By Hinemoana of Turtle Island: Liza Keanuenueokalani Williams, Lani Teves, Fuifuilupe Niumetolu, Maile Arvin, Kēhaulani Vaughn, and Natalee Kēhaulani Bauer
We are a group of Pacific Islander women, activists, poets, storytellers, mothers, and scholars, living in California and Oregon. We arrived to the West Coast of Turtle Island for a variety of different reasons, but we are far from exceptional in being Pacific Islanders living away from our homelands. As Empowering Pacific Islander Communities has shown in their recent demographic report, there are over 1.2 million Pacific Islanders who live in the US.
Despite these facts, the Department of Interior meetings in Hawaiʻi and consultations with Native American tribes on the continent have largely failed to engage with Native Hawaiians and allied communities living in diaspora. Official Department of Interior consultations were held with Native American tribes in Minnesota, South Dakota, Washington state, Connecticut, and Arizona. However, no official meetings were scheduled for California where 74,932 Native Hawaiians (the largest population outside Hawaiʻi) reside. Three “un-official” meetings were added in Northern California, Southern California, and Las Vegas through the leadership of the Mainland Council of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and individual hula halau. At these un-official meetings, one DOI representative attended and answered questions, but testimonies were not recorded as in the official meetings. Recognizing that our kuleana (responsibility) to our people remains strong despite our locations outside Hawaiʻi, the Kānaka Maoli of our group insist that the voices of the Kanaka Maoli diaspora are essential to conversations about how we recognize and re-build our lāhui.