This story was published as part of Global Indigenous Affairs Desk, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, Rural India Today and High Country News.

On Thursday, the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus asked the United Nations to send investigators to Hawaii to investigate the Red Mountain Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, a series of World War II-era storage tanks that have leaked at least 14,000 gallons of fuel water into the Honolulu groundwater aquifer. The caucus also urged the United Nations to put Hawaii back on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories — a move that would see Hawaii listed as a colony along with Guam, the Falkland Islands, Western Sahara and 14 other territories.

“We should get water for our ceremonies to get clean drinking water,” said Makanalani Malia Gomes, Pacific representative of the caucus. “When we secure the rights of Indigenous peoples, we secure the rights of all Hawaiians, which is a human right.”

The remarks came as Native Hawaiians demanded that the U.S. Navy take action at Red Mountain after a fuel leak was discovered last November, forcing the closure of wells serving the island’s nearly half a million residents. Combined with the ongoing drought, the Hawaii Water Board is asking residents to reduce water usage by 10 percent.

In December 2021, the Hawaii Department of Health ordered the U.S. Navy to empty the facility, but the Navy filed a legal appeal against the order. Last month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced it would close the facility, but so far, no timeline has been provided. Earlier this month, the Navy dropped its lawsuit against the Department of Health.

The Navy could not provide a timeline or comment at the time of publication.

Permanent Forum member Geoffrey Roth, a descendant of Standing Rock Sioux, said UNPFII leaders will assess the youth caucus’s request for a final report to be submitted to the UN body for action. “We worked hard to form the actual recommendations in the report,” he said. “I’d like to see it more and maybe sit down and talk to them as well.”

According to the United Nations, in its inception, nearly one-third of the world’s population lived in colonies. In 1990, the United Nations proclaimed the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. Starting in 2021, the General Assembly declared 2021-2030 the Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. “Put us back on the list so we can be self-determined,” Gomez said.

In January 1893, U.S. troops invaded the Kingdom of Hawaii and deposed Queen Liliokalani. Before the invasion, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had established diplomatic pacts with the United States and had nearly 100 consulates and embassies around the world. In December 1893, US President Grover Cleveland admitted that the Marines had illegally invaded the kingdom, but did not withdraw. In 1959, both Hawaii and Alaska were removed from the United Nations’ list of Non-Self-Governing Territories after they were granted statehood. As UNPFII leaders continue their dialogue with the Youth Caucus to finalize their report to key UN agencies, Gomez has provided a clear vision for their desired outcomes.

“America’s military needs to leave the entire Pacific,” Gomez said. “Hawaii and the entire Pacific Ocean should be demilitarized immediately.”