HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Hundreds of Native Hawaiians gathered Saturday at Thomas Square Park to recognize a day near and dear to their hearts.
"A lot of the people who come to La Hoihoi Ea are the people who continue to fight for the return of what was taken. That's what hoihoi means, to return what was taken," said lead organizer Imaikalani Winchester.
Winchester is talking about the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893.
"Something very important was taken and it's taken every single day. But days like this remind us that we can take it back," Winchester said.
The movement echoes recent gatherings with the Native Hawaiians and a panel representing the Department of the Interior as federal officials consider reestablishing a government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community.
"I don't think they realize...how powerful the voices were gonna be from the community. I think they were quite surprised,” said maui resident Kalei Kaeo.
“I wasn't surprised. I'm very understanding of what the community is thinking. And I think exactly what you saw is what the people are thinking in the community," Kaeo said.
Organizers of La Hoihoi Ea say every year the event gets bigger and the movement gets stronger.
"Most times when hawaiian of this number get together it's usually to protest something. But these are one of the few times that hawaiians come together to celebrate our commonality our unity," Winchester said.
“We need to just keep moving forward with a maoli attitude," said Imaikalani Kalahele, one of the original organizers of the event.
Not everyone is behind the sovereign nation movement.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Chair Colette Machado announced OHA's stance at a meeting with the federal panel in June.
“Strongly urge that the federal government move forward with a process to reestablish a government to government relationship with the native hawaiian people,” Machado said.