HILO, Hawaii – An open discussion was held on Wednesday evening at the University of Hawaii concerning Na’i Aupuni, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs-funded nation-building effort. A November vote will elect 40 delegates to an ‘aha – or gathering – that will determine a future course of action; one that may or may not align with the federal government’s proposed rulemaking for a government-to-government relationship with Native Hawaiians. Voters who Na’i Aupuni itself is controversial. It has divided the Hawaiian community between those who support the process and those who find it inherently flawed.
Lakea Trask – who is skeptical about the Na’i Aupuni process – provided some background information to those in attendance. Trask then invited members of the audience to speak. The first was Henry Noa, the elected Prime Minister of the organization known as the Lawful Hawaiian Government. He let it be known he is against Na’i Aupuni.
Another speaker, Melissa Moniz, provided the perspective of a Hawaiian living on the continent. She is also one of the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit to stop the Na’i Aupuni election.
Others, like Ku Kahakalau, reflected on how far her people have come in terms of education. She talked about her observations of the Native American experience under tribal federal recognition. Hank Fergerstrom spoke against the process, calling it illegal proxy voting, and reading a May 2003 statement from Na Kupuna Moku o Keawe. UH student La’akea Caravalho encouraged everyone to study the Rice v. Cayetano U.S. Supreme Court decision.
One of the candidates offering himself as a delegate, Ku Ching, also spoke. Ching said he does not agree with the Na’i Aupuni process, but – like a handful of other Hawaii Island candidates who distrust Na’i Aupuni and would rather push for complete Independence from the United States – said he wants to be on the inside on decision making.
EDITOR’S NOTE: While we were welcomed to film the talks, we agreed to uphold the spirit of uncensored discussion at the meeting by not recording those who specifically asked not to be filmed. Only a few asked not to be recorded. One was candidate for delegate Moani Akaka. She has therefore been excluded from the video. However, we will report that she told the audience her position on the ‘aha is in support of complete independence, as opposed to tribal recognition.