Sunday, July 07, 2019

Hawaii teachers celebrate vote to acknowledge native people at NEA

'It's super important as Kanaka Maoli to show that respect and honor.'

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On Sunday, the National Education Association's Representative Assembly adopted a change that resonated with many in Hawaii.

New Business Item (NBI) 64 proposed: "At the beginning of all NEA convenings, NEA will acknowledge the native people of whom this land originated."

It passed without opposition.

The measure struck a chord with several Hawaii delegates, including Uluhani Waialeale, a teacher at Kualapuu Public Conversion Charter School on Molokai.

"For me, as a Native Hawaiian Kanaka Maoli, it's important because we look to the aina as our ancestors, our kupuna, and our direct connection to the land. So because of this foundation of love and respect to our kupuna, it's automatic that we acknowledge them wherever we are, but it's super important as Kanaka Maoli to show that respect and honor," she said. "So when I read up on New Business Item 64, I just had that feeling in my gut, my naau, that this was something I feel passionate about... Sometimes we feel like we're invisible on a national scale, but to just have that beginning honor will set the stage that we do have native people here that we should pay honor and respect to."

The NBI was initiated by Martin Thompson, a delegate with the California Teachers Association. Waialeale and other Hawaii delegates reached out to him Sunday morning.

"We said, 'We're very interested in supporting you. Can you let us know what is your game plan?'" she said. "He got the mic strategy paper to us so we actually decided to flood the mics in support. I was worried about opposition, but because we didn't have any, it's just so nice to know that NEA has that love and respect for native people."

More than 100 delegates from Hawaii, along with 6,000 from across the country, have been in Houston all week for the NEA Representative Assembly. It is the largest democratic deliberative assembly in the world.

Meetings took place July 3–7 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, where members set policy and charted the direction of NEA business to further support public education in America.