PROTEST NA‘I AUPUNI ~
- When: Friday, November 13th, 3- 5:30PM
- Where: In front of the State Capitol, Beretania Street
News Release from Protest Nai Aupuni
“Protest Na‘i Aupuni” is the name of a group of Hawaiians who have come together to educate, organize and protest against the “election” that is taking place throughout November, known as Na‘i Aupuni, which is intended to select a group of 40 Hawaiians who will represent all 527,000 Hawaiians in negotiations with the US federal government. The “Protest” group will be holding signs and giving away t-shirts and informational flyers on Friday afternoon in an effort to educate people and show Hawaiian resistance to Na‘i Aupuni.
Shane Pale, Hawaiian activist and artist, who lives on Oahu with his wife and two sons, is one of the organizers of the Protest Na‘i Aupuni movement. When asked why he opposes it, he says, “ I’m against it for a number of reasons. First, it’s a clear violation of our rights to self-determination, both as an indigenous people and as descendants of our kupuna whose country was illegally overthrown by the United States. Also, this process is being forced on the Hawaiian people by the state. Self-determination initiatives need to come from the people, not the government. The fact that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is pushing and rushing this through, and the Department of Interior is pushing it on the federal level, is like the mongoose guarding the chicken coop.”
Pale goes on to explain that Kanaiolowalu, a state initiative to create a Hawaiian roll, came out of Act 195, a state law. “OHA funded Kanaiolowalu with millions of dollars, and they still only managed to sign up 19,000 people for that roll. Another state law, Act 77, allowed them to use names from other Hawaiian lists to validate Na‘i Aupuni, and that’s very disrespectful of Hawaiians, especially our kupuna. A lot of the people on that list have passed away.”
Hawaiian attorney and former Kia‘aina of Ka Lahui Hawaii, Lehua Kinilau-Cano, spoke out in opposition to Na‘i Aupuni at the “Protest” group’s first public gathering several weeks ago. She has been supportive of their efforts since, and her concerns echo those of Pale. She says, “You have to trace this back to Kanaiolowalu and the fact that the state created that roll. And in that process what they did was define what qualifies someone as a Native Hawaiian who can vote. In other words it’s the state telling us who can participate in any process for self-determination, when legally it should be us deciding who is eligible.”
Kinilau-Cano points out that issues, such as the state funding of Kanaiolowalu, can create legal challenges to the validity of Na‘i Aupuni. But for her, it’s not just about the legal issues, she’s equally as concerned about the social and cultural reality of this process, saying, “Fundamentally, at the bottom of all of this there is no education about it in the larger Hawaiian community. When the new rules come out from DOI at the end of December, rules that will impact Hawaiians, the process should focus on going out and explaining it to the people. Na‘i Aupuni has not done any of that outreach, and they are spending millions of dollars. Those of us who are protesting it don’t have any funding, and yet, what we are doing is an example of what broad based community action looks like.”
Protest Na‘i Aupuni is holding community talk-story events on all the major islands, offering information and dialogue about the implications of Na‘i Aupuni.
Pale remarked on the absence of community awareness about Na‘i Aupuni, saying, “The way they are doing this is wrong culturally. My own mom, she’s kupuna, and she didn’t know anything about this. And she got a ballot in the mail and like lots of Hawaiians she was insulted by it and won’t participate. I think a lot of Hawaiians are boycotting Na‘i Aupuni consciously like her, but media coverage has been one-sided. The only visual representation of Hawaiians opposing this thing is on social media, but plenty of Hawaiians are not using computers to resist, they just won’t vote.”
When asked about why some Hawaiians who say they are in favor of Hawaiian independence from the US are also participating in Na‘i Aupuni, both Pale and Kinilau were adamant.
“It’s ludicrous,” says Pale, “to think you can go into the process and make changes when this whole thing is being controlled by political power mongers in the state and federal governments.”
Kinilau agrees, saying, “My concern is that these independence candidates are telling people to vote for them, but that will be translated by the government as community support. They make it seem like we want this by being in it, and that muddies the waters at a time when we need to be clear. We need to boycott Na‘i Aupuni because it shows that people are making a conscious decision not to validate this process and to take a stand against it.”
“There are so many issues related to this,” says Pale, “including what will happen to the national lands of the Hawaiian people, the so-called ceded lands, and then there are international issues as well connected to the Trans-Pacific Partnership the Obama Administration is trying to push through congress. It’s really complex, so the last thing we should be doing is rushing it through without serious consideration. So we’re asking Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians to come out on Friday and stand with us in a peaceful demonstration of resistance to Na‘i Aupuni.”