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Big Island activists call to restore Hawaiian Kingdom

West Hawaii Today
December 9, 1999

By Gretel C. Kovach

Native Hawaiians want the Hawaiian Kingdom restored - that was the message to federal representatives Wednesday at a Kailua-Kona reconciliation talk.

More than 80 people attended and more than 30 testified at the hearing, one of an islandwide series sponsored by the U.S.Department of the Interior and Department of Justice addressing the federal 1993 Apology Bill, which acknowledged the unlawful overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893.

Many models of sovereignty in Hawaii were offered, but Native Hawaiians and their supporters focused on the initial step of restoring power to the Hawaiian Kingdom.

"Independence, that's all we ask," said Lunakanawai Hauanio, who is suing the state for native tenant rights established by the monarchy.

Most members of the audience stood up during a speech by cloaked members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, The Kingdom of Hawaii continues to exist."

Assistant Interior Secretary John Berry and Mark Van Norman, director of the Office of Tribal Justice, said they are gathering testimony as part of the reconciliation process.

"We're gathering the manao, the thoughts and feelings," Berry said. "We come with no solution, no easy answer, no program to sell you. This is just the beginning."

Based on the history of U.S. government relations with Native Hawaiians, Berry said, "Its is too early to ask anyone to trust us. Judge us by what we do when we leave here."

Their goal after completing hearings this weekend on Oahu is to establish a mechanism for reconciliation that will out-live the Clinton administration, Berry said.

Many, including Charles Young, thanked the delegates for coming to Hawaii. Young said, "Finally, we begin to make progress, to start a dialogue for righting a wrong."

Others were more hostile. "Your presence is unlawful, unconstitutional and immoral," Kaliko Chun said. "I object to the lip-service of these hearings where you give us three minutes to voice the pain of over 100 years."

Henry Kekai, after identifying himself as a Hawaiian activist, said, " I am a Hawaiian, period. I am not an American.

"Federales, you people are too late. We waited 106 years. Get out of Hawaii because we want our government back," he said.

Many Native Hawaiian speakers differentiated themselves from Native American Indians, and said the State Department, and not Office of Tribal Justice, would have been the appropriate authority to send to Hawaii.

"We are not Indians," Kona resident Lindsey Lindsey said. "We have our our own government and our own courts." What Native Hawaiians don't have is U.S. assistance to force the American judicial system to enforce its own laws respecting sovereign nations, he added.

County Councilman Curtis Tyler, who represents Kona, said, "go to the root of the problem, go to your own law."

Calling for unity among Native Hawaiians, Alena Kaiokekoa said, "These things we see going on now, that's not Hawaii. It builds arguments. It makes Hawaiians go against Hawaiians. The skin is brown like the coconut, but the heart is not Hawaii, the heart is haole."

The event ran a half hour over the scheduled time, and many speakers ignored the three-minute limitation and continued speaking, or spoke again without permission.

Josephine Tanimoto, president of Kawaihae Hawaiian Homes Community Association, was one of several speakers who objected to scheduling the hearings during working hours, and said she risked her job by attending.

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