Native Hawaiian groups fight back against Chicago eatery going after island poke shops

Updated: Aug. 2, 2018 at 5:45 PM HST
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HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Several Native Hawaiian advocacy groups announced on Thursday that they are building a legal case against a Chicago eatery that trademarked the words "Aloha Poke."

Aloha Poke in Chicago has been sending out cease-and-desist letters to all poke shops bearing its name, citing copyright infringement. In response, several poke shop owners, community members, and Native Hawaiian activists have spoken out.

"Fear-mongering and intimidation tactics have no place in our culture," said Hanalei Aipoalani, chairman of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, in a statement.

CNHA is spearheading the exploration of legal action against the company, and are consulting the legal teams of several Native Hawaiian organizations and businesses, to identify what legal measures they can take.

Poke is a staple dish in the Hawaiian culture, and the word means "to cut crosswise into pieces", according to a statement from CNHA. The dish is made of raw cubed fish cut into mixed with seasoning such as nori, and other ingredients.

A poke shop in Alaska has already changed its name to Lei's Poke Shop after receiving a cease-and-desist letter, but most shops in the islands have avoided changing their name or pursuing legal action because of the financial burden either would cause.

"No one has the right to disenfranchise a culture and a people, as well as dictate what constitutes pono (proper) business practices," said Kuhio Lewis, chief executive officer of the CNHA, in a statement.

"Hawaiian culture is not meant to be a commodity and the continued exploitation of it, our language and kanaka is absolutely unacceptable," Lewis said.

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