the turning points in modern Hawai'i politics came in June 1971 following
the appointment of influential attorney, politician, and real estate
developer Matsuo Takabuki as a trustee of the Bishop Estate, the state's
largest private landowner. The Estate, established to benefit children
of Native Hawaiian descent, was both a central social institution in
the Hawaiian community and a key player in the political decisions then
shaping the future of the island state.
of Takabuki, a close associate of then-Governor John Burns, triggered
a wave of protest. Initial reactions were relatively modest. Hawaiian
leaders formed an Ad Hoc Committee to oppose the choice. On June 23,
1971, a small group of less than two dozen Hawaiians picketed in front
of Bishop Estate headquarters and outside the Hawaii Supreme Court,
which wielded the power to appoint trustees.
than a month later, on July 17, 1971, a protest march through the center
of Waikiki drew more than 1,000 Hawaiians of all ages and backgrounds,
from activist university students to older Hawaiians protesting publicly
for the first time. My mother marched for the first time, as did many
of her longtime friends. Hundreds more were on hand to greet the marchers
when they arrived at the Kapiolani Park bandstand, where a rally capped
opposition did not succeed in derailing Takabuki's appointment, but
it drew a broad segment of the community into political action for the
first time and set the stage for the Hawaiian renaissance that has followed,
from the creation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 1978 to the ongoing
quest for Hawaiian sovereignty.