Convention sheds light on the struggles Native Hawaiians face living on the continent

There are more Hawaiians living in the continental U.S. than there are living in Hawaii according to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement
Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 8:34 PM HST
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LAS VEGAS (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are more Native Hawaiians living in the continental U.S. than there are living in Hawaii, according to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

That is why CNHA held its annual convention in Las Vegas this year.

CNHA CEO Kuhio Lewis said Las Vegas is the fastest-growing population of Native Hawaiians.

“We have kuleana,” said Lewis. “If we’re going to keep Hawaii and our lahui one, we have to make bold moves, and this was a bold move, and I think it’s showing the rest of the Hawaiian organizations that we have to support our people.”

“We are Kanaka maoli no matter where our wawae takes us,” said Cece Cullen.

Cullen is a proud Kanaka.

She teaches her keiki to take pride in who they are and remember where they come from, even though they now live thousands of miles away from home.

“I’m very passionate about teaching my keiki to pack our aloha no matter where our feet take us,” Cullen said.

Cece and her husband Nakoa were both born and raised in Oahu. But in 2018, they had to make a difficult decision.

“My Kane and I, I mean, we had decent paying jobs, worked multiple jobs even, and it was still really difficult for us,” she said.

So they moved to Las Vegas.

A couple of years later, they purchased their first home.

“We’re the first on both sides of our families to ever own anything. So, we do feel a sense of pride in that. But it’s also very discomforting that we couldn’t do that in our aina hanau.”

That is a key reason CNHA took its annual convention, the largest gathering of Native Hawaiians, to the continent.

It’s for people like Cece.

“For people like me who yearn, we cry for connection,” she said.

Breakout workshops during the convention included “Home Away from Home” and others where Cece found she wasn’t alone.

“It’s very important that my brothers and sisters in Hawaii make sure that you connect with us,” said a crying Leinaala Slaughter, a Native Hawaiian living in Oregon.

“What can we do from here? Because all of us here would die for Hawaii,” said another gentleman with tears in his eyes in another breakout session.

There was also a thought-provoking discussion where Kanaka debated if Hawaiians living on the continent should be part of the lahui.

“When we talk about lahui, to me that is a sacred word, it is rooted in our history, it is rooted in aloha aina. This is not our aina,” said Dr. Trisha Kehaulani Watson-Sprout, Honua Consulting CEO.

“That’s why it was important to have these discussions on a larger form because we talk about them behind the scenes,” said Mehanaokala Hind, Senior Advisor to CNHA’s CEO.

For Cece and her ohana, they hope to save enough money and move back home one day.

Until then, no matter where they live, they will always be proud kanaka.

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