Thousands Join March for Hawaiian Rights

By: Dan Nakaso and Vicki Viotti, Advertiser Staff Writers
September 8, 2003

Source: Honolulu

Tears ringed Nyla Lolotai’s eyes as she marched down Kalakaua Avenue yesterday with more than 5,000 other supporters of Hawaiian rights in a rare, massive display of Hawaiian unity.

Lolotai, like many others who marched yesterday, doesn’t normally take part in public demonstrations. But like the others, she was moved to join yesterday’s “March for Justice” in response to an Aug. 20 federal court order forcing Kamehameha Schools to enroll a non-Hawaiian boy until a final verdict on the admission policy is made this fall.

The size of the mile-and-a-quarter march stirred deep emotions in Lolotai, who graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1976 and whose son, Mana, is a sophomore there.

“It’s usually the Hawaiian way to be quiet,” Lolotai said. “But we’ve been too quiet too long.”

Besides the sheer number of people, the march and rally represented a gathering of often disparate Hawaiian voices – from angry sovereignty advocates to Gov. Linda Lingle to the trustees of Kamehameha Schools to many non-Hawaiians.

“This is a great turnout from all kinds of people from across the state,” Lingle said while walking down Kalakaua Avenue alongside Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona. “It raises awareness for the basic fairness that Hawaiian people are seeking. … Clearly a majority of the community does support justice for Hawaiians.”

Aiona, who has at least one-eighth Hawaiian blood, said people came out yesterday out of a sense of urgency for Hawaiian rights.

“With that comes unity and strength,” he said. “That’s where my community is at right now. It’s awesome. You can feel the spirit. And it’s all well intentioned.”

Both Lingle and Aiona wore red T-shirts that read, “Ku I Ka Pono Justice for Hawaiians.”

“It means stand up for righteousness,” said Brawnson Adams, an 11-year-old, Kamehameha Schools seventh-grader. “The red represents the blood of Hawaiians.”

Organizers sold out of the 5,000, red T-shirts and tank tops that were going for $5. And police estimated the crowd at about 5,000.

Bob Ching wore one of the shirts as he marched through Waikiki. He has no Hawaiian blood but his seventh-grade son attends Kamehameha, which has drawn Ching into Native Hawaiian concerns.

“I think it’s everybody’s issue,” Ching said. “It’s not a racial or ethnic thing. It’s about what’s right.”

At the front of the march, members of various schools of lua, or Hawaiian martial arts, wore traditional kihei cloaks and carried staffs and other weapons. Further in back, other marchers sipped from water bottles and pushed baby strollers.

Police reported no problems.

“Very peaceful march,” said HPD officer Randy Rivera as he watched the throng of people moving before him.

The march was organized by the ‘Ilio’ulaokalani Coalition, a Hawaiian political action group. It was soon joined by other organizations and ended in a rally at the Kapi’olani Park Bandstand, where the Office of Hawaiian Affairs had planned its family day celebration.

The disparate groups represented various points along the Hawaiian political scale, including supporters and opponents of the Hawaiian federal recognition bill before Congress.

Lynette Cruz, a longtime opponent of the so-called Akaka bill, said the theme of the march was Hawaiian unity. But not all Hawaiians are unified, she said.

“We want to show support for Hawaiian rights,” Cruz said. “But we’re not going to the rally afterwards because we don’t support federal recognition.”

The march did, however, give police officers and marchers an opportunity to educate curious tourists about Hawaiian issues.

Mele Welte, a former Kamehameha teacher, carried a placard reading, “Honor, preserve, protect and celebrate the Hawaiian people,” as she gave a mini lecture to a couple of tourists.

“I feel that people who attack Native rights need to consider the diversity of our country,” she said.

With the sound of conch shells blowing in the background along Kalakaua Avenue, Roy Benham, who helped push for reforms at the former Bishop Estate and is now a member of Kamehameha’s board of advisers, said the march may prove a significant turning point in Hawaiian activism.

“It’s one of the first times we’ve seen so many organizations come together,” Benham said. “It’s something we’re going to need in the future as we move forward. This is a good first step.”

It was a step that began with Honolulu police shutting down Kalakaua Avenue through Waikiki. At the intersection of Kalakaua Avenue and Saratoga Road, speaker after speaker rallied marchers with stories of injustices toward Hawaiians and the need for action.

The next two hours were filled with angry shouts and times of solace.

