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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Ruling brings tears of joy, exultation

 •  Kamehameha Schools wins admissions case
 •  Judge lends hope to Hawaiians

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Some of the loudest cheering following yesterday's ruling upholding the Kamehameha Schools' admissions policy came from people who never made the school enrollment list.

Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa was thrilled with the ruling to uphold Kamehameha's policy and said it was about time.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Among them, two Hawaiian charter public schools, Halau Ku Mana and Halau Lokahi, which sent more than 100 students to witness the demonstrations prior to the federal court hearing before Judge Alan Kay, and the exultation after he issued his decision.

The decision came after a candlelight march to the federal court and an overnight vigil to protest the legal challenge to Kamehameha's policy and other Native Hawaiian programs.

There was the Western approach to celebrating. Kids sporting hair dyed Kamehameha-blue. Raucous shouts of "What do we want? JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!"

But the children also chose an indigenous response as well.

One student, Jordan Haku'ole, led a Hawaiian chant, said Lokahi teacher Hinamoana Wong.

"It's more important for them to be an active part of history rather than reading in a book," Wong said. "They're there to stand up for native rights. I see future leaders of the movement."

Lokahi is based at Palama Settlement, and Wong serves as cultural adviser to the kids. She was thrilled to see them apply traditional skills.

"What we always felt was right, what Hawaiians knew was pono, has been upheld under Western law," said Constance Lau, Kamehameha board of trustees.

Advertiser library photo

Kamehameha stepped forward with its own exuberant response after the ruling, thanking supporters — Hawaiian and otherwise — who signed petitions and wrote letters backing the school.

Constance Lau, who chairs the schools' board of trustees, said the Kamehameha community is "ecstatic" with the ruling and is hopeful for a similar result in today's hearing in the case of Brayden Mohica-Cummings, the non-Hawaiian Kaua'i boy seeking permanent admission to the school.

"What we always felt was right, what Hawaiians knew was pono, has been upheld under Western law," Lau said.

A tearful Nainoa Thompson, known both as a navigator with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and as a Kamehameha trustee, said Hawaiian children have suffered under a "spiritual poverty" that has stripped them of hope.

"He (Kay) ruled for all of them when he ruled for us," Thompson said. "It means there's a restoration of hope. It means our children will have dreams and will reach them."

Leroy Akamine, a 1952 Kamehameha graduate and a past president of the Alumni Association, added thanks to God.

"Aloha ke Akua," he said. "And now forevermore the will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop has been upheld by federal law."

Beyond the school walls, Gov. Linda Lingle said the courts seem to be going "in a positive direction" regarding the legality of the Kamehameha policy.

Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, director of the University of Hawai'i-Manoa Center for Hawaiian Studies, was thrilled. "We won! That's my remark," she said. "And it's about time. But I really wish that these lawsuits never happened, with the angst, the worry, the fears it's caused in the Hawaiian community."

Vicky Holt Takamine, whose 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition organized a Sunday march and an all-night vigil leading up to the court hearings, said it's nice to have the policy upheld under U.S. law.

However, she said, the royal landholdings that form the basis of the Kamehameha trust are part of a cultural legacy that predates U.S. government dictates.

"The indigenous people of Hawai'i, these are our ali'i lands, and we benefit from that," she said.

In that spirit, Wong explained one of the chants that student Haku'ole led.

"It calls out to the Islands to fight onward," she said. "It incorporates words from Kamehameha to his warriors: 'Go forward until you grasp the lei of victory in your hand.' "

Advertiser staff writer Lynda Arakawa contributed to this report. Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053.