Monday, March 20, 2000

The Hawaiian Roundtable


The Participants
By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin

Holo I Mua
Christine Donnelly, project coordinator/reporter
Lucy Young-Oda, project editor


FOR decades, Hawaiian leaders have been labeled as splintered, too diverse to reach consensus about how to best serve native Hawaiians. But the Rice vs. Cayetano ruling has raised the stakes, renewing calls for unity.

On March 13, the Star-Bulletin invited seven longtime activists (some of whom have clashed in the past), a just-retired state Supreme Court judge, a Hawaiian homesteader expert in Alaska native rights, and a U.S. congressional aide to talk to each other about the future of sovereignty.

All Hawaiian, all committed to expanding the rights of their people and all together for the first time, we hope their conversation illuminates the movement and some of its leaders.

Although small and not inclusive of all pro-sovereignty views, we believe it was a representative group:

Bullet Kekuni Blaisdell, medical professor and Ka Pakaukau coordinator

Bullet Robin Danner, a homesteader and author of the strategy Project Hawaiian Justice

Bullet Keali'i'olu'olu Gora, Ka Lahui Hawaii lieutenant governor

Bullet Clayton Hee, Office of Hawaiian Affairs chairman

Bullet Davelyn Noelani Kalipi, legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii

Bullet Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, University of Hawaii Center for Hawaiian Studies director

Bullet Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele, Nation of Hawaii founder

Bullet Robert Klein, former Hawaii Supreme Court associate justice

Bullet Charles Rose, Native Hawaiian Convention chairman

Bullet Mililani Trask, activist and Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee

The participants:

A look at those at the table


Bullet Kekuni Blaisdell: Blaisdell is a professor at the University of Hawaii medical school and a longtime activist who wants complete independence for Hawaiians apart from the United States.

Blaisdell, 75, is spokesman for a coalition of independence groups called Ka Pakaukau, which is seeking such recognition from the United Nations.

Born in Honolulu, Blaisdell graduated from Kamehameha Schools, received his bachelor's degree from the University of Redlands, and his medical degree from the University of Chicago. An internist, he teaches at several Oahu hospitals and in 1989, was the Hawaii Medical Association Physician of the Year.

He has worked on numerous projects in Hawaii and elsewhere devoted to expanding the rights of the "kanaka maoli" and improving their daily lives.

Bullet Robin Danner: Danner is a Hawaiian homesteader and the author of Project Hawaiian Justice, a strategic plan to educate people about Hawaiian self-governance and to get a bill supporting it through the U.S. Congress.

Danner, 37, was born on Kauai but raised on the Navajo, Hopi and Apache reservations of Arizona and on the Arctic Slope of Alaska among the Inupiat Eskimos. She worked for the Inupiats for 16 years, first as their banker then running their Tribal Housing Authority. She returned to Anahola last year when she got her parcel.

Living among people who had achieved self-determination despite obstacles similar to those facing Hawaiians inspired her to write the strategic plan which coordinates elements needed to make Hawaiian self-determination a reality - including education, voter drives and political lobbying - and could apply to any model of sovereignty because they all require U.S. government approval.

Bullet Keali'i'olu'olu Gora: Gora is lieutenant governor of Ka Lahui Hawai'i, a native initiative for Hawaiian self-governance formed without the input of the state or federal governments.

Ka Lahui Hawai'i, which was created in 1987 from the consolidation of several Hawaiian rights groups and counts 23,152 adult members, is committed to regaining native lands and re-establishing Hawaiians as a self-governing people, Gora said.

He has represented Ka Lahui Hawai'i before international conferences on native rights and as a lobbyist in the U.S. Congress and federal agencies.

Born in Honolulu, Gora, 35, graduated from St. Louis High School and Chaminade University. He teaches Hawaiian studies in the public school system and lectures on Hawaiian sovereignty at the University of Hawaii.

Bullet Clayton Hee: As chairman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hee won kudos for persuading Gov. Ben Cayetano not to immediately remove the elected OHA trustees when the U.S. Supreme Court last month invalidated Hawaiians-only elections.

Hee, 47, was born in Honolulu. He graduated from Kamehameha Schools, then went to the University of Hawaii-Manoa, where he received a bachelor's degree in Hawaiian studies, a master's in Pacific Islands studies and a teaching credential.

He taught school for six years, including Hawaiian language and history, before entering politics. A Democrat, he was elected as a state representative, then a state senator, for a total of six years in the 1980s.

