The Native Hawaiian Roll Commission will soon make public a certified list of names of nearly 100,000 people of Hawaiian ancestry who could form the voting base to create a Native Hawaiian government.
In the meantime, Judicial Watch and the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii on Thursday posted online a draft list of 123,160 names compiled as of June 24, which they had obtained by court order from the commission. It can be viewed at OpenHawaii.org. The certified list is shorter because it omits the names of people whose Hawaiian ancestry has not yet been verified.
The two nonprofits sought the names on the registry via an open-records request last year and then filed suit after the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission refused to release them.
The roll commission didn’t want to provide the list before it had verified the Hawaiian ancestry of all registrants and certified the list, Clyde Namuo, the commission’s executive director, said in a phone interview Thursday. But it gave the preliminary registry to the nonprofits to comply with a Circuit Court order issued in June, he said.
The 2,020-page document given to the nonprofit groups leads off with Daniel Kahikina Akaka, the former U.S. senator, as the first registrant. The list provided by the commission was on paper, and the names are not alphabetical. But the online version made available by the Grassroot Institute and Judicial Watch does allow readers to perform simple searches for names on the document.
“The Native Hawaiian Roll Commission has obstructed the process of the public getting this information, which belongs to the public, since we began to ask for it last year,” Keli‘i Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute, said Thursday, noting that even after the delays it was released in “a very unusable format.”
“This is clearly not in the spirit of a public agency being accountable to the citizenry, let alone to the Native Hawaiian people,” he said.
Individuals have long been able to check online at the roll commission to see whether their name was included on the registry, and a preliminary paper list was made available in public libraries last spring. But this is the first time the entire list has been posted online for public review.
The commission launched its Kanaiolowalu registry initiative in July 2012 and signed up more than 40,000 registrants. To bolster the numbers, it also incorporated names from previous Native Hawaiian registries, such as Kau Inoa, Operation Ohana and the Hawaiian Registry.
People whose names were on earlier registries had to contact the commission if they wanted to be removed from the roll. As of Thursday afternoon about 1,000 people had been removed at their request, according to commission staff.
Judicial Watch, a self-described conservative foundation based in Washington, D.C., and the Grassroot Institute, which focuses on individual liberty, object to the fact that the lists were incorporated without the explicit consent of registrants.
“We have been contacted by numerous Native Hawaiians who were deeply troubled by the fact that their name was on the Native Hawaiian Roll list,” Akina said. “They had only signed up for previous, nonpolitical lists like Kau Inoa, which did not require them to ‘affirm the unrelinquished sovereignty of the Hawaiian people,’ the declaration required for all applicants to the Kanaiolowalu.”
“Grassroot Institute has no problem with Native Hawaiians seeking self-determination or using the First Amendment right to express themselves,” he added. “We do have a problem with the state and federal government using public resources against the people’s will to pursue such a path.”
To sign up for Kanaiolowalu, registrants must be descendants of the aboriginal people who lived in the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778. They must also affirm the sovereignty of the Hawaiian people and declare that they have a significant cultural, social or civic connection to the Native Hawaiian community.
Since providing the preliminary list to the nonprofits, the commission has certified a shorter list of fewer than 100,000 people whose ancestry it has verified, Namuo said. That certified list will be posted on its website at kanaiolowalu.org, also reachable via hawaiianroll.org.
“Our list should be coming up soon,” Namuo said.
The commission also plans to give an electronic, searchable database, including addresses, to Na‘i Aupuni, an independent organization formed in December and led by a volunteer board to help establish a path to Hawaiian self-determination. The roll will form the base for electing delegates to a governance aha, or constitutional convention, that is expected to consider different options for Hawaiian self-determination.
“The reason why they are getting an actual searchable database is because they will be responsible for managing delegate elections,” Namuo said, as was envisioned in the law that created the registry.
The Kanaiolowalu Registry stems from a state law enacted in 2011 recognizing Native Hawaiians as the only indigenous people of the islands and creating the commission to identify them. The law made clear that the list of names would be public, similar to a voter registration list, Namuo noted.
He expects more names to be added to the registry in the coming months, and the commission will also continue to let people remove their names if they so choose.
“Once Na‘i Aupuni announces the delegate elections, there will be additional interest in signing up,” Namuo predicted.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton anticipates more people will opt out once they see their names on the list.
“I am sure too many Hawaiians will learn that they have been registered, without their permission, on a race-based enrollment list to help radicals in Hawaii tear the state apart and break away from the United States of America,” Fitton said.