Hawaiians mark key event in Hawaii history
• Photo gallery: Ho'okahi Lahui Hawaii March
By Rob Perez
Advertiser Staff Writer
Many came to learn, to soak in the entertainment and the speeches encouraging Native Hawaiians to come together.
As scores of people converged on the grounds of 'Iolani Palace yesterday to mark the 200th anniversary of the unification of the Hawaiian Islands, many in attendance talked about the need for today's Native Hawaiians to unite.
But several also acknowledged that bringing together the disparate Hawaiian groups won't be easy.
"It's pretty hard with Hawaiians," said James Kimokeo, 86, a part-Hawaiian from Kaua'i. "They've got this idea they all have to be boss."
Yesterday's cultural festivities, which included a march from Thomas Square to the palace, also marked the annual commemoration of the 1893 overthrow of Queen Lili- 'uokalani. The two-day event, billed as "Ho'okahi Lähui Hawai'i — One Nation 1810-2010," was attended by hundreds.
"Everybody's trying for the same goal," Jay Enos of Wai'anae said of unification. "But their paths are different."
As traditionally clad marchers carrying independence banners and other implements marched toward the palace, Enos said he didn't attend yesterday's event to "see who's right or wrong. I'm here because I'm Hawaiian."
Shannon Foster, who was next to Enos, said she came to learn about the overthrow and how it affected her ancestry. The pair are part Hawaiian.
With the Akaka bill currently before Congress — and its chances of passage considered improved because President Obama has indicated he will sign it — several Hawaiians at the palace grounds said unification is more pressing than ever.
The federal legislation, named for its author, Sen. Daniel Akaka, would establish a process for Native Hawaiian self-governance.
"We want to unite Hawai'i," said Charlotte Lyman, 65, of Käne'ohe, but she added that she didn't think the Akaka bill was the way to do it.
Kimokeo likewise had his reservations, saying the legislation would take away too much control from Hawaiians. "We don't want somebody telling us what to do," he said.
A similar sentiment was voiced in the diamondhead-makai corner of the palace grounds yesterday afternoon when enforcement officers from the Department of Land and Natural Resources tried to confiscate a tentlike shelter erected by the Hawaiian Independence Action Alliance.
Two or three times, the officers tried to take down the tent because the group did not have a permit, but each time the crowd would encircle it and prevent the officers from doing so, according to witnesses.
Finally, the officers issued a citation for violating palace regulations.
"This is ridiculous," George Kahumoku Flores, who refused to sign the citation presented by the officers, said later in an interview. "This is our right to be here. It's sovereign land."
After the officers left and a potentially volatile situation was defused, Sam Kaleleike spoke to those gathered near the tent and reminded them of the theme of the day: to bring all people together.
"Whatever your differences, leave them outside," he told the crowd as they joined hands and formed a large circle.