HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds gathered under blue skies at Iolani Palace for Huli A Mahi, or "joining together in great numbers" to celebrate the Hawaiian nation.
"The Hawaiian nation is still thriving today, that our sovereignty is unrelinquished, that we are a nation," said former Gov. John Waihee, chair of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission.
Hui A Mahi was hosted by Kana'iolowalu, the project to register Hawaiians who want to participate in organizing a governing entity. It was created under Act 195, in which the state formally recognized Native Hawaiians as the "only indigenous, aboriginal, maoli population of Hawaii."
Some of those Hawaiians registered today, including Kimo Nihoa of Aiea. He was there with his four children.
"This is something that my kids should know," said Nihoa. "I think it's important for them, and it's also part of their heritage."
The event was held a few days after the 120th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Those who attended could learn more about the history of the Hawaiian kingdom, and to discuss the differing opinions about sovereignty, including the opinions of those who maintain that Hawaii is not part of the U.S.
"We are contesting, and we have been protesting that of course, that Hawaii is not a state, that it is still the Hawaiian kingdom," said Leon Siu of the Committee of Hawaiian Nationals. The group was among several that had an information tent at the event.
"As you can tell, there are issues all through the Hawaiian community. There are different opinions. But those opinions are based on the fact that people are trying to get together with some kind of a solution," said Waihee.
"It's very important," said historian Pamai Tenn when asked why he was there. "It allows, if I might, the Hawai'i ma'oli, or the Hawaiians to address sovereignty. It's a democratic process. So wonderful."
Twenty years ago, thousands took part in events that marked the centennial of the overthrow. Many, including Waihee, said there's been progress for Hawaiians since then.
"For one thing so many Hawaiians, young Hawaiians are papered up now. They're much more knowledgeable people than they were when, for instance, I went to law school," said Waihee. "I think also on the political level, there's a greater degree of awareness of our history, and what actually happened."
Sunday's even was also a time for Hawaiians to look forward, including for Nihoa and his children. "I hope they learn more about their heritage, and learn more than I. And I hope to see them up there one day, teaching their heritage to their kids," he said.
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