As OHA continues to host statewide meetings to provide the community the opportunity to weigh in on how best to approach the convening of a Governance ‘Aha, there a few potholes in the road. Some meetings are more contentious and passionate than others and sometimes confusing. So, it’s just great to hear a voice rise from the chaotic dialogue that is able to navigate the confusion and emerge anger-free with a thoughtful defining of the challenges.
After the Keaukaha meeting on April 8, 2014, which was something of an in-your-face dialogue, Lawrence Sanoria went home, thought about what he heard, and wrote the following letter to Trustee Bobby Lindsey. I was moved by it and am compelled to share it with you, and to attempt to answer some of his questions. First his letter, reprinted with his kind permission:
9 Apr 14
Aloha. My name is Lawrence Sanoria and I attended the “Nation Building” meeting conducted by OHA in Keaukaha last night. It was interesting to see a diverse group of individuals present many points of view. I am glad and appreciate the fact that OHA CEO, Dr. Crabbe and Trustee Hulu Lindsey were in attendance to hear the concerns of the community in Keaukaha. To me that demonstrates that there is a real commitment on the part of OHA to re-establish the trust that has eroded over the years. I confess that I have not really kept up with all that is currently going on partly because of my apathy towards the political system of our state. It is really difficult to get things done when you don’t have the “right” political affiliations in state government and therein lies the problem. My first question then is how does the State government fit in to this whole scheme of things and what role will they play, if anything, in this new governing body for the Hawaiian nation? Maybe I am getting ahead of myself but it seems to me that before we can do anything, we have to be united as a people with a singular purpose. That is the challenge that is immediately ahead of us. I think it is not enough to get a majority consensus given the diversity of opinions. There are those that seek reparations and then there are groups that advocate returning to pre-western contact days and then everything thing else in between. It could be that we need a clearer understanding of the goals that we seek and the mechanism with which these goals will be achieved. If anything, the meeting last night clearly pointed out the need for more information and education. People don’t have enough information to go on in order to make meaningful and educated decisions. I understand deadlines have to be set in order for action to be taken but these deadlines have to be made in which reasonable time has been given to the people to absorb all this information. How do you determine what is reasonable time? It depends on how many people you folks are able to reach through these community meetings. Kamehameha the first took twenty years to unite all of the islands as one kingdom. My hope is that OHA would be much quicker than that.
I don’t believe I heard discussion about how the delegates were going to be elected, what qualifications would be required (desired) and how many would be representing each island. If they were to apportioned based on island populations, I think that would be wrong since the majority would always end up on Oahu. There should be equal representation on all islands is what I think should happen so that no one island can control the outcome of all the proceedings. And why would any individual be excluded from participating in this process if they did not sign up for the roll commission? Isn’t it enough that we have the same blood? I am hearing that a lot of people have reservations about this requirement and if this is just one thing that is dividing our people, then why not remove it? Resources are being wasted on an effort that has had a minimal effect on securing the desired amount of signatures (enrollees). If this process is to truly be an instrument for our people to rise up as a nation, then all must be included. There must be no exclusion.
I am not really clear on the various levels of “recognition” and why they are important. I need to do more research. I do wonder, however, why the State of Hawai‘i does not automatically grant recognition to the indigenous people of this land. It really strikes me as odd and it may be something more complicated than just recognizing our people as a nation. What does the State of Hawai‘i stand to lose if (when) we are recognized as a nation?
I really believe we have to come together as a people first in order for this process to move forward with a singular goal in mind and the road ahead is full of road blocks. I do thank all of you for your commitment to this effort and insuring that there will be opportunities for our people to better their lives. We know that there is a lot of talent and skills out there that have been untapped but they need the direction and the guidance to bring this all to fruition. There is much work to be done and we don’t have a choice but to keep going until it gets done. Mahalo for allowing me to share this with you.
Aloha Ke Akua. Lawrence Sanoria
Mahalo Lawrence! You raise many interesting and important questions, and I cannot presume to answer them fully, but let me say a few words that may help give some insight into these issues.
I agree with you that “before we can do anything, we have to be united as a people with a singular purpose.” I believe we are all trying to climb the same mountain on different paths, and the purpose of the ‘Aha or Constitutional Convention itself is to unite us on one path.
You ask a couple of questions about the State of Hawai‘i. The state actually did recognize Hawaiians as the indigenous people of this land for the first time in 2011 in Act 195—the same law that established the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. What role the state might play in a future Hawaiian nation, and what the state might potentially lose, would be decided by the ‘Aha or Constitutional Convention, but I believe a Hawaiian nation will be good for all the people of Hawai‘i.
Many people, like you, have asked why do they have to sign up for the Native Hawaiian Roll in order to vote. It is a time-honored tradition in Hawai‘i that one must state one’s genealogy in order to be admitted into any ‘aha. There are a number of ways this could be done, but the way that seemed easiest in this day and age was to create a Roll that is certified with a birth certificate. Since the initial vote for delegates will be through an online vote, there has to be a way for us to determine who is eligible to vote. Hawaiian activist Bumpy Kanahele has said several times that the best way for Hawaiians to show how they feel is to sign up for the Roll, and then co-opt the process. I agree!
You also ask how delegates will be chosen and what are the qualifications. How delegates will be chosen—by population, by island, by moku, or by some other way—is still under discussion. I imagine the only qualifications are that they be on the Roll, be resident in the particular district, and be eligible to vote (over age 18). I know that I will vote for the delegates whose point of view about nationhood is closest to my own.
Finally, you mention the need to have a deadline, but at the same time to have a reasonable time to become educated. And you note it took Kamehameha twenty years to unite the islands. It actually has taken OHA longer than Kamehameha, because we have been talking about this for 30 years! Nation building has been our mission from the day we were included in the Hawai‘i Constitution in 1978, and part of our strategic plan since 2010. In the past three years we have held four summits to discuss this more specifically. In my opinion, we have waited long enough, and now is the time to act.
I appreciate your questions and encourage you and others to continue this dialogue by sending me an email at email@example.com.
Me ke aloha pumehana, Peter Apo