HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of people showed up at the State Capitol on Monday for an intense hearing filled with emotional testimony about possible federal recognition for Native Hawaiians.
A panel made up of members from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Justice listened to feedback for more than three hours about reestablishing a government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community. Most of the people who testified spoke out against the idea, arguing that the U.S. government had no jurisdiction over them since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom was illegal.
"What was taken from us by the United States was one nation indivisible under the Akua. We will never agree to accept bits and pieces of an Indian confederacy," said activist Mililani Trask.
"This annexation of Hawaii is bogus. It's wrong. So the great U.S., you have to by all means give us justice," said Waimanalo resident Leona Kalima.
A few people testified in favor of federal involvement, but Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chair Colette Machado ended up in a shouting match while voicing her support.
"We applaud the administration of Hawaii-born President Obama in setting the groundwork for potential recognition. We urge the department to develop a pathway that is unique to the needs of the Hawaiian people," said Naalehu Anthony, vice chairman of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission.
More than 125,000 people have signed up through the commission to take part in a future governing entity.
The federal panel will listen to testimony during 15 hearings across Hawaii.
"We recognize again the very critical nature of this conversation, the strong emotions from the community. We honor that and we are very honored to be here," said Rhea Suh, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the Department of the Interior.
"I applaud the Department of the Interior and (Department of) Justice for coming, but also the Native Hawaiian people for expressing themselves," said Kamanaopono Crabbe, CEO of OHA.