Ruling threatens Hawaiians

Kamehameha decision implications spark concern

The Maui News
August 25, 2003

Staff Writer

WAILUKU — In the wake of a federal judicial ruling last week requiring a non-Hawaiian to be enrolled at the Kamehameha Schools, a retired Hawaiian judge said the ruling sets a worrisome precedent, while a Hawaiian homestead leader pointed out that the schools accept all ethnicities, without exception.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra on Wednesday granted an injunction that required Kamehameha to enroll a non-Hawaiian 7th-grader from Kauai. The injunction is in place pending a court ruling on a lawsuit challenging the school's admissions policy, which gives preference to students of Hawaiian ancestry.

Boyd Mossman, president of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association Maui and himself a retired state Circuit Court judge, said he is concerned about the "effect the precedent will set, and has set."

"The survival of the Hawaiian culture is tied into this," said Mossman, who also serves as Maui trustee for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

"As we at OHA are struggling to obtain recognition of the federal government as a people, this particular incident reinforces the threat that the Hawaiian people as an indigenous people (face) by those who would eliminate us from any recognition by law," he said.

"If we don't resolve this matter with fairness and justice, then we will see the termination of the culture."

One Maui community leader said the schools' Hawaiians-preference admissions policy does not exclude any ethnicity.

"Every nationality goes to Kamehameha School, so it's not a racial thing," said Lehua Clubb, president of the Waiehu Kou Hawaiian Homestead Community Association who also attended Kamehameha. "All (the school) is asking for is a tinge of Hawaiian.

"If you say hanai (adoption) is cultural, then that means that anybody in Hawaii can go to the school; so I'm against (the ruling). . . . If you send this child to Kamehameha, you are opening doors for everybody. It will be a private (school), but anybody will go," she said.

The Kamehameha Schools was founded in 1887 under the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, great granddaughter and last royal descendant of Kamehameha the Great.

Dottie Aganos of Waiehu, a Kamehameha alumna, said, "The will should be honored because if I was to leave something to my son, I wouldn't want some judge telling me I couldn't do that.

"I would never tamper with someone's will," she said.

The Kauai student, Brayden Kekoa Mohica-Cummings, began attending the Kamehameha Schools on Oahu when classes started Thursday.

His mother is the hanai, or adopted, child of a Hawaiian man she listed as her father on her son's Kamehameha application. The schools originally admitted the boy but rescinded the acceptance when the mother could not prove she was of Hawaiian ancestry.

Kamehameha accepts students who can verify some Hawaiian ancestry. No specific blood quantum is required; however, in the case of adoptions, the school looks at the biological ancestry of the applicant's parents.

A non-Hawaiian attending Kamehameha is a familiar issue on the Valley Isle. In July 2002, a non-Hawaiian student was invited to attend the Kamehameha Schools Maui Campus, sparking criticism and feelings of anger and frustration in the Hawaiian community.

The student, Kalani Rosell, had completed 7th grade at Iao Intermediate when he was accepted to Kamehameha. The student's family could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. of Pukalani called the acceptance of Rosell by Kamehameha admissions staff members "the biggest mistake they did last year."

A member of the Kamehameha board of advisers, Maxwell said he and Mossman will attend an emergency meeting at the Kamehameha Schools this week.

"It's a very hurtful thing that someone can, through the courts, force a child to (be accepted) to Kamehameha School when many of my grandchildren or children cannot enjoy that possibility of going to Kamehameha School," Maxwell said.

"The sad part of it is the princess' will," he said.

Maxwell noted that the princess saw in the late 19th century the Hawaiian population decimated in numbers to 40,000 due to western diseases and other factors.

"Now it's a different kind of elimination of Hawaiians," he said. "We make up all of the social ills in society today. Hawaiian or little Hawaiian — society is not helping them."

Ezra said the injunction he granted was not an indication of how he felt about the legality of the schools' Hawaiians-preference admissions policy.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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