At key points along the route, organizers erected portraits of Hawaiian royalty, where marchers stopped to pay homage.

Outside the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center representatives of various Hawaiian associations – including descendants of Hawaiian royalty – stood by a portrait of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, whose will created the Kamehameha Schools in 1884.

Kamehameha Schools trustees stood a few yards away, including trustee Robert Kihune, who held his straw hat over his heart.

Four Kamehameha Schools students wearing their blue and white school uniforms unwrapped a maile and ilima lei, which they hung over the princess’ image. Other students chanted, played ‘ukulele, sang and danced hula.

In the background, many marchers held hands and wept.

Like other Kamehameha students, Brawnson – the Kamehameha seventh-grader – was offered extra credit in his social studies and Hawaiian classes if he writes a paper about the march.

Many marchers felt that similar offers detracted from the day.

One student carried a hand-written sign that said, “Not Here 4 Extra Credit.” Another’s read, “What Extra Credit?”

Like other students, Brawnson said he wasn’t drawn by a grade.

“We’re here for the will,” he said. “We’re here to back up Pauahi.”

Reach Dan Nakaso at 525-8085 or Reach Vicki Viotti at 525-8053 or

Makua: Target State Not Military

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Kai Wai Ola o OHA, August 1997

Last month, the U.S. Marines had planned an amphibious landing at Makua Beach. The five-day exercise was to begin with an amphibious assault on the beach, followed by live-fire training in the valley. The community was outraged, and rightly so. The Wai’anae Coast Neighborhood Board, Hui Malama o Makua, Pastor Kaleo Patterson (organizer of the demonstrations leading up to the day of the scheduled landing) and the Hawai’i Ecumenical Coalition rose to protest the intrusion of the military onto sacred land at Makua. The protest caused Governor Cayetano to meet with Admiral Prueher (commander-in-chief, Pacific Command), and a meeting with representatives of the community ensued. The military changed its plans and landed at Bellows Air Force Station instead. While Frenchy DeSoto proclaimed this a major victory, this was anything but a victory. All it did was postpone the inevitable.

The military has not ruled out future training activities in the area which is held sacred by Hawaiians. Using live ammunition, and firing into a beautiful sacred valley in the middle of thriving communities is insane. Would the military try this in other states for 65 years? Let’s see if other communities in America will allow them to do this.

The people of Hawai’i must become more involved in what our state officials are doing on our behalf.

One could argue all day about being ready for war, but let’s be realistic. If there is a third world war, no one would be fighting in hand-to-hand combat. The fight would be a nuclear one and none of us would have to worry about Makua Valley, or anywhere else.

In 1964, the state leased Makua to the Army for $1 for 65 years until the year 2029. The lease allows the military to use the beach for maneuvers, but in doing so, it infringes on the community’s public access rights.

During 1ast year’s legislative session, the governor and the legislature decried the poor condition of state finances and how departments and programs would have to tighten down to run more efficiently with less money. But while they are selling the sob story of “no money,” they, at the same time, give away prime lands at $1 for 65 years, denying us -the constituency and beneficiaries – our fair share of revenues: 20 percent – OHA beneficiaries; 80 percent – general public beneficiaries. This debacle allows potentially millions of state dollars to be lost.

The protest at Makua raises questions, not only about access, but about state accountability in meeting its responsibilities to the public trust.

* Shouldn’t there be a review of state land leases? Because of the state’s rationale for low lease rent, an impartial third party should do the review.

* For how much of our valuable ceded lands are we not receiving proper compensation? When potential revenue is allowed to slip away, we get short-changed in education, human services, health and other benefits.

* Why weren’t access requirements considered in the lease of Makua? The state must let the military know that it cannot lease valuable land for bombings, live ammunition firing and training. Although the governor met with Admiral Prueher to change the landing site, this wasn’t resolved when the lease was given in 1964. The target of protest should be the administration, not necessarily the military, because the state can revoke the lease at any time.

* The state doesn’t own lands; it is the trustee for these lands. Shouldn’t it be more accountable for their management of these lands?

It’s time we (the public) demand that the state take its responsibilities seriously as trustee of our public trust. We have allowed them to mismanage our lands for too long! Should we be considering hiring private counsel to investigate the state for their mismanagement of our public land trust?