Elected as OHA trustee in 1990, Hee served as OHA chairman from 1991 to 1997, and again since this January. He believes the nation-within-a-nation model of self-determination is the most achievable and that success depends on having the support of other state residents, the majority of whom are not native Hawaiian.

Bullet Davelyn Noelani Kalipi: As legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, lawyer Kalipi has been pressing the Hawaii Democrat's reconciliation efforts between the federal government and Hawaiians.

The 29-year-old Kalipi was born and reared in Hilo and graduated from Hilo High School. She received a bachelor's degree in government and politics/economics from George Mason University in 1992, and a law degree from George Washington University in 1995.

Before joining Akaka's office, Kalipi served in the U.S. Army for 3 years at Fort Stewart, Ga., where she was a military criminal defense lawyer.

Bullet Lilikala K. Kame'eleihiwa: Director of the University of Hawaii-Manoa's Center for Hawaiian Studies since 1998, Kame'eleihiwa long has promoted Hawaiian self-determination and has a particular interest in the land rights of Hawaiians.

In one of her current classes, students are using tax maps to inventory more than 1.5 million acres of land taken by the government after Hawaii's annexation. The "ceded lands," and revenues they generate are at the heart of an ongoing legal dispute between the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the state of Hawaii over money owed native Hawaiians.

Kame'eleihiwa, 47, has a bachelor's degree in Hawaiian language, a degree in Pacific Island studies and a doctorate in Pacific and Hawaiian history, all from the University of Hawaii-Manoa. She has taught Hawaiian studies there since 1986, and authored the 1992 book, "Native Land and Foreign Desires: Pehea La E Pono Ai?"

Bullet Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele: Kanahele, founder of the self-proclaimed independent Nation of Hawaii, entered the public eye when he and other activists occupied Makapuu and Kaupo beaches in 1993, claiming those were sovereign Hawaiian lands.

Kanahele was arrested and served a four-month prison sentence. Nation of Hawaii activists stayed on the beaches, and after more than a year of confrontations with the state, a compromise was reached: Kanahele's group moved to a 42-acre agricultural parcel in Waimanalo. Puuhonua O Waimanalo is home to about 20 families; negotiations for a state lease are ongoing.

Kanahele, 45, is working on several community-based efforts, including helping organize a bank owned and operated by native Hawaiians. He is also an elected delegate to the Native Hawaiian Convention and supports the independence model of sovereignty.

Bullet Robert G. Klein: Klein, an associate justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court from 1992 to 2000, is now a partner in the Honolulu law firm of McCorriston Miho Miller Mukai.

The firm is advising the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Rice vs. Cayetano ruling, which invalidated OHA's Hawaiians-only voting restrictions.

While on the high court, Klein authored the landmark decision expanding the rights of Hawaiians to enter some private property for traditional gathering, religious and cultural practices.

Klein, 52, was born in Honolulu and graduated from Punahou School, Stanford University (bachelor's degree) and the University of Oregon (law degree).

He was appointed as a First District Court judge in 1978, rose to the Circuit Court in 1984 and became Supreme Court associate justice in 1992. He retired two years before his 10-year term was to expire.

Bullet Charles Rose: As chairman of Aha Hawai'i 'Oiwi (Native Hawaiian Convention), Rose and other elected delegates are trying to bring Hawaiians to a consensus on what form of sovereignty to seek.

The convention, which grew out of Ha Hawaii and is criticized by some other activists for being too closely affiliated with the state government, is "not a sovereignty group with a particular agenda," Rose says. "We are a people's process. We want to have the people choose."

Rose, 66, was born in Hilo, graduated from Honokaa High School and the University of Hawaii-Hilo, and long served as a police captain on the Big Island. Now retired from that job and living in Honolulu, he works as a staff investigator for the federal public defender's office.

Involved with community service for 29 years, Rose is first vice president of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, which has 49 clubs throughout Hawaii and in five other states.

Bullet Mililani Trask: Hawaiian nationalist Trask, long an outspoken critic of government treatment of Hawaiians, surprised many in 1998 when she ran for trustee of the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Elected with a record number of votes, Trask has not toned down her style, making news most recently by calling for civil disobedience in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating Hawaiians-only OHA trustee elections.

Trask, who lives on the Big Island, has said she ran for the OHA board to make it more inclusive of all Hawaiians, especially those not tied to the state's ruling Democratic Party. She recently resigned her membership in Ka Lahui Hawai'i, the political action group she headed as elected kia'aina (governor) for eight years until 1998.

The 48-year-old Trask graduated from Kamehameha Schools and earned a bachelor's degree from San Jose State University and a law degree from the University of Santa Clara in California.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin