Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, August 9, 2004

Hawaiian program gathering speed

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Leaders promoting a homegrown enrollment of Native Hawaiians in a self-governance movement have stepped up the campaign's pace to create a sizable, independent registry — before federal authorities can have any influence on the process.

Kau Inoa offers Registry

To register under the Kau Inoa enrollment, those of Native Hawaiian ancestry can:

• Contact Hawai'i Maoli at 394-0050 for a form and more information.

• Download the form, and read more information, through links on the Web sites of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

And part of that accelerated campaign is the message that a government must be organized, no matter what, and that enrollment is not linked to the Akaka bill seeking federal recognition of Native Hawaiians.

Kau Inoa (Place Your Name) began in January with the distribution of forms that must be completed and returned with documentation of Native Hawaiian ancestry.

Sign-up efforts continued beyond the Jan. 17 launch, which was timed to coincide with anniversary ceremonies marking the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. However, in its first six months, the campaign had garnered only an estimated 5,000 names, said Tomi Chong, executive director of Hawai'i Maoli, the nonprofit organization in charge of the forms and the enrollment data base.

A July mass mailing has doubled that number, however, and new forms are coming in daily, Chong said.

The mailing went out in mid-July to about 90,000 people at a cost of about $30,000, said Clyde Namu'o, administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. OHA is financing the enrollment, but is keeping its distance from its management.

Under its nonprofit charter, Hawai'i Maoli is barred from political efforts, but its parent organization, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, is actively lobbying for the enrollment.

The mailing included an enrollment form, a brochure and a letter signed by association president Charles Rose, who urged Hawaiians to enroll, whatever their view of the Akaka bill.

That bill, also known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, was amended earlier this year to require a nine-member commission — composed of Native Hawaiians but appointed by the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior — to prepare a membership roll for the Native Hawaiian government.

That change drew fire from critics, who said that the process of forming a government should not be led by federal appointees.

The Kau Inoa team hopes its registry can be the one that attains critical mass — and credibility.

"The passing of the Akaka bill does not form the Hawaiian government; it's still the function of the Native Hawaiian people to do that," Rose said. "It's imperative that they register, because we need the numbers to demonstrate to everyone that this is a serious and credible effort.

"This is not registering for federal recognition," he said. "What that is, is that you're recognized to form a government, and once that government is formed, those leaders will decide what they want."

Rose said he'd like to see a starting enrollment of 60,000 Hawaiians to establish the effort's credibility.

Namu'o said that some who favor the bill believe a successful Kau Inoa enrollment process could be allowed to stand, he said, even if the Akaka bill passes with the language directing the creation of the membership roll.

"Many of us are hopeful that Interior will say, 'This is a good, credible process that the Hawaiians have done,' " Namu'o said. "The secretary could say, 'The Hawaiians are already engaged in an enrollment, let's conform the bill to the process already under way.' "

Rose added that those who oppose federal recognition ought to register to ensure their place in the self-governance discussions.

"Even people who advocate strong hostility against federal recognition, they'd be foolish not to participate," he said. "If you're outside the kitchen when the food comes, you gotta eat what's cooked."

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