GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Marlenajon Waihee-Stafford of 'Ahahui Ka'ahumanu Chapter 2 of Waimea held an anthurium intended as an offering during the Lodge of Sorrow ceremony yesterday at Ala Moana Hotel. About 200 members of the four benevolent royal societies gathered for the three-day 2006 'Aha hipu'u Conference, which started yesterday.
Descendants of Hawaiian royalty join to discuss protocols
Fourth- and fifth-generation descendants of Hawaii's monarchs are meeting for the first time to discuss a future governed by Hawaiian leaders.
"We will be finding common ground, educating ourselves about each other, which has never been done before," and discussing their relevance to today's issues, said Bill Souza, chief protocol officer of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I and its Na Wahine Hui O Kamehameha I, one of the four royal societies.
About 200 members of the four benevolent royal societies gathered for the three-day 2006 'Aha hipu'u Conference at Ala Moana Hotel which started yesterday.
The other groups include the 'Ahahui Ka'ahumanu; the Hale O Na Ali'i of Hawaii; and the Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors -- Mamakakaua.
Souza said he hopes the societies can unite and share their separate and secret protocols as "keepers of our culture." The societies had to remain low key because of the political climate following the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, Souza said.
Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a co-sponsor of the event, urged members to ensure a future in which the benefits given to native Hawaiians would not be taken away in federal court or by Congress.
She referred to a federal appeals court case over Kamehameha Schools' admission preference for Hawaiians, and the Akaka Bill, which proposes federal recognition for native Hawaiians but failed to reach a vote in the U.S. Senate this year.
According to Souza, also an event organizer, Apoliona only presented OHA's draft proposal for a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity. She did not represent the societies' official position on sovereignty, which will be among the issues discussed at the convention.
Apoliona said the key factor toward preserving benefits for Hawaiians is the registration of some 150,000 native Hawaiians in the United States, to vote at a convention planned for 2007. The convention delegates would "define and shape" a governing body that would protect Hawaiian benefits and hopefully be recognized by the federal government, she said.
Mililani Kaina, a member of 'Ahahui Ka'ahumanu, said there is a "fear factor" with the word "sovereignty," based on lack of understanding or misinformation.
She said many older Hawaiians "are living comfortably on Social Security" and enjoying the rights of U.S. citizenship. They are wondering if "sovereignty" would mean secession from the United States and giving up these rights. Kaina said there is a need for more, simplified information, and another speaker concurred that a "more comfortable" word should be used.
OHA Administrator Clyde Namu'o acknowledged that people do feel threatened by the word "sovereignty," as well as "Hawaiian nation," so OHA has begun using the term "governing entity."