The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has extended its timeline for establishing a Native Hawaiian governing entity by six months after many residents criticized the process as too rushed.

OHA launched an aggressive public relations campaign earlier this year to encourage Native Hawaiians throughout the world to take part in the nation-building process by registering with the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. More than 130,000 names are on the roll, many of them carried over from previous lists aimed at establishing Hawaiian sovereignty.

Under the new timeline, elections will take place in January to select delegates for a constitutional convention in April. A referendum on the governing document will be held by July at the latest.

Supporters of OHA CEO Kamana'opono Crabbe outside the OHA boardroom

Supporters of Native Hawaiian sovereignty sing while keeping vigil at at an OHA Board of Trustees meeting in May.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Only those who have registered with the roll commission will be eligible to vote.

OHA plans to use the extra time to educate more indigenous people about the pathways to and options for self-governance.

“We believe that this new timetable helps to position us to build a strong sovereign governing entity that will be embraced by all of our people,” said OHA Chairperson Colette Machado in a press release. “It is now time to work together to be sure that the contemporary Native Hawaiian governing entity is rooted in our ancestral wisdom.”

The announcement comes weeks after the Department of Interior concluded a series of hearings in Hawaii exploring the possibility of federal recognition for Hawaiians. Many people rejected the suggestion, saying that Hawaii is an occupied nation and the Hawaiian Kingdom still exists.

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