Candidate: Zuri “Z” Aki
‘Aha District: O‘ahu
Address: 95-175 Wailawa St. Mililani, HI 96789
Phone: (808) 554-1011
- What are your qualifications to be a delegate to the ‘aha?
The primary function of the Na‘i Aupuni ‘Aha is to convene Kanaka Maoli representatives for the purpose of identifying whether to proceed with the establishment of a “Native Hawaiian Governing Entity,” and if so, to construct the basic governing documents appropriate to the accorded entity’s form.
I am a Kanaka Maoli well-rooted in Kanaka Maoli culture. I have a B.A. in Hawaiian Studies from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and I have been a very vocal (and arguably prominent) advocate for Kanaka Maoli rights.
I have many years of experience in organizing smaller-scale entities established through governing documents fundamentally similar to those that may be required by the ‘Aha. As a J.D. candidate at William S. Richardson School of Law, I have endeavored the pursuit of legal knowledge in legislative drafting, constitutional law, international law, federal Indian law, and international legal mechanisms for the protection of human rights to name just a relevant few.
- How would you characterize the values of your campaign to be elected as a delegate to the ‘aha for example, with aloha, lōkahi, kūpono, etc.?
My campaign to be elected as a delegate to the ‘Aha is founded upon innumerable principles stemming from my cultural beliefs.
If I could choose one value to encompass the character of my campaign, it would be ‘imiloa (far-seeking). ‘Imiloa embodies the ‘ōlelo no‘eau (adage), I ka wā ma mua, I ka wā ma hope (the time before is the time after) – which in itself describes the entire scope of Kanaka Maoli existence from time immemorial to the unforeseen distant future.
As a Kanaka Maoli, I believe it is my kuleana (responsibility) to carry, with me, the knowledge of my kūpuna (ancestors) – in essence, carrying my kūpuna with me into the future for future generations to continue our collective journey. In that regard, we are a timeless people with ever-expanding knowledge that can and should be used to forever strengthen our continuance in perpetuity.
‘Imiloa characterizes progress into the time after (future), while taking with us, the time before (past).
- What three components of the constitution are you particularly interested in advocating and why?
If the delegation decides to produce a constitution and the Hawaiian people support that determination, then I would be so inclined to find interest in every component of the constitution – from the preamble to the articles and amendments.
The preamble encompasses the purpose and vision of the constitution and its message must be clear, eloquent, and an embodiment of who we are (in the past, present, and future). The preamble would be quoted for centuries, if not millennia to come, and it would be used to interpret the articles and amendments should there be any ambiguity.
The articles and amendments are those provisions of the constitution to which we would bind our entire Nation. So critical are these provisions that the utmost care must be afforded to them: I ka ‘ōlelo no ke ola, I ka ‘ōlelo no ka make (in words there is life and in words there is death). These provisions should elucidate the kind of Nation we are; taking into consideration fundamental human rights, indigenous rights, environmental rights and so on and so forth
- What governance model will you advocate for?
I can’t say that a single model exists that would accommodate and exemplify our uniqueness as a people in this world. We have the luxury of picking and choosing from the best around the world and synthesizing those models with our own traditional cultural models to form something uniquely and effectively our own.
I would advocate for a governance model that is uniquely ours, which is a complimenting blend of our traditional models and the best models/concepts the world has to offer. Our governance model should be similar in scope to that of a direct democracy, where every eligible Kanaka Maoli has the opportunity to vote on important issues, rather than let representatives (representative democracy), alone, determine the character of our Nation. As we are well-aware, currently under a representative democracy, important issues may be guided by special-interests that may not align with our own.
- Are you willing to discuss other governance models?
- How would the governance model that you choose impact the ali‘i trusts, the Hawaiian Homestead Act, federal contracts made with Native Hawaiian businesses; grants provided by the United States for programs and services to the Native Hawaiian people?
I don’t see my advocated governance model as limiting ali‘i trusts, Hawaiian Homestead Act beneficiaries, federal contracts/grants, programs and services to Kanaka Maoli. What my model does is expand the rights, benefits, and increased capacity to have programs and services for all Kanaka Maoli and not just a certain select group who meet the U.S. federal government’s 50% blood quantum requirement.
- In your governance model, would you be inclusive of people other than Native Hawaiians as citizens?
My model has the capacity to be as inclusive as the Hawaiian people want it to be. I, alone, cannot determine whether non-Kanaka Maoli should be included in Kanaka Maoli governance.
- How do you see participation by others in helping the ‘aha on the various aspects of the draft constitution?
I strongly advocate the active participation of all Kanaka Maoli in every stage of this process – including the determination whether to proceed with establishing a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity and its governing documents (i.e. constitution).
Forty delegates will be chosen for the ‘Aha, which will determine an issue, so critical, that it will affect every Kanaka Maoli from time immemorial to perpetuity (all those Kanaka Maoli who came before, those here now, and all those who have yet to be born).
Forty delegates and forty days thereafter is insufficient to determine a matter that has been of critical interest to the Hawaiian people from the beginning of our existence and perhaps even more so within the last 123 years since the overthrow of the independent Hawaiian government.
Every Kanaka Maoli, whether they support the ‘Aha or not, must have the opportunity to participate in this process if it is even to be considered a vehicle for SELF-determination.
- Looking ahead, as a delegate to the ‘aha, how would you assure that the governance model ratified by the Native Hawaiian people is implemented and recognized at the state, federal, or international level, as appropriate.
The ‘Aha is to convene with a membership list comprising less than 25% of the total Kanaka Maoli population. Less than a quarter participation from the Kanaka Maoli population, regarding a matter that affects the entire population, should never be considered appropriate any forum, be it in the State of Hawai‘i, U.S. federal government, or international.
As a delegate to the ‘Aha, I would not assure, but rather, ensure that – if established by the members – the governing entity would serve its purpose to protect Kanaka Maoli interests, while never allowing the governing entity to speak on behalf of Kanaka Maoli nor allow it to relinquish any outstanding Kanaka Maoli claims. Without the participation from every Kanaka Maoli, the process lacks the authority to speak on behalf of every Kanaka Maoli.
- Why should Native Hawaiians vote for you?
I’m a fighter and we are fighting for our survival. We need fighters. I will always fight for our right to exist and to exist under the best possible conditions imaginable – that is our entitlement and we should never settle for anything less.