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More Hawaiians express frustration at last reconciliation hearing

© The Associated Press
December 12, 1999

HONOLULU (AP) -- Dozens of Native Hawaiians expressed their frustration about the state's management of Hawaiian trust assets during the final session of the emotionally charged Native Hawaiian reconciliation hearings Saturday.

Toward the end of the 10-hour session, dozens more who had signed up to testify still had not spoken. About 300 to 400 people attended the session.

Several speakers, including Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Mililani Trask, refused to keep within the time limit. On two occasions in the afternoon, security guards were called to control disruptions.

Moderator Charles Maxwell said the three-minute limit on testimony was enforced so everyone would have a chance to speak.

Many of the speakers called for an independent Hawaii, and rejected the idea of becoming a federally recognized ``tribe.''

``We don't want a longer leash, we want liberty,'' said Kaleikoa Kaeo, a U.H.-Manoa language teacher and sovereignty advocate.

But the two federal officials hearing the Hawaiians' concerns said the best they could offer at this time is a government-to-government relationship along the lines of Native American tribes and Native Alaskan groups. But they said they would take no action to stop Hawaiians from seeking independence under international law.

Assistant Interior Secretary John Berry and Tribal Justice Director Mark Van Norman conducted the hearings all last week across the state, meeting with both hostility and cordiality. Berry said he will complete a preliminary report by February with recommendations on the issues discussed.

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