Hawaiian leaders: Give us more say
By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Mike Leidemann
Hawaiian civic leaders want a bigger formal role in dealing with important cultural issues in the state, including education, health, environment and Native Hawaiian rights, officials said yesterday.
To back up their case, delegates to the 47th annual convention of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs approved more than a dozen motions yesterday calling on state officials to work more closely with club members, who for years have supported initiatives that benefit the Hawaiian community.
"We're asking the state to empower us to take charge of many of the important cultural issues rather than let them do it without any Hawaiian input," said Toni Lee, outgoing president of the association. "As more attention is paid to Native Hawaiian issues and the needs of our community, the Hawaiian civic clubs are at center stage, actively advocating and making a difference."
For instance, Lee said, Hawaiian civic groups are more capable of dealing with the problem of illegal gill-net fishing than the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which is considering banning the nets in the nearshore waters off Maui, the west side of the Big Island and parts of O'ahu.
"If they do that, they'll be taking our food supply away from us and make instantaneous criminals out of many of our people," Lee said. "It would be better to work with us to educate people about the right way to fish and get rid of the few people who are making it bad for everyone."
Delegates later approved one resolution opposing DLNR's proposed rules, and another saying they will work with the state to protect traditional fishing practices on O'ahu.
After more than an hour's debate on the final day of the weeklong gathering in Waikiki, the delegates also approved a resolution supporting the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' "ongoing efforts toward nation-building to include all options of nationhood which must be driven by community input and participation."
Other resolutions approved yesterday included calling for a task force to select a site in Hawai'i for a new prison, urging officials to create and enforce legal remedies to stop the spread of the coqui frogs and seeking the establishment of a memorial on Kalaupapa to honor the memory of people who were forcibly relocated there from 1866 to 1969.
The gathering attracted almost 600 delegates from 51 Hawaiian civic clubs across the state and the Mainland. This year's convention theme was "Ohaha Ka Hua Kupuna," which means "because of the fruits of the knowledge of our kupuna, we flourish."
In addition to conducting the yearly association business, delegates this year participated in many cultural activities throughout O'ahu, Lee said. They included tours and a tree planting at Mauna'ala, the royal mausoleum; a historical nighttime walking tour; a first-ever makahiki festival in Waikiki; and a summit gathering of kupuna in Waimea Valley.
Next year's convention will be in Anchorage, Alaska.
Reach Mike Leidemann at firstname.lastname@example.org.