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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, June 26, 2005

UH plans Native Hawaiian law center

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

The William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai'i has been awarded a $600,000 federal grant to establish a Center of Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law that would, for the first time, focus exclusively on Native Hawaiian legal issues as well as community outreach.

The new center will examine laws that affect Native Hawaiian rights as well as legal issues. It also will offer support for law students of Native Hawaiian ancestry.

Law School Dean Aviam Soifer said that the new center is "absolutely crucial" to the mission of the law school, and he praised U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye and the rest of Hawai'i's congressional delegation for helping make funding possible.

When Inouye spoke at the 2004 law school commencement last year, he discussed plans for the center, saying it was his hope that the center will "serve as an important educational resource as Native Hawaiians and the broader community move forward together to achieve a measure of reconciliation for the loss of Native Hawaiian sovereignty, resulting from the unlawful overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai'i in 1893."

The center will be headed by Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie, who has written extensively about Native Hawaiian rights and has taught at the law school as an adjunct professor for many years.

"We have a unique opportunity to examine the laws that affect Native Hawaiians," MacKenzie said, "and to educate our students and the larger community about those laws.

"The center will preserve aspects of law that respect the Hawaiian culture and spirit as part of our responsibility to the Native Hawaiian community and to future generations."

For the past year Soifer and MacKenzie have been working with an advisory board to secure funding for the new center.