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Teacher Pushes for Native Acknowledgement

Photo Courtesy of HSTA

Molokai teacher Uluhani Waialeale of Kualapu’u Public Conversion Charter School was instrumental in helping to pass an important measure for Native Hawaiians at the National Education Association (NEA)’s recent assembly in Houston, Texas.

New Business Item 64 proposed, “At the beginning of all NEA convenings, NEA will acknowledge the native people of whom this land originated.”

The proposal resonated with many teachers from Hawaii. Waialeale said when she first saw the item on the agenda, she gathered fellow Hawaii teachers together and reached out to Martin Thompson, a delegate with the California Teachers Association who initiated the proposal. They strategized how to get the business item passed, and it ended up getting unanimous support.

More than 100 delegates from Hawaii, along with 6,000 from across the country, attended the NEA Representative Assembly. It is the largest democratic deliberative assembly in the world, with the goal of further supporting public education in America, according to information provided by the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

“For me, as a Native Hawaiian Kanaka Maoli, it’s important because we look to the aina as our ancestors, our kupuna, and our direct connection to the land,” said Waialeale. “So because of this foundation of love and respect to our kupuna, it’s automatic that we acknowledge them wherever we are, but it’s super important as Kanaka Maoli to show that respect and honor.”

She said when she read of the New Business Item, she “had that feeling in my gut, my naau, that this was something I feel passionate about.”

Now, native people will be acknowledged at the beginning of every NEA convention.

“Sometimes we feel like we’re invisible on a national scale, but to just have that beginning honor will set the stage that we do have native people here that we should pay honor and respect to,” said Waialeale.

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