Native school a bright light for Hawaii

Bigotry and prejudice are wrong no matter the context in American society.

Hawaii professor Ken Conklin’s rip on the Daily’s Jason Ketola is another sad illustration of his personal crusade against federal recognition for Native Hawaiians. Conklin chooses to ignore what has happened to the natives of Hawaii in the past two centuries. This is an important discussion, but what’s more important is to make sure we’re grounded in facts, not prejudice.

For comprehensive, factual information regarding S. 147 – the “Akaka Bill” – go to www.oha.org or www.cnha.org. While Conklin pursues canceling public support for Hawaii’s most at-risk ethnic group, Conklin crosses a line when he allows his anti-Hawaiian zeal to spill over into an attack on a private Native Hawaiian trust, the Kamehameha Schools. This is a 120-year-old private educational institution, established and funded entirely through private resources, that is dedicated to improving the capability and well-being of the Hawaiian people through education.

Ironically, Kamehameha was founded specifically to help slow and reverse the decline of a people who, for 1,000 years prior to contact, had thrived. Kamehameha is a wonderful gift left to Native Hawaiians by one of their ali’i – rulers – Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Princess Pauahi left her ancestral land for the foundation and perpetual operation of the Kamehameha Schools with the belief that education would help Native Hawaiians overcome marginalization. Generations of Hawaii residents, native and nonnative, recognize and respect Kamehameha as vital to the restoration of the Hawaiian people and their culture. Kamehameha graduates strengthen Native Hawaiian well-being and the larger community.

While Kamehameha enrolls more than 5,400 students at its three K-12 campuses, its classrooms still fit only a finite number. With 75,000 Native Hawaiian school-age children in the state, Native Hawaiian need always outstrips the services available. Still, Kamehameha strives to fulfill the vision of its founder. Conklin wants to end this, too, apparently because services for Native Hawaiians represent services he cannot have. Bigotry and prejudice are wrong no matter what the context, and American society roundly rejects both. Conklin’s racist attitudes, though couched within jargon-laden academese and junk science, are no less reprehensible. 

Kekoa Paulsen is the spokesman for Kamehemeha Schools. Please send comments to [email protected]