After a month of discussion, participants of the ʻAha Naʻi Aupuni come out with much more than just a constitution.
“All I heard before coming here ‘Oh they never going stop fighting. Oh they never going come out with this. Oh this is hewa oh that is hews.’ I came in with a position and a stance, but I also came in with an open mind and a mind for collaboration,” said ʻaha participant Chris Olivera.
Despite the termination of the Naʻi Aupuni Native Hawaiian election in December of 2015, Naʻi Aupuni held an ʻaha or constitutional convention in which all candidates of the election were invited to convene to produce governing documents. The ʻaha was a cross-section of the Native Hawaiian community in Hawaiʻi, from the continental U.S., and abroad, spanning multiple generations and crossing various political outlooks.
ʻAha Chairman Brenden Lee, said “Some will say that there are two sides in this issue. There weren’t just two sides every single person there had a different side. Those sides have never come together and worked together and more importantly been willing to hear, listen, and see the other side. That has never ever ever happened.”
Dreannale Kalili, ʻaha participant, said, “In the beginning you were seeing people learning the process learning the room, learning the politics in the room People who don’t play politics usually just really becoming maʻa to that and also learning what it was that they would need to have to do to to take care of whatever kuleana they brought into the room. You saw the the pride and the emotion as people stepped to the mic.”
ʻAha participant, Claire Hughes said, “It is important that we show passion, it is important because it does drive the whole effort, our passion and our concern for others and our want to have things move ahead another little notch.”
Kahiolani Papalimu, ʻaha participant, said “More important than anything else was the need to bring our people back together and understand that we’re all working towards that just in different avenues, different methods, different paths, but we’re all the same people and we all want that we just are taking different roads.”
After weeks of discussion and deliberation, culminating with the drafting of a 15-page constitution, on February 26th 2016 the ʻaha met one final time in which they voted whether or not to adopt their constitution as submitted.
“I think step one is to walk outside the room and talk about what we did, how we got there and how we each see segments of our community in the document,” said Kalili.
ʻAha participant Katie Kamelamela said “The document isn’t final, it’s a living draft and it can be amended if an identified citizenry lifts the paper up.”
Chairman Lee said, “For the first time, I don’t see Hawaiians talking about independence, sovereignty, federal recognition fighting and yelling. They are sitting down at a table, calmly, intelligently discussing the issues. And that’s, honestly that’s the thing I’m most proud of coming out of here.”