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Speakers laud Hawaiian unity against federal recognition

KAHULUI >> Dozens of Maui residents Tuesday night echoed the staunch opposition heard around the islands against possible federal recognition as U.S. interior officials held their 15th and final meeting exploring the possibility of re-establishing a government-to-government relationship with Native Hawaiians.

“This time is yours. We are here to listen to you, and we are grateful for you allowing us in your communities,” said Rhea Suh, assistant secretary of interior for policy, management and budget.

Many of those who spoke before a standing-room-only crowd at Pomai-kai Elementary School expressed gratitude that the federal meetings have helped unite the Hawaiian community toward a common cause.

“Just you folks coming here, something good has happened. Around the islands we have never gathered like this. Never. My only hope is that when we leave tonight, we do not stop, we keep this canoe going,” said Kaui Kahai-alii. “Look, Maui, look around you. … This is awesome to see all the kanaka in the room with one voice.”

“E paa oukou (We need to), stay strong,” Sydney Iaukea told the audience. “Look, Maui, this is amazing!”

Some 158 people had signed up to speak ahead of the meeting, but only about 80 people were able to voice their opinions before the three-hour meeting adjourned promptly at 9 p.m. to boos and complaints.

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