Between past injustice and future inequity

Na'i Aupuni Election

I am a beneficiary of Native Hawaiian programs, but my grandfather and my parents were not. They weren’t encouraged to be proud of being Hawaiian. It wasn’t something they talked about, and local traditions were much stronger in our household. So I felt mixed feelings when I received the “Official Election Ballot” from Na’i Aupuni to select 40 delegates to participate in an ’Aha, a Constitutional Convention, in February 2016.

Na’i Aupuni is an independent Native Hawaiian community organization founded in 2014 and funded by Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) grant funds to the nonprofit Akamai Foundation. Eligible voters are descendants of the “aboriginal peoples” prior to 1778. The voter roll was compiled by the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission through a “verification” process certified by the Commission.

How long must someone live in a place, how many generations must call a place home, before they are considered “native”?

The 40 delegates were apportioned by region – Oahu, Hawai’i Island, Maui, Kaua’i/Ni’ihau, Moloka’i/Lana’i, and Out of State – based on the geographic distribution of the registered Native Hawaiian population. Each delegate was nominated by ten other eligible voters from any region. With over 100 nominees for O’ahu alone, can voters make informed decisions about candidates?

At the ’Aha, delegates will try to reach a consensus about Native Hawaiian self-governance and may submit a governing document to eligible voters. With an intense constitutional convention schedule “over the course of eight consecutive weeks (40 hour work days, Monday through Friday)”, will the nominees be limited to the retired, the wealthy, or the poor?

Should governance-related elections be open to everyone who lives in and chooses to be part of a city, a state, a nation?

Days before the end of the election, the US Supreme Court issued a temporary stay blocking the counting of votes (but not the election itself) and stopping the certification of any winners. Na’i Aupuni responded by extending the deadline to vote by 21 days.

I’m not sure whether the Supreme Court ruling is constitutional or disenfranchising. Maybe it’s both. In fact, while I support a Native Hawaiian constitutional convention, I still don’t know how I feel about Native Hawaiian self-governance. I am uncomfortably caught between correcting past injustice and creating future inequity.

How many generations must atone for past injustices?

Do you support the Na’i Aupuni election? If you are eligible to vote, have you voted and do you think that a constitutional convention is the right thing to do? If you aren’t eligible to vote, do you want to be a part of the nation building or do you think that it’s unconstitutional?

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One Comment on “Between past injustice and future inequity”

  1. December 15, 2015: “Na‘i Aupuni announced today that it has terminated the Native Hawaiian election process but will go forward with a four-week-long ‘Aha in February. All 196 Hawaiians who ran as candidates will be offered a seat as a delegate to the ‘Aha to learn about, discuss and hopefully reach a consensus on a process to achieve self-governance.”

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