“E Kupu, nā Koaha”


Photo: Hema Watson

By Hema Watson, Grade 12 Hālau Kū Mana Public Charter School

E oʻu mau kiaʻi mai kahakihi ā kahakihi, aloha nui kākou!

I am glad to welcome everyone back to the third and final installment of this three-part series on kānaka civic engagement. In my first article, I examined the history of kānaka civic engagement. The second article discussed the current state of ʻŌiwi politics. We will now look ahead to our future.

To begin, I want to talk about the first of three important steps to bringing our nation back and obtaining even greater autonomy.

First, we want a national identity or an understanding of who we are, what we need, and how we will physically, intellectually, economically, politically, spiritually, and socially sustain our lāhui kānaka. We live in a time of incredible growth in our lāhui. Capitalizing on that progress is key.

Kapūkakī and Pōhakuloa will become centers of attention in our communities even more than they are now. The military will have to cede its position and inaction at Red Hill and kānaka will not stop until Pōhakuloa has been returned.

The second step to bringing our nation back is having supporters entrenched in educational institutions, law-making, and other pockets of community-based policymaking and advocacy for the perpetuity of our lāhui kānaka.

In 1985, Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell resurrected Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea celebrations at Thomas Square. The earliest festivities consisted of half a dozen passionate individuals. Today, each island across our pae ʻāina commemorates the return of our sovereignty with hundreds of people celebrating the special day.

The third step, as it was explained to me, will be people laying down their lives for our lāhui. I mean this figuratively and literally. This was a familiar concept to our kūpuna of the nineteenth century and we saw it when kānaka blocked the access road to Mauna Kea in 2019.

The label “poʻe aloha ʻāina” can refer to someone who makes the land more important than themself or someone who gives their life for the perpetuation of our independent Hawaiian nation.

Donald Lewis and Keanu Sai created the Hawaiian land firm, Perfect Title, the foundation of which was the policy that all land purchases in Hawaiʻi made after 1893 were invalid. Sadly, the state and its lawmakers as well as other title and escrow companies did not agree. Perfect Title’s findings were correct; however, the sheer pressure and bias of the courts caused the firm to lose many of its cases. Neither Sai nor my tūtūkāne, Donald Lewis, gave up. Lewis continued to gather his documents and argue for kānaka.

Our lāhui needs people, dedicated people, to continue to fight! “E ala e / i ka hikina, aia ka lā” reminds us that as the sun emerges in the east so must our lāhui kānaka arise and awaken as the dawn of a new day is upon us!

This is the third of three articles dedicated to telling the story of the past, present, and future of kānaka civic engagement in Hawaiʻi by Hema Watson.