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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 22, 2002

OHA launches drive to register Hawaiians

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is spearheading a drive to register Native Hawaiians, confident it can succeed where previous attempts during the years have failed.

Native Hawaiians will receive an ID card after registering with OHA.
OHA's Hawaiian Registry is a better-financed and more refined attempt to verify Hawaiian ancestry with a specially issued identification card with photo. OHA's board of trustees in January budgeted $50,000 for the program.

The Hawaiian Genealogy Project and Operation 'Ohana were similar attempts that fell short of their goals, OHA Trustee Linda Dela Cruz said, because both were basically grassroot efforts and "the word never got out."

OHA, however, has timed the start of its Hawaiian Registry drive with tomorrow's Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs' first Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole celebration in Waikiki, to take advantage of a potentially large audience.

"OHA has the money and expertise to make this work," Dela Cruz said of the registry. "There have been attempts to register our people for 50 years. We're a dying race, absorbed by other races. It's time for us to know who we are and where we are so we can move forward together."

Anyone with Hawaiian blood — no matter how much — can sign up for OHA's registry at Kapi'olani Park tomorrow and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no cost.

Applicants will be asked to pose for a photo mugshot and provide data — documents tracing descendancy to a Hawaiian ancestor living in Hawai'i in 1920 — to support information entered on a registration form. The information will be reviewed at a later date and once Hawaiian ancestry is confirmed, the applicant will be issued a picture identification card.

The card will allow the applicant to access Native Hawaiian programs, such as Alu Like and Kamehameha Schools, without providing birth certificates and other paperwork to prove they are Hawaiian.

"It won't work with Hawaiian Home Lands because that involves specific blood quantum," OHA Administrator Clyde Namu'o said. (The Hawaiian Home Lands qualification is 50 percent Hawaiian ancestry).

According to Census 2000, the state's Native Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian population is 239,655.

The number is significant because recent census reports counted Native Hawaiians as "Pacific Islanders," Namu'o noted.

"At 240,000, Native Hawaiians are one of the largest ethnic groups here," Namu'o said. "The real bottom line (of the registry drive) is empowerment for Hawaiians. When Hawaiians realize we have critical mass here, it will be a source of pride."

Registry information will be confidential, according to OHA officials.

"It is not the board's intent to use the list as a political tool," Namu'o said. "The law doesn't allow for it to be anything but confidential."

Registration will be held tomorrow at Hilo's Pana'ewa Homestead Park from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Future dates are planned for other islands.

"Every Hawaiian who is registered is a success," OHA spokesman Ryan Mielke said. "It's not necessary that we get 10,000 people to register on a weekend. The necessity is to get Hawaiian people registered."