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Reconciliation hearings on Maui draw 3 dozen speakers, many more observers

The Maui News
December 7, 1999

Staff Writer

PAUKUKALO -- The U.S. government's reconciliation hearings continued on Maui Monday with more demands for a sovereign Hawaiian nation.

But the midday hearing at the Paukukalo Community Center, attended by more than 100 people, most of them Native Hawaiians, also featured calls for reparations and increased funding for Native Hawaiian education, health care and housing.

``We're asking for justice,'' said Kalani Tassil, president of the Paukukalo Community Association. ``Give us back our dignity. Give us back our self-respect.''

The hearing was part of a statewide set of ``public consultations'' aimed at reconciling Native Hawaiians with the U.S. government as called for by Public Law 103-150, the so-called Apology Resolution passed by the U.S. Congress.

Presiding over the meetings are John Berry, assistant secretary for policy, management and budget for the U.S. Department of the Interior, and Mark Van Norman, director of the Office of Tribal Justice for the U.S. Department of Justice.

In addition to holding the hearings during their weeklong visit, Berry and Van Norman are visiting Native Hawaiian institutions and facilities.

Monday morning, they toured Kula and Waiehu Kou homestead lands and the Na Ka Ola Pono Senior Health Center.

Monday's hearing was a low-key affair compared with Sunday's first reconciliation meeting on Kauai, which saw an angry crowd of more than 200 and a group of sign-carrying demonstrators who drew police officers.

Berry and Van Norman started the meeting with an apology for the United States' role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893.

``The last century didn't end well between the United States and Hawaii,'' Berry observed, adding that it is hoped the new century will bring a fresh start.

But Berry repeated what he told the audience on Kauai: that sovereignty is outside the power and authority of the law's reconciliation procedures.

``We're hoping to take back your mana`o (ideas, opinions) to build a better future for Native Hawaiians,'' he said.

Half of the more than three dozen speakers called for full restoration of the sovereign nation of Hawaii.

Charles Kaupu said the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy was accomplished because of money, and the state continues to be held because it means money for the United States. Meanwhile, he said, the natives of a once proud and thriving nation suffer with high rates of medical difficulties, incarceration and school dropouts.

``If you want to reconcile, give Hawaii back to her people,'' Kaupu declared.

Ed Lindsey of Na Kupuna O Maui called for restoring a Hawaiian nation with full dominion.

``We honorably accept your apology with aloha,'' he said. ``In return, rebuild our nation with prayers and support.''

Blossom Feiteira said it should be the U.S. State Department talking to Native Hawaiians, nation to nation.

``The bottom line for my family and friends is that our nation got stolen, and we want to see it restored,'' she said.

Isaac Harp said Native Hawaiians deserve to have the authority over Hawaii's economic resources, such as its fisheries, especially since the U.S. government has mismanaged them for more than 100 years.

Added Pua Mahoe: ``You know what needs to be done. Now just do it.''

Several speakers addressed personal issues of lost ancestral lands. Others pointed to the loss of culture and language.

Joseph Kamaka, a former Marine who earned two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, said he and other Native Hawaiians served Uncle Sam proudly and would do it again.

``Now we ask you to serve us,'' he said.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Louis Hao was among several speakers who called for a settlement of land issues. Hao called for the federal government to figure out how much revenue Native Hawaiians are entitled to for 1.8 million acres of ceded lands (former crown lands now in government hands).

Several people suggested reparations were an appropriate response to U.S. wrongdoing. Tasha Kama asked for $25,000 per Native Hawaiian, while Henry ``Boy'' Kana`e suggested $20,000.

``The next meeting, I don't want to hear what we should do. I want to hear, `This is for you,' '' Kana`e said.

John Fitzgerald, who described himself as a direct descendent of non-native naturalized citizens of the kingdom at the time of the overthrow, asked that the descendants of naturalized citizens be included in the definition of Native Hawaiians and be accorded all rights and benefits thereof.

The meetings will continue today in Hilo and Wednesday morning in Kona. There will be another meeting Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Lanai Elementary and High School cafeteria and Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. at Kulana `Oiwi on Molokai.

In addition, forums will be held Friday and Saturday at the East-West Center in Honolulu.

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