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A Step Towards Sovereignty

For years, there have been talks about bringing back the sovereign nation of Hawaii, for Hawaii to become socially, economically and politically independent of the United States. Kana`iolowalu, a project of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission within the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), may be the first step towards Hawaiian self-governance, according to John Waihe`e, Roll Commission chairman and former state governor.

“There are so many different ideas when it comes to sovereignty, often times it seems disjoining,” said Waihe`e. “Unification is the foundation of our nation.”

The purpose of the Roll Commission is to register Native Hawaiians with the goal of organizing a sovereign entity. Kana`iolowalu aims to unify Native Hawaiians through two initiatives. The first is for those “with even a drop of Native Hawaiian” to enroll either online or via mail in the registry or “base roll,” said Waihe`e at a Kana`iolowalu workshop on Molokai last Saturday. In order to register, you need to prove that you are of Hawaiian ancestry by either presenting a copy of your birth certificate, proof that you attended Kamehameha Schools or some other form of verification. For those who are unregistered or lack a birth certificate, the commission does have an agreement with the Department of Health that allows confirmation of Native Hawaiian ancestry.

Those names on the register that are verified as Native Hawaiian and at least 18 years of age as of the date of certification will be eligible to participate in a convention hosted by OHA next year that would allow Native Hawaiians to participate in organizing a self-governing entity, according to Waihe`e.

The second initiative is to sign a petition of support. Anyone — Hawaiian or non-Hawaiian — may sign the petition, which affirms the “unrelinquished and inherent sovereignty of the indigenous people of Hawaii”, according to a written statement by the commission.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka was the first person to register and sign the petition at a ceremony held in Washington in July, according to the Hawaii Free Press.

“Native Hawaiians are on a long and difficult journey to regain control of our collective future, and transmit our culture, knowledge and values to future generations,” said Akaka. “Signing this petition affirms that as a state, we recognize the rights of Native Hawaiians, as the indigenous people of Hawaii, to perpetuate the culture of our island home. “

According to the 2010 census, there are currently 520,000 Native Hawaiians or part-Native Hawaiians living in the U.S. Waihe`e said he hopes to collect at least 200,000 registrants by the campaign’s end in July of next year.

“This is important because it starts to bring unity and clarity to our community,” said Waihe`e. “This is an opportunity for us to get together and make life better for Native Hawaiians.”

In 2011, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed Act 195 into law, which created the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor from nominations made by Native Hawaiian organizations. Act 195 also recognizes Native Hawaiians as the only indigenous people of Hawaii that exercised sovereignty as a people. As such, Native Hawaiians are granted status as a political entity, not just a racial preference.

Anyone who has signed up for Kau Inoa, a state-sponsored effort started in 2004 to register Native Hawaiians, is encouraged to also enroll with the Kana`iolowalu registry as a next step in the process toward self-governance.

The Roll Commission is a year-long campaign, and intended for administrative purposes only – after the convention in July, the commission will have completed its work and be dissolved.

For more information or to sign the petition or to register in the base roll, visit kanaiolowalu.org or call the Kana`iolowalu Molokai outreach person, Nani Brandt, at 567-6325. Enrollment is open until July 19, 2013.


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