Africa And Aboriginal Tuesdays: Native Hawaiians Reassert Unity by Dan Nakaso
They turned out yesterday to protest development of sacred Mauna Kea, the continued desecration of Hawaiian remains, forcing landowners such as Kamehameha Schools to sell leasehold lands and a dozen other issues that wound the souls of Native Hawaiians.
Some carried ancient fighting spears as others sipped from plastic water bottles. Some wore traditional malo, while others donned modern-day T-shirts.
They rode on scooters, pushed baby strollers, blew conch shells, and some even showed their disdain by carrying the Hawaiian flag upside-down.
But all along the course of the mile-and-a-quarter march, sometimes disparate Hawaiian groups were united in one thing: chanting for justice in Hawaiian and English.
It was the second year that Honolulu police closed Kalakaua Avenue through the heart of Waikiki so Native Hawaiian organizers could stage a "March for Justice" that some see as a massive protest, and others consider a major opportunity for Hawaiians to unite.
Organizers had predicted 8,000 marchers from all ethnic backgrounds. HPD estimated the turnout closer to 7,000, said Sgt. Aaron Bernal.
Most of the marchers bought or brought red T-shirts proclaiming "Ku I Ka Pono," or justice for Hawaiians.
"The red symbolizes koko, blood for us Hawaiians," said Chase Keli'ipa'akaua, a 17-year-old senior at Kamehameha Schools. "It's our common bond."
Jan Dill, past president of the nonprofit group Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, joined a handful of others who wore red shirts from Hilo that said simply, "The Natives Are Restless."
"This is an opportunity for Hawaiians to understand that they have power," Dill said as conch shells bellowed in the background. "It's a good expression of Hawaiian consciousness."
Last year's turnout was prompted by a federal court order forcing Kamehameha Schools to enroll a non-Hawaiian boy — a move that outraged and united Hawaiians across the Islands.
This year, people came because of a wide range of issues affecting Hawaiians:
- The Akaka bill, which would recognize Native Hawaiians as a political group within the U.S. Department of the Interior.
- A planned Army Stryker brigade, opposed by at least three Hawaiian groups.
- Continuing opposition to next month's opening of a Wal-Mart, whose construction unearthed Hawaiian remains.
- An effort to block recognition of the Bishop Museum as an agent to repatriate Hawaiian artifacts.
- Continued opposition to the Big Island's Hokuli'a luxury development.
Kamehameha Schools, Hawai'i's largest private landowner, once again was at the center of much of the protests.
It is one of the major groups advocating that the Honolulu City Council repeal a mandatory leasehold conversion law that could mean the end of a steady stream of rental income for property owners.
The conversion law allows the city to force landowners to sell qualified condominium owners the fee interest in the land under their units, ending regular lease rent payments.
Officials with Kamehameha Schools have said such revenue allows it to provide services such as college scholarships to Native Hawaiian children. A resolution to repeal the law is before the council.
For the past week, Kamehameha teachers and administrators encouraged students to attend yesterday's march, and repeated the message over the school's public address system, several students said.
"They said, 'Come out and support your Hawaiian rights,' " said Loke Baclaan, a 17-year-old senior at Kamehameha. "People have been talking about how they're taking away the land, how they want to take our school away and admit everybody."
Carl Mossman came to yesterday's march for simpler reasons.
At the age of 61, Mossman had never before stood up for Hawaiian rights, and thought it was about time. "I say, 'Brah, you gotta wise up,' " he said.
There were solemn moments during the hourlong march. At two points along the route, marchers stopped to pay homage before portraits of Hawaiian royalty.
Outside the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, representatives of various Hawaiian associations stood by a portrait of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, whose will created the Kamehameha Schools in 1884.
Four Kamehameha Schools trustees stood among students and alumni as children made offerings to the princess's likeness. Some in the crowd wept.
At other points, the march highlighted the conflicting interests of Native Hawaiians and Waikiki commerce, as members of various schools of lua, or Hawaiian martial arts, walked yards from hawkers passing out discount coupons and air-conditioned storefronts blasting rock music.
At the parade's end, the diamondhead terminus of Kalakaua, marchers listened to music and speeches by Native Hawaiian political candidates.
Exactly one hour after the march began, Honolulu police reopened Kalakaua Avenue to city buses, trucks, rental cars and taxi cabs that lurched their way down the same path as the Hawaiian's march for justice.
Dan Nakaso is a Honolulu Advertiser Staff Writer and can be contacted via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This article first appeared at The Honolulu Advertiser
© COPYRIGHT 2004 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Tuesday, September 7, 2004