Indian Country Today Media Network: Manufacturing Consent for the Living AND the Dead in Hawai’i

By Noelani Arista & Randall Akee
November 20, 2015

As you read this, Na’i Aupuni (Seizure of Government), the new non-profit agency created and funded by the State of Hawai’i, is launching a Native Hawaiian constitutional convention. In order to understand the process it has never been more timely to have a public discussion about the ethics and credibility of the creation of the Native Hawaiian Roll that will be used during upcoming elections. The goal of Na’i Aupuni is to elect 40 candidates to write a “Hawaiian” constitution in 40 days. Of the five commissioners on the Kana’iolowalu roll commission, three, Na’alehu Anthony, Mahealani Wendt and Lei Kihoi, along with the roll commission’s executive director, Clyde Namu’o, have chosen to run as candidates for the Na’i Aupuni convention.

But there’s more to the dialog than having people who certified and created the roll run for election themselves. Unfortunately, the Native Hawaiian roll does not reflect the will of the people, and because the State of Hawai’i has backed the institutions and provided the funding that manufactured this roll – the voice of unregistered Native Hawaiians, the majority, remains unheard and uncounted. We must examine how this roll was created, and question the culturally insensitive inclusion of deceased Native Hawaiians on the roll as well.

In 2012, the Hawai’i State Legislature formally approved a process to create a roll of “qualified” Native Hawaiians by forming Kana’iolowalu, the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. Only Native Hawaiians certified by the roll commission would form the electorate to participate in the creation of a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity. Under Act 195, Hawai’i State Governor Neil Abercrombie appointed 5 commissioners who were charged with overseeing the creation of this Native Hawaiian roll. Their self-proclaimed objective was to wage “…a campaign to reunify Native Hawaiians in the self-recognition of our unrelinquished sovereignty…”