Hawaiians and Maoris Have Much in Common

By: Trustee Rowena Akana
Tuesday, April 1, 1997

Source: Honolulu Advertiser; Letter to Editor

Your March 22nd front-page article on unsettled Maori claims makes an interesting contrast with your March 24th editorial urging our Legislature to stand up to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs when we assert our own claims on behalf of native Hawaiians.

Substitute “Hawaiian” for “Maori” in the March 22nd story and you have written a pretty good account of the shameful way Polynesian people were treated here as well as in New Zealand.

The ceded-lands trust was intended by the U.S. government to somewhat redress this treatment. While I agree that the 20 percent share mandated to us by the Legislature is an arbitrary allocation not specified in the Admissions Act, it is too little, not too much, given the fact that these islands were once ours, just like New Zealand was the Maoris’ and was taken by force.

In this context, it was unfair of you to characterize Trustee Frenchy DeSoto’s proposed solution to the state’s pleading poor as being unreasonable or even as a demand.

Has it not occurred to you that we Hawaiians, like one of the Maoris quoted in the article, also are tired of being the “good nigger, master?”

Politics Have Ripped the Heart Out of Waikiki

By: Trustee Rowena Akana
May, 1995

Source: Star Bulletin; Viewpoint

1952 Barry Napolean established Hawai’i’s first beach concession on the sands of Waikiki. The beach was open to all. Competitors to his business moved in. Though the beach boys jockeyed for position, the tourists still saw the best O’ahu had to offer. Surfing lessons, canoe rides, talking story and the warmth of a Hawaiian people in harmony with their surroundings. It was the aloha spirit.  Now it is gone.

Politics have ripped the heart out of Waikiki. In its place politicians want to market an artificial heart, also called the aloha spirit. It will cost taxpayers $30 million for the current fiscal year.  And it won’t help a thing.

“Too often the legislators, DBEDT (Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism) and the HVB (Hawai’i Visitors Bureau) saw Hawai’i’s tourism budget as a sort of bank account available for us in the pursuit of their respective and usually diverse interests,” wrote Robert Rees in the Honolulu Weekly on June 29. “They had a hard time agreeing on objectives. The debates centered around who got what. The 1994-95 marketing strategy actually acknowledges that after 35 years, the absences of a mission is a serious deficiency. But it claims, ‘we can no longer simply afford to grow without a plan.’ Instead of planning, HVB has substituted mindless annual percentage increases.”

Is this just another horror story of government incompetence? Perhaps.  But Barry Napoleon knows first-hand how politics can crush the aloha spirit, not just squander it.

“From 1982 to 1984 I paid $400 a month to DLNR for an 8 by 12-foot space in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village,” Barry told me. The DLNR had taken control of the beach lands some time earlier and was now selling permits for concession stands. The DLNR sold one permit to a Mainland group. Barry later complained to the DLNR about alleged criminal activity out of his competitor’s concession. Three days later, the DLNR revoked his permit. The reason: Barry had violated the conditions of his rental agreement by encroaching on several inches past his allotment of sand. His equipment was confiscated.

In 1985 he found a new home at the Waikiki Shores. Barry was paying the owner $15,000 a month for ground-floor space fronting the beach. The DLNR evicted him. Barry won a temporary restraining order so he could prove his permits were valid. The DLNR ignored the court order and confiscated his equipment. Without his business, Barry could not earn enough money to press his case.

Earlier this year his two nephews tried to reopen a beach concession. The state tore it down.

This was happening as the state was spending millions to market the aloha spirit. A senator persuaded DBEDT’s director to pay $225,000 for the right to put the words “Hawaiian Vacation” on the side of a dragster for three months.

$500,000 was spent to produce a single TV commercial, shown a few times on cable. $8.3 million was offered to administer HVB’s bureaucracy. Millions more were funneled to pet HVB projects and DBEDT supporters.

And from all this we are to attract visitors to the islands?  Not likely.

Barry Napoleon is 65 years old. He has spent the better part of his life on the beach at Waikiki. Tourists from around the world remember Barry, and the beach boys like him, for one simple reason: they were genuine. They were Hawaiian.

The aloha spirit is embodied in the Hawaiian people. Not enough work in the tourism industry. Fewer still have the power to change it.

Marketing campaigns cannot sell what doesn’t exist. For Barry the spirit exists. It courses through his veins like blood even as the state bleeds him dry.  “I want to work again, to be back on the beach. This is where my heart is. This is my life.”