On January 15th, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature convened the first session of 2020. While there was much pomp and circumstance in the House and Senate chambers, the real action took place in the Capitol Rotunda and surrounding areas as thousands of Native Hawaiians and Aloha ʻĀina advocates gathered to make their voices heard.
A coalition of Native Hawaiian and grassroots organizations from across the pae ʻāina came together to help plan Hawaiʻi Rising, an event meant to take the aloha ʻāina concept from our communities to the Capitol. The coalition worked to bring together high-profile and well-respected speakers, experts and teachers to cultivate participation in the legislative process from among the masses.
“We understand aloha ʻāina to involve a deeply rooted connection and commitment to the physical and spiritual health of our lands, seas, and skies. It’s an unwavering dedication to the well-being of our lāhui, and a devotion to protect and support our cultural practices that take place within the embrace of our ʻāina,” said Malia Nobrega-Olivera from Kanaeokana, the Kula Hawaiʻi network.
In the rotunda, thousands of people crowded as close as possible to the stage to hear speakers like Kahoʻokahi Kanuha and Kealoha Pisciotta talk about Maunakea. They stayed to hear the wisdom of Nā Wai ʻEhā and kūpuna panelists, and to participate in ʻAha Protocols at the beginning, middle and end of the event.
Hundreds more participated in Puʻuhuluhulu University classes including “Organizing to Build People Power” by Aikea, “Protecting Salt Ponds on Kauaʻi” with Malia Nobrega-Olivera and Kuʻulei Santos, and “Kū Aliʻi: Patterns of Hawaiian Leadership” presented by Kēhaunani Abad.
“The thousands of people that have turned out today share a deep desire to shift the political landscape and shape a new future for Hawaiʻi rooted in Aloha ʻāina,” said Kaniela Ing from Hawaiʻi Community Bail Fund. “We know what we have to do to make it a reality. It starts with us being here and meaningfully participating in the legislative process – introducing bills, offering testimony and meeting with legislators throughout the session. And we intend to vote and organize our family and friends to vote.”
The Hawaiʻi State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 7.