenbach's poli-sci-fi novel, Ecotopia? The utopian, environmentally friendly nation in America's northwestern states has a nonfictional reincarnation known as Cascadia. A map at the Cascadia Institute shows the bioregion stretching as far north as the Alaskan panhandle and as far south as northern California, cutting a swath from the Pacific to part of Wyoming. One tongue-in-cheek website offers a light look at the possibility of a Cascadian nation and gives links to some that take it a little more seriously. The push for political border reconfiguring in the area dates back to 1941, when the idea was hatched for a Jefferson state comprised of counties in northern California and southern Oregon. There have been other efforts in California, some suggesting splitting the state into several entities and others like this one that yearn for the state to be free.

Since 2003, a retired economics professor, Thomas Naylor, has been barnstorming, rallying support for a Second Vermont Republic. The movement gained a groundswell of support after the election of George W. Bush in 2004, as Glenn Reed reports in the Washington Free Press.

And of course, Texas. The Republic of Texas Interim Government has its headquarters in Overton, RT (Republic of Texas). The Texas National Press reports that a recent fire damaged the republic's capitol building and thwarted plans to house Hurricane Katrina refugees.

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