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Thursday, March 9, 2000

Non-Hawaiians back
Hawaiians on rights,

Members of several groups
plan a news conference to
announce their intentions

Hawaiians told to lobby Congress for new status

By Pat Omandam


The urgent call for unity within the Hawaiian community was heard loud and clear after last month's U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring the Office of Hawaiian Affairs election unconstitutional.

Now, some non-Hawaiians have responded to the rallying cry, and vow to support Hawaiians, or kanaka maoli, in their push for self-determination and human rights.

"The Rice vs. Cayetano decision takes another bite out of the dwindling rights of kanaka maoli, and weakens the foundation of justice for all the people of Hawaii," said Kyle Kajihiro, program coordinator at the American Friends Service Committee-Hawaii.

Kajihiro and other non-Hawaiians plan to hold a news conference tomorrow in support of Hawaiian rights and benefits. They also plan to voice their concerns over what could be a pattern of historical injustice against Hawaiians that the Rice decision represents.

Kajihiro said statements by Gov. Ben Cayetano that he was going to name interim OHA trustees within a few weeks of the Feb. 23 ruling "sent a bad signal" on what people think about the rights of Hawaiians to select their own leaders.

Kajihiro said statements by attorney John Goemans, who represented Big Island resident Harold "Freddy" Rice in the case, was an ominous sign that this was the first step in an campaign to eliminate other Hawaiian rights and benefits.

Goemans has said that the Supreme Court ruling says native Hawaiian is a racial characterization and that all government programs, both state and federal, for native Hawaiians are race-based and could be challenged as unconstitutional. He also has said that Hawaiians have not been granted sovereignty and should be held to the U.S. Constitution like any other residents of the state.

"There's a lot of non-Hawaiian people in Hawaii who actually treasure and value the gifts that the Hawaiian people give to us, culturally and otherwise. And we would like to support that because we're all injured by a decision that takes away those rights," he said.

Members of the American Friends, the Japanese American Citizens League-Honolulu Chapter, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, the Hawaii Ecumenical Coalition, the Ahupua'a Action Alliance and other groups are expected to attend the 11 a.m. news conference at the Queen Liliuokalani Statue at the state Capitol.

Specifically, Kajihiro said, these groups and individuals are expected to:

Bullet Affirm their support for kanaka maoli human rights and self-determination.

Bullet Oppose the Rice vs. Cayetano decision as an injustice against Hawaiians and a continuation of historical violations against their sovereignty.

Bullet Encourage everyone in Hawaii to seek a deeper understanding of the history of Hawaii and to engage in dialogue to find common ground in the wake of the Rice decision.

"All of people of Hawaii have inherited the gifts of the Hawaiian culture; it's time for us to return the gift," said Steve Kubota of the Ahupua'a Action Alliance.

Vanessa Chong, ACLU Hawaii executive director, said the ACLU was invited to participate, although she must clear it with the executive board.

Chong said self-governance is important to non-Hawaiian communities in the state, and the ACLU has national and local policies that support and enforce self-governance.

Hawaiians told to lobby
Congress for new status

By Gary T. Kubota


KAANAPALI, Maui -- What began as a discussion of a U.S. Supreme Court decision turned into a call for sovereignty among native Hawaiians.

At a meeting last night to discuss the court ruling, state House member Sol Kaho'ohalahala unveiled a proposal to lobby Congress to pass legislation recognizing native Hawaiians as a "quasi-sovereign" entity -- a relationship similar to Native American tribes.

The Supreme Court on Feb. 23 ruled that the selection of Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees had to be made by all voters and could not be restricted to native Hawaiians.

Kaho'ohalahala, who spoke to 15 people at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, said obtaining sovereignty would allow native Hawaiians to vote among themselves to select their leaders.

Kaho'ohalahala said state House members have unanimously signed a resolution calling for Congress to grant sovereignty status to native Hawaiians.

He said he expects similar support by state senators.

A number of those in attendance seemed to support the idea.

"I think that's the way to go. It's the first step," said Caroline Egli, a native Hawaiian attorney.

Egli and a couple of other native Hawaiians said they feared that unless they obtained sovereignty status, their benefits as native Hawaiians may erode under future legal challenges.

Charlene Kauhane, a native Hawaiian, said she felt Kaho'ohalahala's idea was "refreshing" and put a positive spin on a court decision that has focused on whether state Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees should continue to serve until the November elections.

A number of native Hawaiians in attendance said they didn't think Gov. Ben Cayetano should appoint new trustees because that would constitute a conflict of interest.

Kaho'ohalahala said that once quasi-sovereignty status is recognized by Congress, some assets that may be turned over to native Hawaiians include the 200,000 acres of Hawaiian Homes lands and one-fifth of the revenues from 1.2 million acres of ceded lands.

He said the Native Congress of American Indians, which represents more than 500 sovereign native tribes within the United States, has agreed to support the resolution and he plans to develop a base for congressional lobbying through the group.

Bullet U.S. Public Law 103-150
Bullet OHA Ceded Lands Ruling
Bullet Rice vs. Cayetano
Bullet U.S. Supreme Court strikes down OHA elections
Bullet Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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