Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai'i


By Claudine San Nicolas

PAIA, Maui (The Maui News, Aug. 31) - Native Hawaiians and their supporters turned out for a "Unity Gathering" on Saturday at Baldwin Beach Park.

The groups will converge again today as they work toward promoting a reinstated Hawaiian government and against passage of the Hawaiian federal recognition bill, better known as the Akaka Bill.

"I feel so blessed at this time", said Akahi Wahine, who said she's known as "her highness, the queen of the Kingdom of Hawaii."

The groups have been planning the Labor Day weekend gathering for some time now, and, on its first day, had drawn as many as 200 people by the lunch hour.

Members served free food and displayed a series of documents including island deeds and the genealogy of Akahi Nui, the declared king of the Kingdom of Hawaii and an ancestor of King Kamehameha III.

Native Hawaiians and members of other ethnic groups came out in force to Saturday's event.

"We've seen them come from all walks of life", Wahine said.

Organizers received donations to serve their guests, among other things, chili and rice, salad, water and shave ice. The event also featured Hawaiian entertainment in hula and song, and speakers including Solomon Naluai, who spoke about the disadvantages of the Akaka Bill.

Last week, both Gov. Linda Lingle and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye spoke out in support of the Hawaiian federal recognition bill. Lingle said Friday that she planned to work with Hawaii's congressional delegation to lobby for passage of the legislation, and Inouye urged Hawaiians on Oahu to unite behind the federal measure.

The bill was introduced by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in 2000, after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs' Hawaiians-only voting restriction. The measure is intended to help Native Hawaiians gain political status similar to that of more than 500 American Indian and Alaskan native tribes.

It would protect federal money for Hawaiian programs and help Hawaiians form a governing entity.

Opponents like Wahine contend that the bill threatens to forfeit Native Hawaiians' full claims to land and other entitlements.

"The sad part is you have to know the full contents of the bill, and not everyone does", Wahine said.

She said she believes that the Akaka Bill would signal the Hawaiians' agreement to give up their sovereign rights to land and to sea, a move she said would prohibit the reinstatement of a sovereign Hawaiian government.

"We have to weigh it out, whether giving up our sovereign rights is worth doing just to save these programs", she said. "I will not give up our rights. I will not give up our lands. I believe our nation will rise again."

Kamalani Kaahanui, who holds the role of minister for foreign affairs under Akahi Nui, said she's been in contact with other groups striving for sovereignty. Representatives from the Kingdom of Enenkio in the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Texas exchanged flags with Reinstated Hawaiian Government organizers Saturday.

"I feel positive", Kaahanui said about the unity gathering. "People are coming to support his majesty."

Niau Wahine, the designated governor of Maui under the Kingdom of Hawaii, also had positive feelings about the event. She pointed out that the young people in the audience helped to serve food to the guests in the hospitality tent.

"They're so awesome", she said.

The Rev. Steve Schaefer said that even given the disagreements among Hawaiians, the event seemed to unify people.

It's good for us to bring unity. So many people are here even though they disagree", he said. "This is just a wonderful, blessed event."

The gathering will continue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Baldwin Beach Park. The event is open to the public.

September 3, 2003

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