On the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921 a delegation from Hawaiʻi gathered in Washington, D.C., to discuss Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole’s signature piece of legislation – the most important federal legislation ever passed for the advancement of Native Hawaiians. This is the message delivered by OHA Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey at the HHCA Press Conference in Washington, D.C., on July 9.
Aloha mai kākou and mahalo Congressmen Kahele and Case, for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, whose mission is to “better the conditions” of Native Hawaiians.
We are here today to recall, to remember, and to be inspired by the life and accomplishments of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, whose advocacy on behalf of Native Hawaiians led to the passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act 100 years ago.
When the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was illegally overthrown by American businessmen supported by the United States, Prince Kūhiō rallied to support the Kingdom.
Later, when Hawaiians sought an increasing role in the non-Hawaiian government following the overthrow, Prince Kūhiō helped organize an opposition to support Hawaiian interests.
Finally, when Hawaiians needed a strong voice in the halls of Congress where decisions affecting Hawaiians were being made, Prince Kūhiō became Hawaiʻi’s second delegate to the United States Congress and was successfully elected 10 times.
Prince Kūhiō witnessed first-hand the separation of Hawaiians from their lands and from their self-determination.
Despite not having a vote, he pushed Congress to create a program to empower Hawaiians to survive and flourish in a Hawaiʻi that was increasingly controlled by powerful non-Hawaiian interests.
Today, we celebrate his success in that push, which became law exactly 100 years ago.
While Prince Kūhiō displayed his expert statesmanship in advocating for and passing this Act, we must also acknowledge the strong civic engagement of Hawaiians at the turn of the 20th century.
Indeed, Hawaiians were actively involved in debating issues and electing officials who supported Hawaiians at every level of government. Hawaiian political engagement is as important today as it was to Prince Kūhiō and the Hawaiians of his generation. Throughout our history the periods of strongest political engagement have nurtured the greatest self-determination for Hawaiians.
As Hawaiian leaders today, we must carry on Prince Kūhiōʻs legacy and advance federal, state and local policies that serve the Native Hawiian community. Hawaiian leaders must also call on the United States to fulfill its trust responsibility to Native Hawaiians. I mahalo Congressman Kahele, Congressman Case, Senator Schatz, and Senator Hirono for your partnership with OHA and our beneficiaries to that end.
In Prince Kūhiōʻs honor, let us commit to being more actively involved in our governance – as leaders, as community members, and as voters.
Eia nō mākou, nā pulpula o Hawaiʻi, me ka haʻahaʻa, me ka oiaʻiʻo, a me ke aloha pauʻole. Aloha.
Here we stand, the descendants of Hawaiʻi, with humility, truth and love unending. Aloha.