20th Hawaiian Indigenous Convention to feature keynote address by nation’s first Native American cabinet secretary

As Robin Danner scanned the booklet for the first Native Hawaiian convention 20 years ago, she experienced an unexpected flood of emotions. As the founder and first CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, which hosts the annual conventions, she said she hasn’t looked at the booklet in years and still remembers some of the initial discussions about the inaugural gathering.

As the CNHA nears the 20-year milestone this year, Danner said two words come to mind: immense love.

“It’s amazing,” said Danner, who served as CEO until 2015 and is currently chair of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Property Associations, the largest statewide organization representing all beneficiaries of native Hawaiian family properties. “The CNHA’s mission was to create a place and set the table for different disciplines to come together and serve organizations. “

Founded in 2001, CNHA, a non-profit organization that seeks to enhance the cultural, economic, political and community development of Native Hawaiians through programs and other resources, will commemorate its 20th Native Hawaiian Convention Monday through Wednesday. The three-day conference, held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will feature workshops on a variety of topics including hooponopono, economic development, a gubernatorial panel, hula and housing.

CNHA President and CEO Kuhio Lewis said some new and exciting additions to this year’s convention include an opening address from the US Department of Home Affairs Deb Haaland, the first Native American to occupy the post of cabinet secretary; Krystal Ka’ai, graduate of Kamehameha Schools and new executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; a panel of investors who will review and possibly fund participants’ business and community presentations; and an update from the US Census Bureau on its most recent data.

Lewis said about 1,000 participants are expected.

“The Hawaiian community is very diverse, so keeping people together is essential,” he said. “If there’s one thing the CNHA should never give up, it’s this convention. It’s important culturally and to be together. It is a platform to talk about our future, and without it we go back to silos.

Ray Soon, one of the founding members of CNHA, said that in the early 2000s there were disagreements on several key issues, but the convention was just one tool among many to put differences aside. and focus on how to advance the indigenous Hawaiian community.

Lewis added that he couldn’t think of any other similar conventions open to the public. He said past conventions have also given rise to important ideas and initiatives, such as the popular Pop-Up Makeke, an online marketplace that seeks to support local artisans and businesses.

Danner said about 500 people attended the first convention at the Sheraton Waikiki. The theme was strength through unity, and she still remembers discussing with the other founders about where to hold it.

“The result of this discussion was that it should be in the heart of Waikiki,” she said. “Hawaiians must be visible in our homeland and in… the center of our state’s economic power, and not shy away from it. Every CNHA convention has taken place in and around Waikiki.

Flipping through the convention’s first booklet, Danner said the CNHA held workshops on education, affordable housing, genealogy, health, Native Hawaiian rights, academic resources, arts and culture, etc.

A special moment of that first convention, she said, was the presence of Native American Indian and Alaska Native community leaders to lend their support. Danner, who had worked as an executive for a tribal housing authority before founding CNHA, said the leaders treated them “like beloved younger siblings. They knew because we were embarking on a journey that they had already taken.

She said she looked forward to many more steps to come.

“The Native Hawaiian community continues to contribute to the well-being of Hawaii,” Danner said. “It’s about elevating that and raising awareness. CNHA belongs to the multitude. I am proud of our community.

To register for the convention, visit hawaiiancouncil.org/convention. Registration is open to the public; the cost is $ 150 for non-members. The CNHA also offers scholarships for those who need help covering registration fees.

Jayna Omaye covers ethnic and cultural affairs and is a member of the body of Report for America, a national service organization that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues and communities.

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