HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It wasn't without controversy, but participants of the Native Hawaiian 'aha have adopted a constitution for self-determination that will now be presented to Native Hawaiians for ratification.
The 15-page document serves as a blueprint for the future structure and function of A Native Hawaiian government. If ratified, it will be used in negotiations with the state or federal government.
The vote was 88 in favor of the document and 30 against. One person abstained.
"The final document is a constitution to establish a Native Hawaiian government entity," said 'aha participant Adrian Kamalii.
He stressed the constitution does not assume federal recognition as an end goal. "It left all possibilities open," he said.
The 'aha has been meeting over the last month, drafting and seriously debating the framework for a process on how to achieve self-governance.
Among participants, there was a wide spectrum of ideology on what Native Hawaiians should do -- everything from the re-establishment of the overthrown Hawaiian kingdom to the creation of an independent nation or even federal recognition from the United States government.
In the end, a majority of the 125 participants, voted to adopt the constitution, which details the establishment of three branches of government and the rights of citizens.
Participant Zuri Aki was among those who supported the document.
"We'll see at the time of ratification if the people will side with this document but, this document was put together by kanaka maoli and we came together with the best intentions to move forward with our nation-building and that's really what we did. Legitimacy comes with the people," he said.
Lori Buchanan voted against adopting the constitution, saying she thought more time was needed to debate the issues.
"All of our hearts really are for the Hawaiian people -- but in the end, I did vote 'no' to adopt a constitution because I still feel that there are very valid legal issues that need to be vetted and I felt like this did not allow us the time that we needed," she said.
The aha has not been without controversy. An election organized by Na'i Aupuni was canceled in December by officials who said ongoing litigation was creating lengthy delays. Opponents argued it violated the constitution as a "state-run, race-based" election.
Candidates who were running for seats as delegates were instead offered the opportunity to participate in the convention.
And that led to further division and even eight arrests, after protesters who wanted a voice in the process were turned away when they weren't allowed to participate or prevent the the convention from continuing to meet.
So who gets to vote on whether to ratify the constitution?
Aha participants decided anyone who is at least 18 years old and kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiian) should have a say. It's unclear how or when the vote will take place, but participants said community meetings would be called to help people understand the governing document.