Recently, four Native Hawaiians and two non-Hawaiians filed suit in federal court to stop the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission from conducting a race-based election to create a racially exclusive nation of Native Hawaiians.  The suit finally gives voice to the silent majority of Native Hawaiians who have chosen not to take part in this racially divisive, government-sponsored process.

How do we know the majority of Native Hawaiians do not share the vision that a small group of government officials have crafted?  The numbers speak for themselves. After spending three years and over $4 million to create a list of Native Hawaiians who “…affirm the unrelinquished sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people…,” more than 84 percent of all Native Hawaiians remain un-registered!

American and Hawaiian flags

Flickr.com/Sheree Zielke

The Commission originally targeted more than half a million Native Hawaiians across the country based on U.S. Census data, which now counts 560,000 Native Hawaiians. When only 40,000 signed up, the Roll Commission then dumped at least 87,000 names of individuals collected from other lists of Hawaiians without the consent of those individuals. Currently, the Commission reports it has certified approximately 95,000 names on the Roll.

There are three problems the silent majority of Native Hawaiians have with OHA and the Roll Commission. First, many individuals who have discovered that their names were placed on the Roll without their consent are angered. One Native Hawaiian woman, puts it this way: “I saw my name on the list, and that’s when I knew they (OHA and the Roll Commission) are not totally honest.”

A Maui man living on Hawaiian Homestead land says, “When I found out that my name was on that list, it made me feel very uncomfortable. When you start off… by doing things without people’s consent, it’s not right.”

Another woman has reported: “I feel betrayed.”

The second problem that many Native Hawaiians, including myself, have with the process is being excluded for not affirming the Declaration of “unrelinquished sovereignty.” Like my father and uncle who are buried respectively at Kaneohe and Punchbowl military veterans cemeteries, we are Hawaiians who cherish and are proud of our American citizenship.

The third problem for many native Hawaiians is the total exclusion of non-Hawaiians from decisions that will affect everyone in the state. This is not only unconstitutional behavior by our state agencies OHA and the Native Hawaiian Roll, it is blatantly non-Hawaiian. Hawaiian citizenship, even before we were part of United States, was never based upon race.

The silent majority of Native Hawaiians practice inclusiveness as part of the Aloha Spirit. We seek to live by the words of the 1840 Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom that welcomes all, stating: “God hath made of one blood (koko) all nations of men to dwell on the earth in unity and blessedness.”

Today, there is a growing stereotype of Native Hawaiians as a monolithic group that opposes all that is American and asserts exclusive rights against the majority of others who have made Hawaii their home. This stereotype is clearly not the true picture. The silent majority of Native Hawaiians are also of Japanese, Chinese, Caucasian, Filipino, and countless other racial backgrounds.

All of us in Hawaii are the reason Martin Luther King and hundreds of marchers wore garlands of lei during the famous march in Selma. King visited our islands in 1959 and addressed both houses of our newly formed state Legislature, telling them: “As I think of the struggle that we are engaged in in the South land, we look to you (Hawaii) for inspiration and as a noble example, where you have already accomplished in the area of racial harmony and racial justice, what we are struggling to accomplish in other sections of the country.”

The silent majority of native Hawaiians want a future where King’s dream is realized by everyone’s keiki.

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