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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 16, 2003

Marchers welcome news of ceded-land payment

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

About 1,000 people — busloads of schoolchildren, elders in wheelchairs and groups carrying flags and placards — braved yesterday's gusty winds and a downpour for a march around the Capitol demanding control of ceded lands from the state and recognition of Hawaiian nationhood from the federal government.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees led a march around 'Iolani Palace and the State Capitol yesterday as part of the Hawaiian overthrow anniversary events.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

By the end of the day, Native Hawaiians had received some good news. Legislative leaders agreed to pay $10.3 million in ceded lands revenue to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The rally, sponsored by OHA, was part of Na 'Oiwi 'Olino, OHA's program aimed at educating Hawaiians and the general public about the nationhood campaign.

It was also one of the events in the weeklong "Living Nation" observance that culminates at 8 a.m. tomorrow in another march marking the 110th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

The march will begin at Fort Street Mall and Queen Street and end at 'Iolani Palace.

The palace was the starting point for yesterday's rally, where the assembly donned T-shirts and arm bands. More than 800 shirts were distributed, organizers said, and people kept asking for more.

Some of them took the opportunity to enroll in OHA's Hawaiian Registry at a booth next to the bandstand, or fill out surveys on their views on sovereignty that were handed out.

Then the speeches began. Victoria Holt Takamine, president of the 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition of Hawaiian cultural and political groups, contrasted the Living Nation observance with the centennial of Korean immigration also being celebrated this week.

"We forget that we're celebrating 1,500 years of our people coming to this land," Takamine said. "Our people migrated here in A.D. 500, and the second wave came in 1000. Nobody has that history but us."

Myron Thompson, son of the late Myron "Pinky" Thompson, former Kamehameha Schools trustee, said Hawaiians today are enduring an assault comparable to the overthrow.

"The weapon is different, but the reasons are the same," Thompson said. "The primary weapon now is the courts, but the reasons are greed, power and control by a small group of people for their own personal gain."

Sabra Kauka, right, of Lihu'e, ties a headband onto Lilette Subedi at the OHA rally, which was aimed at educating people about the nationhood campaign.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Frenchy DeSoto, one of the original OHA trustees, expressed mixed emotions about the rally: pleasure in the company and frustration that such occasions still need to happen.

"Tears come to my eyes as we continually do this," DeSoto said. "We come together in a rally. We make half commitments to lokahi (work together).

"We're in a crisis," she added. "So many years, and still we are on our knees, begging for some kind of recognition, begging for what's rightfully ours, and always we turn the other cheek."

She told everyone to expand their involvement beyond the T-shirt and armband level if anything is to be accomplished.

"After 110 years, we're still marching," DeSoto said. "Is that what we want for our children's children?"

The group practiced a mele newly composed for the occasion, but the traditional protest favorite, "I Ku Mau Mau" ("Stand Together"), became the chant of choice on the march.

The crowd circled the rotunda and chanted some more around the central mosaic before the heavens opened up and the rain threatened to scatter the crowd.

Most of them stayed.

"We stand in the rain, we stand in the sun, we will stand for 100 years," said Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, director of the University of Hawai'i Center for Hawaiian Studies. "We want our land, we want our country, we want our government."

Inside the Capitol, House Speaker Calvin Say announced at the opening session of the 2003 Legislature that the deferred payment to OHA, which in November was estimated at $10.3 million, could be made without new legislation.

Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday that the debt can be paid immediately because the revenue produced by harbors and other ceded lands already is "accounted for in various special funds."

"It's not new money that needs to be generated or found," Lingle said. "The money is there; it's just waiting to be paid."

Say credited OHA chairwoman Haunani Apoliona; Ezra Kanoho, chairman of the House Hawaiian Affairs committee; and committee vice chairman Sol Kaho'ohalala with working out a solution.

"Through your efforts our obligations to the Hawaiian people will be fulfilled," Say added.

Ceded lands belonged to the Hawaiian crown before the overthrow of the monarchy and were taken over eventually by the state until new laws created OHA and set aside 20 percent of revenues for OHA.

In September 2001, however, the state Supreme Court invalidated the legal formula for computing certain ceded-lands payments — from the airport special fund — and the state stopped all payments.