A Maui District Court Judge on Wednesday issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Kaleikoa Kaeo, a University of Hawaii Maui College assistant professor of Hawaiian studies, after he refused in court to acknowledge himself in the English language.
Kaeo, who was scheduled to start a trial for his 2015 arrest for trying to block a shipment of parts to the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope atop Haleakala, spoke in the Hawaiian language when Judge Blaine Kobayashi asked him repeatedly if he was present for the trial.
While an interpreter was provided for Kaeo during his initial court appearance, Kobayashi in December approved a motion by the Maui Prosecutor’s Office requiring that the trial be conducted in English.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chief Executive Officer Kamanaʻopono Crabbe posted a statement on the OHA website:
“The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is deeply disturbed and offended that Hawaiian studies assistant professor Kaleikoa Kaʻeo was prohibited from defending himself in ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi during his court hearing today and that a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Punishing Native Hawaiians for speaking our native language invokes a disturbing era in Hawaiʻi’s history when ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi was prohibited in schools, a form of cultural suppression that substantially contributed to the near extinction of the Hawaiian language,” the statement said.
“It is disappointing that the state government continues to place barriers on ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, 40 years after Hawaiʻi’s constitution was amended to recognize the Hawaiian language as an official language of the state. We demand that the State Judiciary find an immediate solution to this issue,” it said.