By Zach Anderson, AsAmNews Staff Writer
The 21st Annual Native Hawaiian Convention will take place this week from July 19-22 and will be hosted by the Council of Native Hawaiian Advancement. This will be the first convention to take place in-person since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past two iterations took place online.
In a message written to introduce the convention’s agenda, council CEO Kuhio Lewis wrote, “The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the rise in cost of living, economic challenges, and shifts in the business and tourism industries, have created an environment that is ripe for hulihia.”
The last time the convention was held in-person was in 2019–– the same year Native Hawaiian activists successfully blocked the construction of a large research telescope on Mauna Kea. In addition to the pandemic, the convention also follows another highly publicized campaign by activists to shut down the Red Hill Water fuel facility after it leaked 14,000 gallons of jet fuel into Honolulu’s primary fresh water sources last year.
“I think the need for us to recalibrate is critical as we walk into a post-pandemic era,” Kuhio Lewis told AsAmNews. “This is a chance for us to unify as a community.”
Many prominent figures in Hawaii will be in attendance and/or leading workshops during the four-day convention. Hawaii Governor David Ige who will be delivering opening remarks. Activist and kumu hula Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu will be leading a workshop on the history of third gender–– mahu–– leaders in Hawaii. And Krystal Ka’ai, executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders, will be part of a breakout session concerning Native Hawaiians and the federal government.
“The Biden-Harris Administration has made it a priority to bring visibility to the needs of the Native Hawaiian community,” Ka’ai told AsAmNews. “I’m glad to be back in Hawaii and look forward to sharing how the federal government is strengthening our partnerships and addressing the many challenges facing Native Hawaiians.”
The convention will also host live broadcasts of the debates for governor and lieutenant governor, further indicating the council’s hopes to play a larger role in Hawaii’s politics. This also comes as the council begins to take the contract for promoting tourism in Hawaii, which for the past century has been given to the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
The convention gives Native Hawaiians the opportunity to become active participants in the future of their land and how the rest of the country views it.
“Since the first occupiers arrived to Hawaii there’s been a question about who the islands are for,” Kaniela Ing, national campaign director for Families for a Future, told AsAmNews. “When it comes to telling our story, [Native Hawaiians] haven’t really had that privilege or right.”
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