Opinion: Native Hawaiian group does not represent the people

Native Hawaiians are struggling to protect their sacred sites. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is raising concerns about the destruction of an ahu, or shrine, in Mauna Kea. Photo by Lakea Trask / Facebook

Noelani Arista and Randall Akee, both Native Hawaiian, question the work of Naʻi Aupuni, a non-profit that was set up to create a constitution for a Native Hawaiian government:
The goal of Naʻi Aupuni is to elect 40 candidates to write a “Hawaiian” constitution in 40 days. Of the five commissioners on the Kanaʻiolowalu roll commission, three, Naʻalehu Anthony, Mahealani Wendt and Lei Kihoi, along with the roll commission’s executive director, Clyde Namuʻo, have chosen to run as candidates for the Naʻi Aupuni convention.

But there’s more to the dialog than having people who certified and created the roll run for election themselves. Unfortunately, the Native Hawaiian roll does not reflect the will of the people, and because the State of Hawaiʻi has backed the institutions and provided the funding that manufactured this roll – the voice of unregistered Native Hawaiians, the majority, remains unheard and uncounted. We must examine how this roll was created, and question the culturally insensitive inclusion of deceased Native Hawaiians on the roll as well.

In 2012, the Hawai'i State Legislature formally approved a process to create a roll of “qualified” Native Hawaiians by forming Kanaʻiolowalu, the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. Only Native Hawaiians certified by the roll commission would form the electorate to participate in the creation of a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity. Under Act 195, Hawaiʻi State Governor Neil Abercrombie appointed 5 commissioners who were charged with overseeing the creation of this Native Hawaiian roll. Their self-proclaimed objective was to wage “…a campaign to reunify Native Hawaiians in the self-recognition of our unrelinquished sovereignty…”

Enrollees would be qualified on the basis of three criteria: They must be 18 years of age or older; they must satisfy ancestry requirements; and they must consent to participating in the organization of the Native Hawaiian governing entity.

Funded with approximately $2.6 million, the commission began the process of building the Native Hawaiian roll on July 20, 2012 and ultimately collected somewhere between 9,300 and 40,000 names (depending upon the news source), which is between 2 and 8 percent of the roughly 500,000 Native Hawaiians currently living in Hawaiʻi and abroad. The outcome fell far short of Kanaʻiolowalu’s objective to enroll 200,000 Hawaiians.

Get the Story:
Noelani Arista & Randall Akee: Manufacturing Consent for the Living AND the Dead in Hawai'i (Indian Country Today 11/20)

Federal Register Notice:
Procedures for Reestablishing a Formal Government-to-Government Relationship With the Native Hawaiian Community (October 1, 2015)

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