Naʻi Aupuni: Career Politicians

Na'i Aupuni has released the names of approximately 200 individuals campaigning to represent the Native Hawaiian people at the upcoming great 'Aha. Over 100 candidates, including myself, are vying for the 20 seats designated for Oʻahu island representatives.

As a delegate, I hope to be a new voice in the Native Hawaiian community--a voice of the generation who will carry the language, history and the traditions of our kūpuna forward. For me, the 'Aha is a new chapter for Native Hawaiian, yet the list of candidates includes individuals who have spent decades in politics, a few of whom currently hold public offices.

A career in politics provides immense experience in policy and valuable relationships with stakeholders. Yet, electing career politicians to the ʻAha may be more of the same--inertia. I have spoken to a number of kūpuna, community activists and scholars in the Native Hawaiian Community, who refuse to participate in the Naʻi Aupuni election, because they feel the inertia in Native Hawaiian politics will continue and no clear path to success will be achieved.

The ʻAha needs delegates who will bring fresh ideas and passion, not delegates who are vested in the existing political system. Most certainly, the 'Aha does not need delegates who hold other public offices. In no other public elections are candidates allowed to hold two elected seats. We must ensure that governance at the beginning is pono, which is why I question the eligibility of Rowena Akana, a current trustee at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and Brickwood Galuteria, a current State Senator for Hawaiʻi's 12th district.

It is important to note that candidates in the Oʻahu island election also include:
  • 6 current Office of Hawaiian Affairs employees (including Trustee Akana)
  • a former Land Manager, Office of Hawaiian Affiars
  • a former Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs
  • a former chair of the Hawaiʻi Democratic Party

If we are to move forward with the ʻAha, delegates should truly represet the wishes of their voters. To be a great stride forward for the Native Hawaiian people, the 'Aha should include fresh voices, not only career politcians. In this highly criticized process, we do not need candidates who have current obligations in public office or candidates who may bring their own agendas into this decision making process.

We need to bring new voices into an old battle!