The trouble with the Kana’iolowalu racial registry

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BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — PBS Hawaii has announced that its program “Insights” scheduled for Thursday July 18, 8-9 PM, moderated by Dan Boylan, will focus on the Kana’iolowalu project.

Among the panelists will be state Senator Clayton Hee, formerly head of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs; and Dexter Kaiama, an attorney and Hawaiian independence activist who is working closely with Keanu Sai and filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court alleging war crimes against Hawaii judges and prosecutors. As usual for the media, there will probably not be a moderator or panelist who will defend multiracial unity and equality.


Kana’iolowalu is a racial registration process supported by the Hawaii state legislature and using government money. The word as described by its supporters seems benign and friendly: striving together to achieve a goal, like the droplets of water in a stream. But the word has much more violent, warlike undertones. Kamehameha the Great was called “Kana’iaupuni” where that word “na’i” means “conquest” or “conqueror.” “Olowalu” means “to rush or attack in concert” and also “dodging the onslaught of spears.” So “kana’iolowalu” can best be translated as “conquest through swarming” — a method of warfare like the blitzkrieg, whereby attackers surround, rush, and overwhelm an enemy.

The main trouble with Kana’iolowalu is philosophical and moral. The state legislature is creating a list of people who have at least one drop of Hawaiian native blood. Once the list is created, the legislature intends to grant governmental powers to that racial group and then hand over state government money and land to it. Should our government be supporting a process intended to divide the lands and people of Hawaii along racial lines?

There are also many important practical and legal troubles with the actual process currently underway.

In Act 195 (2011) the legislature created the foundation for a state-recognized tribe by declaring that ethnic Hawaiians are are Hawaii’s only indigenous people, and by setting up the Kana’iolowalu process to create a list of them. Now, in Act 77 (effective July 1, 2013) the legislature has authorized the Kana’iolowalu racial registry to enormously expand its pitifully small enrollment by automatically dragging in the names of everyone whose Hawaiian native ancestry has been previously verified by OHA, Kamehameha Schools, other race-based institutions, or birth certificates on file at the state Board of Health. See the news report by Associated Press in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser of July 8, 2013.

There are at least three scenarios where the Board of Health might certify ethnic Hawaiians for the racial registry. They range from a completely voluntary confirmation requested by individual applicants, to an involuntary process where Kana’iolowalu tells BOH to have clerks or computers examine every birth certificate on record to compile a list of names of everyone who has “Native Hawaiian” on the certificate. Whatever method is used, BOH must deploy personnel and budget to this new task, without additional funding, diverting resources from other important responsibilities. People with no native blood will go to the back of the line while waiting to get certified copies of their birth certificates for normal purposes like applying for driver licenses, passports, etc.

It’s troubling enough when a government rounds up everyone with a specific racial heritage and creates a list of their names. But the biggest trouble comes when that list is put into action to eventually take government land and money currently held on behalf of all Hawaii’s people and hand it over to the racial group. Most of Hawaii’s people probably oppose that idea; and perhaps even a majority among ethnic Hawaiians oppose it. Certainly it would be unconstitutional to do that, although Hawaii seems to do many unconstitutional race-based things faster than the U.S. Supreme Court can strike them down.

The main practical trouble with Kana’iolowalu is that it has already failed in its effort to appear to be a political entity and not merely a racial registry. Such a small percentage of ethnic Hawaiians signed up for it that the leadership decided to automatically add more than a hundred thousand names from earlier registries. Those registries were entirely racial with no pledge of political, civic, or cultural allegiance. Thus most of the names on the expanded Kana’iolowalu roll will be there based entirely on race, destroying any pretense that it is a political group.

It’s at least immoral, and probably illegal, to drag people’s names into a new membership roll containing political affirmations which those people might not support, and without asking their permission.

