Hearings wrap up
on education act
Lauding the threatened federalWitnesses respond to Trask remarks
Native Hawaiian Education
Act, schools and community
groups 'know that it works'
By Crystal Kua
It was difficult for Kamuela Kala'i to begin.
"I get like this," Kala'i told the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, trying to hold back her tears and emotions.
"Take your time," U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said.
Kala'i said she never thought of herself as someone gifted and talented. "It's not something we are told we are when we are growing up," she said.
It wasn't until she began working for Na Pua Noeau, the Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children, that she was told, "All our children are gifted and talented."
Kala'i said she's seen the "light bulbs" go on with students in the program. "I know that it works."
Na Pua Noeau came about as a result of the Native Hawaiian Education Act.
Inouye and Sen. Daniel Akaka are members of the Senate committee, which this week has been holding hearings on the islands on reauthorizing the act. U.S. Reps. Patsy Mink and Neil Abercrombie also took part in yesterday's hearing at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
The act is due to expire next year if not reauthorized. It was approved in 1988 and amended in 1994.
This year, $23 million has been appropriated to carry out the act's goal of improving native Hawaiian education.
To the dismay of Hawaii's congressional delegation, the Republican-led U.S. House killed the act, and Inouye said it will be tough to ensure reauthorization.
Representatives of the Kamehameha Schools, the University of Hawaii Center for Hawaiian Studies, Alu Like, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and several community groups said the act has helped Hawaiians from the cradle to the grave.
Louise Lucas recalled when her daughter 'Auli'i, then 5, asked her mother to donate money to save a rain forest.
Lucas was curious why her daughter would make such a request.
"Mommy, someday I would like to say that I saved a tree," her daughter said.
When Lucas' daughter became a sixth-grader, she took part in an environmental program at Na Pua Noeau.
Now her daughter is president of her school's environmental club and is looking for colleges that can further her interest.
The act has funded curriculum development, teacher training and teacher recruitment, which has fostered Hawaiian studies and language programs across the state.
"Because of the partnerships supported by the Native Hawaiian Education Act, students who were at serious risk for dropping out of school are engaged in the discovery of their history and culture and are going on to higher education at a rate significantly above that of their classmates," said Eric Enos, interim executive director of the Cultural Learning Center at Kaala in Waianae.
Inouye takesBy Crystal Kua
by Trask in stride
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye says he has developed a thick skin during his 40-plus years in politics.
So personal attacks on him -- like the "one-armed bandit" remark made by Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Mililani Trask -- come with the territory.
"I'm accustomed to it," he said yesterday.
Inouye said he was saddened by Trask's comment but fears any repercussions from the controversy may come at the expense of those he is trying to help. "I think it might hurt the native Hawaiian cause," he said. In his first public discussion of the controversy, Inouye didn't ask for a public apology from Trask, who has refused to apologize.
"I don't expect an apology," said Inouye, a World War II veteran who lost his arm in battle.
Inouye answered questions at the conclusion of three days of hearings by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on reauthorization of the Native Hawaiian Education Act.
It was the scheduling of the hearings that first sparked Trask's ire and led to her making the "one-armed bandit" remark at an Oct. 13 OHA meeting.
At the meeting Trask also said she wanted to work with "the Hawaiian senator" -- referring to Sen. Daniel Akaka -- and not the "Japanese senator."
Trask said she was frustrated with Inouye for scheduling the committee hearings in Hawaii just days before the U.S. Justice and Interior departments are set to hold reconciliation talks arising from a 1993 resolution apologizing for the involvement of U.S. citizens in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.
The education hearings began Tuesday and made their way to Molokai, Kauai, Big Island and Maui before wrapping up on Oahu at the East-West Center on the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus.
Throughout the hearings, some of the witnesses wanted Inouye to know that not all Hawaiians feel the way Trask does.
"I'd like to apologize for that in general," Evelyn Lane told Inouye. Support also came from the director of the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies.
Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa told Inouye that Hawaiians acknowledge the work he has done for them. "We do appreciate," she said.
When asked how those kinds of comments made him feel, Inouye replied, "It makes me feel good."
He also said it shows him that the types of programs he has been advocating have been bearing fruit.
Inouye said he respects the election process that put Trask in office and doesn't feel it's his place to call for Trask to step down.
Other than to correct misinformation about his support of the apology resolution, he said he hasn't sought to comment about the controversy, hoping instead it would die down.
He also discounted claims by Trask that he was part of a smear campaign against her by saying that he didn't know of her remarks until they were brought to his attention by the news media.