UH backs Hawaiians' quest for sovereignty
THE University of Hawaii's name bespeaks our roots in this community, and our values as well. As its president, I am among many who believe federal recognition for native Hawaiians is an important step in strengthening Hawaii's multicultural society.
Federal recognition, as outlined in the Akaka Bill, provides a process for Hawaiians to revive and perpetuate their cultural and sovereign heritage. And it allows all of us to focus on the ethics of early Hawaiians -- sharing, collaboration and conservation -- as a model of sustainability for the future of Hawaii, and indeed for our increasingly globalized, "island earth" world.
The early Hawaiians were remarkable people -- risk-takers sailing uncharted oceans, nourishing barren lands, creating a productive system balancing harvests from the land and sea, and extending aloha into relationships of respect and reciprocity among people.
Today, on each of our 10 campuses, we are teaching and practicing what Hawaiians did hundreds of years ago. We can sustain the spirit and creativity of the Hawaiians by supporting federal recognition and participating in the process of forming a Hawaiian governing entity.
The University of Hawaii is the only public university in America's only island state. Our primary mission as chronicled in our Board of Regents' policy is "to provide environments in which faculty and students can discover, examine critically, preserve and transmit the knowledge, wisdom and values that will help ensure the survival of the present and future generations with improvement in the quality of life."
For our island society, that reservoir of knowledge, wisdom and values must include the wisdom of Hawaiians and their indigenous culture. Our strategic vision is tied to the ancient Hawaiians' reverence for the land and their practice of sharing its diverse but finite resources for the benefit of all who live here.
The University of Hawaii already has made a commitment to provide educational leadership and support for the Hawaiian community. We believe it is the right thing to do, to honor and respect Hawaii's first people.
David McClain is president of the University of Hawaii.