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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 18, 2003

Unity emerges as goal at Hawaiian march

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

The turnout was moderate, by protest march standards: about 400 people walking along Queen and Mililani streets, arriving at the 'Iolani Palace gates yesterday for speeches, music and games.

Hundreds marched to 'Iolani Palace yesterday to mark 110 years since the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

But participants in the "Living Nation" march, which marked the 110th anniversary of the day Hawai'i's monarchy was overthrown, say the real story of the week-long observance is not yesterday's march or last night's torchlight procession or the traffic tie-ups that left commuters drumming fingers on steering wheels downtown.

The real story is behind the scenes, at meetings where leaders of the long-splintered sovereignty groups have committed to a common goal: unification.

"Nationhood is coming soon!" said Keoni Agard, a longtime sovereignty activist, as marchers circled the palace. He has been affiliated with various groups, including a delegation formed two years ago to develop a Hawaiian national constitution.

But all that is "beginning to become irrelevant," Agard said. "When it all shakes out, we need to respect each other. Now we need to be smart. It's not a matter of who's better or who's been in the movement longer. ... Unless we unite under one umbrella, we will perish."

Already, a range of supporters stood beneath the umbrella of the "Living Nation" march. A man wore both the kihei — a traditional mantle knotted at one shoulder — and a yarmulke. A group of Native Americans carrying the banner for the International Indian Treaty Council beat a drum, wreathed in sweet-smelling ceremonial sage.

Moral support notwithstanding, the Native American model of sovereignty is not necessarily right for Hawaiians, said Kai'opua Fyfe, who came with a group from Kaua'i.

"If nothing else, we can communicate to our legislators that they need to knock the sides out of the (Sen. Daniel) Akaka bill box and create something that will work for us," Fyfe said. "Take it out of the Department of Interior; it should come out from (Bureau of ) Indian Affairs."

The main purpose of "Living Nation" is not to dwell on technical details, he added.

"We should recognize that we already are a nation — if you define nation as people who share a language and culture. The one thing missing is a governing entity.

"The most important thing is unity," Fyfe added. "There is power in numbers... we have jumped forward into the details without taking care of the basics."

The group paused at the black-draped balustrades fronting the palace, chanting the now-familiar "I Ku Mau Mau" call for unity before proceeding through the gate.

Outside, by the canopy that is the site for a 110-hour vigil, Kuhio Vogeler pointed out historic books set out for public perusal: a compilation of Hawaiian kingdom law, a volume of signatures on the petition opposing Hawaiian annexation to the United States.

For him, the high point of the week was seeing sovereignty groups hold meetings of reconciliation. With permission from the Friends of 'Iolani Palace, Vogeler said, one was held last night in the throne room.

"There's a way to work toward a common goal," he concluded.

Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053.