Nearly 150 testify for and against Native Hawaiian government

A fiery meeting took place at the State Capitol Monday morning as the U.S. Dept. of Interior listened to public comment on establishing a Native Hawaiian government.

Former Sen. Daniel Akaka sat in the front row as 143 people testified Monday for and against the idea.

Colette Machado, chair of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, encountered loud protests and boos when she declared her support for the federal government and encouraged officials to move forward.

“I was thinking back 25 years ago when we were back in this very room, and I was like 12 or 13,” said Naalehu Anthony of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. “That room was packed with Hawaiians, same as today, and we are still having the same conversation — my tutu, my mom, now me. The reason why we are here today is that I don’t want to leave (the conversation) for my son. I’d like to move forward.”

“I’m opposed to your rule changes,” another speaker said. “Hawaiians are not a tribe. They have never been a tribe. Hawaii is a nation and I am totally opposed to any rule change.”

“This is a matter of justice, that’s all,” another person testified. “This is not a matter of race. This isn’t a matter of Hawaiians wanting entitlements. This is a matter of kanaka maoli, wanting justice for our country.”

Monday night's meeting at Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School.
Monday night’s meeting at Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School.

“I think (Monday’s meeting) was productive in that we were able to communicate to the Dept. of Interior that they don’t have any business being in Hawaii, that this issue is an issue that should be handled by the (U.S.) Dept. of State and we’d like to have an answer from the Dept. of State as to the questions that were already posed,” said Kimo Kaleohano, after the meeting adjourned. “It’s my believe that we’re a sovereign nation and until they can prove that we’re not, that’s what I believe.”

“As far as I feel, whenever Hawaiians gather, it’s always productive to hear our people’s voices, to know that it’s about 98 percent that are saying no to this process,” said Leona Kalima. “I think the United States really has to admit if we’re going to be recognized, they have to recognize their fault in all of this. I think that will clear the air right off the bat. I also think the State Department and the Department of Justice should be a part of that panel.”

Monday’s meeting is the first of more than 20 public meetings that will be held across the state as the Obama administration takes a first step toward creating a government-to-government relationship with the Hawaiian community.

Click here for a full schedule.

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