In February, we witnessed an important milestone at Washington Place. Governor David Ige declared 2018 the Year of the Hawaiian, Ke Au Hawai‘i, in an event called Wewehiokalā.
The name of the event, translated to mean the crowning adornment that radiates like the sun, pays tribute to our Queen Lili‘uokalani. Wewehi comes from the Queen’s full name – Lydia Lili‘u Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamaka‘eha. It was so fitting to honor our Queen in not just the name of the event, but the importance of the signing of the proclamation in her beloved home. The lānai was filled not just with dignitaries, but kūpuna, community leaders, immersion keiki and kumu, cultural practitioners, and musicians.
Governor Ige’s proclamation comes on the heels of the State Senate’s 2017 resolution and OHA’s own resolution, which I wrote about in my previous column, in recognition of the many significant milestones Native Hawaiians will commemorate or celebrate in 2018. The first proclamation of Year of the Hawaiian was made by former Governor John Waihe‘e III in 1988. Governor Waihe‘e, our first and only governor of Native Hawaiian descent, was among the dignitaries in the audience, and it was powerful to hear firsthand his mana‘o behind his original declaration.
Thirty years ago, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and its then-Administrator Kamaki Kanahele helped plan and implement Ho‘olako, the Year of the Hawaiian. That event brought more than 40,000 people to Aloha Stadium. It was an incredible success, and helped to lay the groundwork of Hawaiians working together to share their culture, their language, and their traditions. I am not sure if, at that time, we could have imagined all that Native Hawaiians would accomplish in the years that followed.
While we have made many accomplishments since the first Year of the Hawaiian, much more work lies ahead. The spirit of unity that brought Native Hawaiians together 30 years ago is more important than ever as we continue our people’s quest for socio-economic advancement, self-determination, and justice.
The 2018 proclamation illustrates how we have actively engaged to define, develop and pursue goals, policies and positions consistent with Native Hawaiian culture, traditions and values.
In that moment at Washington Place, we recaptured the spirit and the mana of Hawaiians coming together to celebrate all that we have accomplished. OHA is honored and proud to assist in bringing Hawaiians together. Let us use this opportunity to recognize and acknowledge our individual and collective strengths as we move forward together.