An Open Love Letter to the Native Hawaiian Education Act

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Part 2 of 2

History lives not in books, but in the very lining of our skin and blood.

The longer my journey in the Native Hawaiian Education Council (NHEC), the more I come to understand my larger and deeper connection to our language and to one another. This might be a given in your immediate circle of relations, but I’m referring to the interwoven stories of multiple layers of relations that can happen over time and space. Often these woven connections are revealed to us when we step back and are able to fully see all the tiny miracles that had to happen in order for us to be standing exactly where we are. Here.

This is my open love letter to the Native Hawaiian Education Act for my identity and knowledge journey.

1994: CREATION OF A COUNCIL

In 1994, I am now a freshman in college and the first of my family to pursue a college degree. The state of Native Hawaiian educational attainment during this time has somewhat improved. Nine percent of Native Hawaiians now hold a college degree and19.2% earned a high school diploma.

In this same year, the Native Hawaiian Education Act (NHEA) was up for reauthorization. New language was included that reflected the needs shared by current grantee programs for a coordinating entity “to ensure quality, accountability, coordination and self-determination in all educational efforts for Native Hawaiians.” During the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing with NHEP grantee representatives of David Sing, Nāmaka Rawlins, and Robert Springer, Chairman Inouye asks if the grantees are opposed to the creation of a council.

Nāmaka Rawlins responds:

Is anybody opposed? No, Iʻm not opposed…however, I think there is the language in making sure that the representation, how they are selected, and if we can be reassured that the council is made up of so many percent of Native Hawaiians are on it…We need to have speakers on the council too so that as we are growing, our needs need to be reflected on the council.

And growing we are – in our work, in our advocacy, and in our language! In coming to NHEC I would then have the opportunity to work and learn from Nāmaka as a council member, along with many others who have placed the pōhaku on this kahua. As I continue to grow with and within the organization, I know I am weaving more strands and stories for the next NHEC generation. My hope is that one day they will find this article and know that this love letter is also for them. To the next generation, there is a whole lāhui that has been preparing for your arrival and your success even before your birth. You, Kanaka, are destined for the highest achievements!