After more than 7 years and millions of dollars in advertising and recruiting, only 108,000 people had placed their signature on the Kau Inoa registry — out of 527,000 ethnic Hawaiians counted in Census 2010. That’s barely 20%, yet they would be presumed to make decisions for the other 80%. There is no quorum or membership threshold below which Kana’iolowalu must remain unactivated. Ethnic Hawaiians (and others) who oppose the whole concept are left on the outside and have no way to oppose it even if they are a majority. Should the 21% of Hawaii’s people who have a drop of Hawaiian blood be allowed to dictate that our entire population and lands be divided along racial lines? 20% (Kau Inoa signers) of a 21% minority (ethnic Hawaiians in Hawaii) is only four percent of Hawaii’s people; and if the enrolled membership makes decisions by majority vote, that’s only two percent of Hawaii’s people deciding the future for us all. Those two percent will be the most aggressively activist racial partisans in Hawaii, guaranteeing permanent racial strife and unending lawsuits.

More trouble comes from the fact that 237,000 ethnic Hawaiians live outside Hawaii, which is about 45% of the total 527,000 in the U.S.

Should the State of Hawaii transfer land and money to the control of a “tribe” where 45% of its people live outside the state?

See “Census 2010 Native Hawaiian data — some political implications for the Akaka bill, Act 195 state recognized tribe, and the Hawaiian grievance industry racial victimhood allegations” at

This has been a summary of a much more detailed essay at





  1. the sovereignty movement in Hawaii has to unify into one .there are dozens of groups seeking some type of sovereign recognition.maybe close to a hundred! but a common goal for the kanakas should be economic freedom?with economic freedom,comes solution is to remove he military from Hawaii and give all the federal land to native Hawaiians.

  2. It makes no difference how many ethnic Hawaiians join or do not join Kana'iolowalu. You seem to miss the whole point (clearly on purpose).

    The original people of Hawaii had their government overthrown, lands taken away, people swindled and ultimately marginalized by outsiders. Any of the surviving descendants of these people who struggled for so long deserve recognition and consideration regardless of numbers.

    Today, ethnic Hawaiians make up a large part of the impoverished population of the Hawaiian islands. Many have little resources or prospects from which to leverage and instead they are relegated to menial jobs if they can get them. They lack the education they need and the opportunities they deserve to better themselves and create prosperity for their families. The whole reason so many ethnic Hawaiians have moved from the islands is because of this very challenge. By the way, some of the largest indian reserves by square mile are occupied by very small population numbers.

    But I realize as I'm writing that you have no care for any of this anyway. What you seek is 'status quo'. What you seek is something that benefits you, the greedy outsider who dyes his beard, wears an aloha shirt and can speak with a mild pidgin accent when needed. You enjoy the island life and consider you have every right as anyone else to Hawaii.

    You may be brainwashing some Conklin but there are thousands that you will never affect.

  3. No shit, we don't have much land. In less than 40 years with contact of westerners, we lost 1.5 million acres of the 4 million acres of land. This land is fee simple, but is the propery of the King, subject to the rights of the native tenants. The land you "own" is not yours; it's our's. You cannot own land, only have a time limit of equittable rights and you have to be a citizen of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Ua koe i ke kuleana o na kanaka.
    Konohiki owned entire Ahupua'a that were some times their responsibility to measure. Could be a 6,000 acre parcel and some white man comes along and says it's only 600 acres. So, he buys it at a steal, literally, and the Konohiki goes on his way. But it's the Konhiki's land FOREVER. So, when he comes back to re-claim the land, guess what? The boudaries that he had that marked his 6,000 acres are gone. Usually they were natural formations like rocks. But the cunning white man removed the rock, thereby destroying any claim that Konohiki had to land. Isn't that a shame. I am a descendant of Konohiki that had tens of thousands of acres on several moku. We now hold smaller land masses than previously. This land was meant for preservation, not beach houses and industrial parks. The fish ponds in Kupeke was meant for sustinence. So many hewa in Hawaii.
    The truth is, you do not own the land. No land can be owned here. We can reclaim our "lost" and in multitudes.
    He ali'i i ka 'aina, he kaua ke kanaka.

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