Mahalo nui loa to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for hosting our Kaleponi Native Hawaiian community at the recent Caucus and Presidential Town Hall at the University of California @ Irvine. We spent the first part of the morning being briefed on issues specifically pertaining to kanaka maoli by OHA Director Clyde Namu'o and APIA Vote Board member Noe Kalipi. We then spent the balance of the morning with the larger Asian/Pacific Islander American community in attendance, hearing about the issues affecting each of our specific communities.
After an empowering lunch and kukakuka back in our OHA briefing room, we then headed over to the Bren Events Center for a rousing time at the Town Hall. Around 4:30pm, Senator Hillary Clinton appeared via one-way satellite to answer questions she'd been given ahead of time by the APIA Vote Board. She did not have any questions or comments specifically pertaining to Native Hawaiians.
Around 5:15pm, Senator Obama appeared live via telephone and interacted with the panel and crowd for about a half-hour, answering questions directly from the panel. We all smiled when we heard him greet the CNHA from representative from Hawai'i with a friendly, "Eh, howz' it?" Senator Obama received the only question posed to the 3 candidates which pertained to Native Hawaiians. Specifically, he was asked, "If elected, what would your administration do to support the U.S. commitment to reconciliation with Native Hawaiians (promised in the Apology Resolution)? His answer (not verbatim, but per my notes) was basically that having grown up in Hawai'i, he was keenly aware of the attempts to erase our history as the original inhabitants of Hawai'i, and the violation of our sovereignty as a separate kingdom. He indicated that he saw first hand the profound consequences on our people. Then Senator Obama indicated that while we can't erase history, we can still make things right by acknowledging this painful history and seeking to make things right with Hawai'i's original inhabitants.
Senator McCain was not available via satellite or phone, and he did not answer our questions posed through his surrogate speaker.
Mahalo again to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for giving our Native Hawaiian community in Kaleponi the opportunity to gather and hear from your representatives, and the candidates, on these important issues which affect all of us. And mahalo to all who came out for this historic event!