Convention comes at a pivotal time for Hawaiians
From throughout the Hawaiian islands, countries and territories across the Pacific, Alaska, the U.S. and beyond, Native leaders and community members will gather for the 9th Annual Native Hawaiian Convention hosted by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. The momentous event, themed Kukulu Aupuni~Kukulu Ea!, Building on Greatness-Sovereignty In Action!, comes at a pivotal time in contemporary Hawaiian history as Hawaiians near the point of federal recognition.
“We’re right at the helm,” Jade Danner, Native Hawaiian, CNHA vice president said. “Sovereignty is, really, having the resources to do the work on a full-time basis, so we don’t need to fight, but can get to the business of health care, homelessness, education and language.”
Danner explained that Native Hawaiians and supporters have been working at the legislative level for approximately 40 years pursuing the issue of Hawaiian self-determination. At this point, she said, CNHA is trying to rally enough support from Republican representatives and educate individuals as to the true meaning of Hawaiian sovereignty. This would mean mustering 60 votes on the Senate floor to overcome a filibuster, and continuing work with Gov. Linda Lingle to garner her support of the movement and verbiage of the Akaka Bill H.R. 2314, or Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act.
Danner explained that arguments against the bill are at the heart of attacking Indian policy.
“They are saying its race based, and that it will mean reduced resources.”
Other oppositional points include gaming and land acquisition. Danner pointed out, however, that the bill contains specific language prohibiting gaming and the acquisition of private lands.
“We want to have a place to survive. When people think about Hawaiians, they think, ‘oh, they’re all assimilated,’ but it’s like, ‘Hello, we’re a people!’”
Currently, the Hawaiian Homelands consist of approximately 20,000 acres distributed across the chain of islands. Land acquisition is not included in the proposed NHRA and would require further congressional action beyond the initial passage of the bill.
Danner said that on a broader level, the convention and CNHA foster the idea that sovereignty is about perpetuating culture in a bifurcating manner. The first aspect would mean the recognition of the right to be self-determining and the second would be having the right to exercise this right.
“It’s about solving our own problems and ensuring that our children are learning our ways. In 1988, there were only 500 [Native Hawaiian] speakers left. Now there are 9,000 to 10,000. Up until the mid-90s, it was a banned language. That’s what this convention is about recognizing.”
Throughout the four-day event, set for Oct. 12 – 14, to be held at the Hawaiian Convention Center in Honolulu on Oahu, the most populated of the islands, lectures, workshops, forums and networking sessions detailing Native Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii, grant writing and applications, housing, education, traditional story and chant, and ways to network with Alaska Native, Native American and other Pacific Islanders including the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam and Palau will be offered.
Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Anthony Babauta will present as will Commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans Lillian Sparks, Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ron Sims and National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jacqueline Johnson.
Danner said Hawaiian Sens. Daniel Kahikina Akaka and Dan Inouye as well as Lingle have promised good news messages either personally or by video.
A series of awards made by Hawaiian business and community organizations will be presented to an educational leader, a nonprofit, a housing agency, a business leader, and community advocates. CNHA policy associate Shannon Toriki, Native Hawaiian, said it is the work of these individuals and their organizations that truly represents sovereignty in action.
“For us, sovereignty is a term that is not ma’a or familiar. That would be something that is very separate. But really, it isn’t a foreign concept, it’s what Native Hawaiian community leaders do everyday,” she said.
Danner said that in collaboration with the Native Hawaiian Education Council, CNHA recently concluded a series of 15 community listening sessions, or puwalu, on Native Hawaiian education, with a specific eye towards reauthorization of the Native Hawaiian Education Act and our community’s priorities in education.
CNHA is also working with the Anahola Hawaiian Homes Association to make their goal of having a commercial kitchen and marketplace a reality.
“We have conducted many symposia and workshops to grow our community’s understanding of complex issues so they are empowered to make informed decisions about issues that affect their lives,” she said.
During the final day of the conference, individuals will have the opportunity to express their opinions about the direction the CNHA should head in the next year.
“What we talk about is very specific kinds of advancement that is action-oriented – how we can do more of what we are doing more effectively and quickly,” Danner said.
“It’s shaping up to be an amazing conference.”
Oct. 8 – 10, the Hawaiian Way Fund will host its Annual Benefit Native American-Native Hawaiian Basketball Tournament. All proceeds from the tournament will directly benefit the well-being of community-based organizations and initiatives founded on Hawaiian culture, knowledge and traditions.
For more information about the convention or CNHA and its numerous programs, visit www.hawaiiancouncil.org.