By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau
KAHULUI, Maui More than 100 Native Hawaiians demonstrated peacefully at Kahului Airport yesterday in an event designed to educate tourists and residents about recent legal challenges to Native Hawaiian rights, lands and entitlements.
"We want to let them know whats really happening behind the hula dances and the luau lights, explained Thelma Kahaialii of Lahaina, a member of Na Kupuna o Maui (The Elders of Maui), which organized the demonstration.
|Demonstrators wave to cars at Kahului Airport during the first of three days of Native Hawaiian protests.
Timothy Hurley The Honolulu Advertiser
Kahaialii and Na Kupuna members said they were responding to U.S. District Court lawsuits filed last year by Patrick Barrett and John Carroll seeking to halt government programs and services guaranteed to Native Hawaiians under the state constitution.
Na Kupuna spokesperson Kapali Keahi said the lawsuits have enraged the Native Hawaiian community and brought together a diverse group of individuals for the demonstration.
"What were dealing with is racism," Keahi said. "Theyre using the system to attack our rights.
Demonstrators gathered at 5 a.m. for chants and prayers, then distributed literature to travelers and held signs as motorists honked their horns and flashed shaka signs. Among the morning sign-holders was Maui recording artist Kealii Reichel.
Although state officials beefed up security and advised travelers to arrive early for flights, no disruptions were reported. The demonstration is scheduled to continue today until 8 p.m. and tomorrow from noon to 5 p.m.
Tourists were curious about the demonstrators, but many said they didnt understand what the fuss was all about.
After hearing a brief description of the lawsuits, Rick Kegley of Bradenton, Fla., responded that hes not a believer in policies intended to right past wrongs, while Jim Kraning of Pocatello, Idaho, said Hawaiis indigenous people should be given opportunities, not handouts.
"I think theyre fighting a losing battle, said Warren Finch of Tacoma, Wash. "If they dont want us back here, well just go back to Palm Springs.
Several demonstrators complained about restrictions placed on the event by airport officials. Most were restricted to an area outside the main airport buildings. While some were allowed to hand out fliers inside, they were confined to areas with little foot traffic.
"Some kind of protest this is, complained Wailani Farm, a Waiehu Kou homesteader. If I were planning this, wed be on the runway.
But the elders insisted on a peaceful protest and thats what will take place, she said.
On the road leading to the airport, Francine Cabacungan of Wailuku was waving a sign next to her cousin, Julie Rodrigues. Together, they lamented the situation Native Hawaiians have found themselves in and said it was about time for such a demonstration.
"Hawaiians are too nice too nice for their own good. Its our culture, said Cabacungan, who received permission to take off early yesterday from her job at the Maui Prince Hotel.
"Hawaiians are good at grinning and bearing it, Rodrigues added. "We do the best we can with what we got.
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