Four-part forum series to explore impact of 1978 Constitutional Convention on Native Hawaiians

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Jan 29, 2018

John Waihe‘e III
John Waihe‘e III

Former Governor John Waihe‘e III will help launch a four-part forum series that will focus on the 1978 Hawai’i Constitutional Convention, its continuing impact on Native Hawaiians, and the implications of another possible Hawai‘i Con Con, which is a question on November's ballot.

The opening forum in the series, titled “Hawai‘i 78: Where We Went and Where We Go From Here,” is set for 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 1, in Classroom 2 at the William S. Richardson School of Law. It is part of the monthly “Maoli Thursday” presentations by Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law.

The first forum, zeroing in on the issue of ‘Āina, will include issues of how the Con Con continues to affect the governance of land, water and other natural resources in Hawai’i.

In addition to Governor Waihe‘e, whose political career was launched at the Con Con, the first forum's participants include:

* Native Hawaiian activist and Moloka‘i homesteader Walter Ritte Jr., who also took part in 1978 Con Con events.

* Assistant Law Professor Malia Akutagawa, who holds joint appointments in the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge and the law school, and  whose current work focuses on preserving cultural and historic sites, including ancestral burial sites.

* Associate Professor Kamanamaikalani Beamer, who holds similar joint appointments and who is serving a second term on the State Commission on Water Resource Management.

Three other forums will take place as follows:

  • March 8, 7 p.m., Mo‘omeheu at Windward Community College. Discussion will focus on how the 1978 Con Con affected Hawaiian cultural health, including language revival.
  • April 12, 7 p.m., Ola at the Judiciary History Center in the Hawai‘i Supreme Court building. Discussion will center on how the constitution affected Native Hawaiian health, welfare and general well-being.
  • May 10, 7 p.m., Ea at the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies. Discussion will consider the connection between the Con Con and the Hawaiian self-government movement.

Interim Dean Jonathan K.K. Osorio of the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge will moderate and Waihe‘e will offer remarks at all forums. The Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge is coordinating the discussion series.

“These forums offer an opportunity to voice concerns about the future of our state, the role Native Hawaiians should have in that future and in self-determination, and what a new Con Con might explore,” said Law Professor Melody K. MacKenzie, who has been working with others in creating the series and is the founding director of Ka Huli Ao. 

Governor Waiheʻe noted that, with so many significant issues facing the Native Hawaiian and greater community today, it is important to consider the tremendous impact of the ʻ78 Con Con.  He explained, “Our Constitution was a groundbreaking and innovative document in 1978.  Was it implemented in the way we envisioned?  Has it withstood the test of time?  And should we revisit it now?  This is a choice that will affect Hawai‘i for many generations to come – thus we want our young people, our leaders, academics and activists to understand how we got to this point and to consider where we go next.”

Law School Dean Avi Soifer pointed out that it is unusual for state citizens to get to vote every decade on whether to convene a new Constitutional Convention. Soifer added, “Actually this decision has vital implications for everyone in Hawai'i, and it is an important opportunity for citizens to be involved and to vote about our own basic governance issues.”

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