Civic Communion: Forms of our Advocacy and ʻĀina Identity

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Our relationship with ʻāina teaches us that the abundance of life can manifest in many forms. From the kinolau reflected in specific native plants for lāʻau lapaʻau, to the kapa patterns and motifs born from our very own narratives of our akua – we are a people constantly acknowledging our connection.

At this very precipice of time for our lāhui, I can think of no better embodiment of connection than what we’ve seen powerfully demonstrated in our civic communion as Kānaka ʻŌiwi.

We have seen and lived this with the kiaʻi holding the line against witnessing 38 of our kūpuna arrested on Mauna Kea. We have seen and lived this with the unwanted development of Hūnānāniho. We are living and enraged with this in the military fuel storage that threatens our life-giving waters.

Whether you have shown up as a protector, a donor/supporter, a documentarian, a social policy advocate, an educator, a storyteller, or a community organizer – you have shown up in your own civic identity form. All forms are welcomed. All forms are needed. All forms play a key role in the very fabric of social movement and political change.

As the Native Hawaiian Education Council thinks about our work ahead in the context of our upcoming elections, we do so with the understanding of our own advocacy and ʻāina identity as part of the larger lāhui civic communion. Yes, our role is to inform and advocate for Native Hawaiian Education, but our role is also to honor the many voices that laid down the pōhaku for the kahua of a federal Native Hawaiian Education Act (NHEA).

In immersing myself deeper into my work and role, I often find myself reading through pages and pages of federal testimony from community voices for NHEA from 25-30 years ago.

Many of the organizations you may already recognize, but what captures me the most are those individuals who stepped out of their homes and away from their families to stand up and testify in Congress. These are the inspiring names I recount when federal policy and funding do not move favorably for our community, and when advocacy begins to feel lonely.

In the same way, we as a people recall the names of our kūpuna or connection to the forces and kinolau in our ʻāina to recenter and reaffirm our intentions and responsibilities, I do the same with the community names documented in testimony. These are the forms that shape my own advocacy and ʻāina identity.

I offer just a glimpse of some of the honored names of those who testified for the NHEA before Congress – some who are still with us and others who have journeyed to Pō – to inspire all of you to also make sure your voice is heard this election year. Step into your civic identity form. You are meant to be heard.

  • Amelia Abreau
  • Rev. Darrow Lewis Kanakanui Aiona
  • Liberta Albao
  • Ronald Albu
  • Maybell Brown
  • Malia Craver
  • Van Horn Diamond
  • Pilahi Paki
  • Dr. Leialoha Perkins
  • Keoni Agard
  • Winona Rubin
  • Randolph Kalahiki
  • Dr. VerlieAnn Malina-Wright

E ola ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi!