Native Hawaiians hope to channel demonstrations into power at the polls
On October 5, 2019 thousands of Native Hawaiians marched through Waikiki in one of the biggest Hawaiian movements since the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
However, that political power hasn't always translated into Hawaiians at the polls. Some Native Hawaiians hope to see a change.
Whether it's TMT or Sherwood Forest or even the long DHHL waiting list, many Native Hawaiians say leaders at the State Capitol don't represent their interests.
According to these Native Hawaiians, things have gotten so bad that it's inspiring many to vote for the first time ever.
From Mauna Kea to Waimanalo to Kahuku, a movement is growing.
Peaking a few weeks ago, when more than 20,000 people marched through Waikiki against the Thirty Meter Telescope.
"The question I get most often is what's next? And I think what's next is we really need to get elected officials who represent us as a constituency," Trish Kehaulani Watson said.
Watson wrote an editorial in the Civil Beat urging Native Hawaiians to channel the energy from the streets to the polls.
"I think candidates know that Hawaiians don't really come out to vote. I think they rely on that. I think they count on that, and I hope they realize this is a wake up call," Watson said.
That's easier said than done, Hawaii has one of the worst voter turnouts in the country. In last year's Governor's race barely more than half of Hawaii's registered voters even bothered to show up.
Many Native Hawaiians have refused to protests a government they view as invalid.
"I'm one of them. I don't vote. I never did. Because that invalidates what America did to the Hawaiian Kingdom," one Native Hawaiian kia'i said.
"My mom never voted. I tried to get her to vote. She passed at 90. She never voted. Her entire life was erased as a kanaka," another Native Hawaiian said.
Now, Native Hawaiians are saying things are different. The demonstrators against the Sherwood Forest project have been handing out registration forms.
Since Mauna Kea demonstrations began in July the state saw 8,000 new registered voters.
Statewide that is a little more than normal but heading into next year, they're hoping for even more.