By Jennifer Wong
Native Voices will be hosting an ‘Āina Forum at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa to focus on native land rights and kuleana, or responsibility.
The three-day forum will go from Tuesday to Thursday and feature a panel of professors and experts active in the field of land preservation.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Professor Emerita of history and of ethnic studies at California State University-East Bay and scholar and activist of Native American history and rights, is one of the presenters for the forum. She has worked as a land activist for almost four decades to make native land rights more visible through her work in the U.S., the U.N. and Nicaragua, according to one of the coordinators of the event.
“For those of us on the North American continent struggling for land and territorial rights, that is regaining full sovereignty, the Hawaiian struggle provides an example, indeed an inspiration for how to proceed and persist in asserting their historical and legal rights,” Dunbar-Ortiz said. The activist hopes to learn more about land rights from other presenters while at UH Mānoa for the forum.
Other panelists come from throughout the Pacific and areas around the world that struggle with issues relating to aloha ‘āina, to love and care for the land.
“Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz was interested in sharing her work on land rights in Hawai‘i, so we decided to take the opportunity to put her work on native land issues in dialogue with the work of ‘āina activists and scholars here,” said Christina Gerhardt, assistant professor of languages and literature of Europe and the Americas. Gerhardt was also one of the coordinators for the event.
In addition to visiting panelists, the forum will also have kānaka maoli, or native Hawaiian, speakers who are activists in their own communities. These panelists will focus on local land and water topics and rights spanning from genetically modified organisms to la‘au lapa‘au, or herbal medicines.
This forum was a year-long project for coordinators Gerhardt and Brandy McDougall, assistant professor of American studies.
“We (the coordinators) strongly feel there should be much more than three days spent discussing land issues, especially native land issues, which often coincide with environmental issues related to land use, water rights, agriculture, fishing, etc that affect all of us in Hawai‘i and elsewhere,” McDougall said.
McDougall and Gerhardt hope that, through the event, there will be a greater consciousness and discussion of issues relating to the land for participants of the forum.
“This pae ‘āina (archipelago) was once a place that fed all of its people (and) provided shelter for all of its people,” McDougall said. “This can happen again, if we recognize the harm that has been done to our ‘āina and work together to heal it.”
Dunbar-Ortiz will be hosting a colloquium on Tuesday from 4:30- 6 p.m at Hālau o Haumea, Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies. She will be presenting her work on the Sioux Nation’s struggle to regain land rights to the He Sapa (Black Hills), S.D., as well as her work on the International Indian Treaty Council.
Dunbar-Ortiz will also be hosting a land rights and activism workshop on Wednesday from 4:30- 6:30 p.m. at the Center for Hawaiian Studies. The workshop is open to students, staff, faculty, activists and the community.
On Thursday, ‘Āina Activism Panels of Native America, Hawai‘i and other parts of the Pacific and Dinner Reception will be held at the Spalding Auditorium and Courtyard from 3- 8 p.m. The event will feature Dunbar-Ortiz, Tara Tarcisius Kabutaulaka (Solomon Islands/ CPIS), Craig Santos Perez (Guahan/English), Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner (Marshall Islands/ CPIS), Nālani Minton (People’s International Tribunal Hawaii/School of Nursing), Umi Perkins (Hawai‘i Kuleana Lands/Kamehameha Schools/Political Science), Hanale Bishop and Meghan Leialoha Au (Homestead Poi).