New law backs Hawaiian registry
Gov. Linda Lingle has signed legislation requiring the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to keep a registry of Native Hawaiians, a project that OHA launched more than a year ago.
The law is a formality, but members of the OHA board of trustees at the bill-signing ceremony Wednesday said they were pleased to have the state officially endorse the project as an OHA duty.
"The law allows Native Hawaiians to document that they are descendants of aboriginal people who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands in 1778," said Linda Dela Cruz, the Big Island trustee supervising the project for the board. It was in 1778 that Capt. James Cook, the English explorer, arrived in the Islands and opened the way for increased contact with Europeans.
At last week's ceremony, Dela Cruz handed the non-Hawaiian governor an honorary ID card patterned after those issued to people on the registry.
"It says: 'Linda Lingle' ... she's a 'volunteer,' " Dela Cruz said.
About 4,300 people have applied to be listed on the registry, with a little more than 2,000 validated as Hawaiians through birth certificates or adoption records, said registry coordinator Lucille Meyer.
For some Native Hawaiians living on the Mainland, where some states did not categorize them as "Hawaiian" on birth certificates, registration has required going back a few generations to find the proof, Meyer said.