- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Thursday marked the deadline for people to register with the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission to participate in forming a sovereign governing entity for Native Hawaiians. And this time, it’s final.

More than 121,000 people of Native Hawaiian ancestry have signed up and been verified since the effort launched in the summer of 2012. The signature drive is called Kanaiolowalu, for the sound of people gathering.

The roll commission has until June 30 to verify the people who have signed up are at least 18 and can show Native Hawaiian ancestry and cultural affiliation. It will deliver the final certified list to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

“The 121,000 that you see does not represent many thousands that have not yet been verified,” said Naalehu Anthony, the commissioner for Oahu. “It’s the largest list we’ve ever had of Native Hawaiians who have shown that they’re ready to move forward. Actually, it’s the largest list of Native Hawaiians, period.”

The roll previously closed on Jan. 21, the first Monday after the anniversary of the Jan. 17, 1893, U.S. overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The roll commission reopened the roll in March once the Office of Hawaiian Affairs announced plans to begin guiding the next steps toward forming a governing body, including paying for elections.

At the previous closing, Anthony said, more than 1,000 people signed up online in a final rush, with many more using paper applications.

“I’m expecting something close to that this time around,” he said. “You needed an end date. Otherwise some people wouldn’t sign up if there is no end.”

Registrants who are at least 18 are eligible to run for a delegate position. They can also vote on delegates and, eventually, governing documents.

The efforts follow the Hawaii’s passage of a law in 2011 that asserted that Native Hawaiians are the indigenous population of Hawaii and deserve the right to self-govern. It also supports the possibility of federal recognition of Native Hawaiians.

In the final weeks, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs pushed to gather names for the rolls. It used electronic highway signs, as one might see entering a construction zone. “ATTN HAWAIIAN,” one roadside message read, then changed: “ROLL CLOSURE AHEAD.” And lastly, “SIGN UP BY MAY 1 OHA.ORG.” The department also sent people canvassing door-to-door.

When pitching the idea to prospective enrollees, Anthony said, he was often asked, “What do I get if I sign up?” His reply was that this was their chance to ensure sustained Native Hawaiian guidance for the future of the state.

“It’s what not do you get, but it’s also, what do you give?” he said. “We have this opportunity to give input to something that’s been brewing for 121 years and to help make it right.”


Sam Eifling can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sameifling



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