HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "I stand here in front of you asking all of you to lay your weapons down. Lay your spears down and embrace with aloha," OHA chairperson Colette Machado said.
In her speech on the State of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Machado pointed to next year as a pivotal one for settling the dispute over ceded lands, now that Gov. Neil Abercrombie wants to give OHA 25 acres along the Kakaako waterfront.
"We must always be protective of the open space along the shoreline," she said. "I will support an open corridor for public access so people will have access to the area to gather as ohana, and to use that area to fish and also to bodysurf."
The deal needs legislative approval. Lawmakers plan to question how deep OHA searched for alternatives to the Abercrombie proposal, and if it could open the state to lawsuits.
"Once they explain that to us I think we'll get a better idea about where we want to go," said Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, chair of the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee.
"Hawaiians are no dummy when it comes to real estate. Land is our greatest asset. We know the value and situation of that place in particular," native Hawaiian political advisor Kealii Makekau said.
OHA will also concentrate on the Roll Call Commission, created to compile a list of native Hawaiians interested in self-determination.
"Our primary imperative as a commission is to re-unify the sovereign entity of native Hawaiians one by one, by the thousands," commission chair John Waihee said.
But some advocates for native Hawaiian sovereignty said the call for unity doesn't go far enough.
"We need to stand the nation back up again as an independent nation, not as a sub-group of the United States," said Leon Siu, of an organization called The Hawaiian Kingdom.
Wednesday's gathering drew hundreds to St. Andrew's Cathedral to hear OHA's plans for 2012. The agency hopes to celebrate the goals as accomplishments one year from now.