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Wednesday, July 19, 2000

D.C. ‘Aloha March’
organizer raps pending
Hawaiian bill

By Pat Omandam


The organizer of next month's "Aloha March 2000" in Washington, D.C., says he will use the opportunity to speak against a congressional bill that could lead toward federal recognition of native Hawaiians.

Kauai resident John "Butch" Kekahu, 56, yesterday said the time is right to bring national focus to the plight of Hawaiians. In doing so, he also plans to raise questions about a federal bill that would set up a nation-within-a-nation relationship between Hawaiians and the United States.

The bill, being pushed by Hawaii's congressional delegation and some members of the Hawaiian community, is expected to be introduced to Congress within a week. Joint congressional committee hearings have been set for Aug. 28-Sept. 1 in Hawaii.

Kekahu said he will use the Aug. 11-12 march from the U.S. Capitol to the White House - which organizers hope to draw 20,000 participants - to speak against the measure because all Hawaiians were not involved in the process and because he favors an independent Hawaiian nation.

While his actions may upset Hawaiians who are working hard on the bill, Kekahu said his opposition was something that he could not hide. He said the United States has not done anything for Hawaiians over the last 100 years so there is no reason to believe the country will in the next century.

Hawaiians, he stressed, are capable of handling their own nation.

"I'd be lying to myself if I said it's OK, and let's see what kind of deals are coming," said Kekahu, who added the formation of a restored Hawaiian nation is close at hand.

"We don't want any deals. If the Hawaiian people are not talked to or are not (involved) in (self-) determination, nobody else can talk for us. That wouldn't be right," he said.

Kekahu plans to push the nationhood question with the Hawaiian community later this summer. He described the march as doing "his little part" within a much bigger sovereignty puzzle.

Aloha March 2000 spokesman Riley Cardwell said interest is growing as the event draws closer and organizers are getting commitments from across the country. Those interested can call (808) 822-7643 or visit the event's Web site at:

"For some reason, people don't commit until the last minute on these things," Cardwell said.

The first day of the event includes a traditional Hawaiian opening ceremony, a lei draping at the King Kamehameha I Statue in Statuary Hall and a seminar at Hirshhorn Museum Auditorium. Speakers include Kekahu, the Rev. Charles K. Maxwell, U.S. Department of Interior assistant secretary John Berry and Office of Tribal Justice Director Mark Van Norman.

The two-mile march begins at 10 a.m. Aug. 12 along Pennsylvania Avenue. A stage set up at the end of the walk will feature speakers, dancers and musicians.

This is the second time Kekahu has organized Hawaiians in Washington, D.C. About 150 people participated in an Aloha March in August 1998. Earlier this month, Kekahu tossed ti leaf leis off the Boston Tea Party ship in Boston Harbor as a symbolic kickoff to this event.

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