Advertiser Special: The State of the Hawaiian
By Yasmin Anwar
Advertiser Staff Writer
In a peaceful show of defiance, more than 2,000 Hawaiian homesteaders and their supporters rallied outside the State Capitol yesterday, united in the face of a legal challenge to state and federally supported Hawaiian entitlements.
Armed with picnic chairs and coolers, dozens of elderly homesteaders who waited decades for leases on Hawaiian homelands and the children and grandchildren who stand to inherit them heard speeches and sang songs.
|Papakolea residents marched from their homes to the State Capitol yesterday.
Richard Ambo The Honolulu Advertiser
They also joined in the Hawaiian battle cry of "kue!"- to resist or oppose.
"It felt good to get it out," said Margaret Purdy, a resident of Nanakulis Princess Kahanu homestead community, who called out "kue!" for the first time in her life.
The state Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, the umbrella group for 23 local associations, organized the rally. At issue is a lawsuit that seeks to dismantle the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and native gathering rights on the grounds that they are unconstitutional because they favor one ethnic group over others.
Former Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Robert Klein, who is representing the state homesteader association in its motion to intervene in the case, cautioned the crowd at yesterdays rally to prepare for a major battle.
"Rice is like a small claims court case compared to this one," Klein said. "Its the greatest challenge to Hawaiian entitlements since the overthrow 108 years ago."
Klein was referring to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the landmark case known as Rice v. Cayetano, which last year invalidated OHAs Hawaiian-only elections for violating equal protection guarantees in the U.S. Constitution.
Association chairman Tony Sang said he was moved by the large turnout in what is traditionally a low-key segment of the Hawaiian community. There are about 7,000 Hawaiians with leases in the states 32 homestead communities, and more than 19,000 on a waiting list.
Gathered from all over the state
Homesteaders at yesterdays rally hailed from all corners of the state and participated in a variety of ways.
One group marched from Papakolea homestead community near Punchbowl. Another group prepared 2,200 sandwiches, and others showed their commitment to building a resistance movement by bringing rocks from their yards. Rally organizers said more than 2,000 people participated in the rally at its peak.
"Our homes are threatened," said Frenchy DeSoto, a Waianae homesteader who helped found OHA and is a former trustee.
At the head of yesterdays rally was a giant photograph of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who introduced the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, which set aside 200,000 acres for Hawaiians with at least 50 percent native blood.
"Prince Kuhio would have been proud of us," said Raynard Soon, chairman of the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, as he credited the crowd for coming together "as one."
State Rep. Michael Kahikina (D-Nanakuli) said that, like Martin Luther King Jr., who was remembered in the holiday yesterday, Kuhio "had a dream to free the Native Hawaiian people."
OHA chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said Hawaiians have made significant strides over the decades and implored the crowd not to give up.
"We are going to win this by working together," she said.
Honolulu resident Patrick Barrett and former Hawaii Republican Party chairman John Carroll each filed lawsuits in federal court last October, which have since been consolidated into one.
Carroll contends OHA is using money for racially discriminatory purposes.
Trying to eliminate OHA Article
Barretts suit seeks to eliminate Article 12 of the Hawaii Constitution, which established OHA, adopted the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and provided the foundation for native gathering rights on private property.
The court actions are based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Rice v. Cayetano case.
A hearing on Barretts request for a preliminary injunction, which could temporarily halt operations at OHA and the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, is set for March 12.
OHA and three other organizations have filed motions to intervene in the case so they can protect their interests.
John Goemans, the lawyer representing Barrett, noted the amount of money Hawaiian organizations are willing to spend on the legal defense effort.
"All the stops are out," he said. "And thats taxpayer money."
Though the state attorney general is set to defend Hawaiian entitlements, the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has loaned $600,000 to the state Council of Hawaiian Homesteader Associations to pay for a legal defense effort.
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