Look for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs to take the next steps toward creating a Native Hawaiian government entity in the coming year, regardless of whether the Akaka bill is passed by Congress this year.
“Even as we await passage of the Akaka bill, we are moving forward toward building our nation, continuing with Kau Inoa registration nearing 80,000 and sketching preliminary plans for a nation-building convention in 2008,” OHA board Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said in the annual State of OHA address yesterday at St. Andrew’s Priory Cathedral.
After her speech, Apoliona said OHA will begin to at least plan such a convention this year.
OHA Administrator Clyde Namu’o said after the address that a convention probably can’t be held until 2009.
“There will be a lot of logistical issues to be worked out, in terms of having a discussion of how delegates will be elected, what topics will be covered and the ratification process for whatever documents the nation-building convention comes up with,” he said.
Namu’o said the convention may or may not dovetail with the Akaka bill, the effort in Congress that would establish a process by which a Native Hawaiian government entity may be established and eventually recognized by the federal government.
The bill passed out of the House earlier this year but has not yet been scheduled for a vote before the Senate. President Bush has publicly come out against the bill.
In her speech, Apoliona also touched on the possibility that lawmakers, and then Hawai’i residents, could choose to hold a state constitutional convention in 2010.
Last week, Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona threw his support behind a 2010 constitutional convention.
Native Hawaiians must be prepared to participate, [Apoliona] said. Those who oppose Hawaiians-only programs and agencies, of which OHA is one, will continue their efforts and will likely try to use a constitutional convention to advance their agenda, she said.
“We must determine now how we will get involved so the Native Hawaiian voice is heard regarding what happens to our homeland, to our native people, and our natural, public, social and economic resources for the good of all of Hawai’i,” Apoliona said.
Former OHA Trustee Moanikeala Akaka, who has often been at odds with establishment Native Hawaiians, said she agrees with Apoliona that Hawaiians need to unite to fight against those who challenge Hawaiian causes.
But Akaka said she also believes Hawaiians should continue to express their differences on other issues. “Not all Chinese people get along together, nor do all Japanese or all haoles are in total agreement with each other,” she said. “This is a democracy.”