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One of 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.

The appointment 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.

Then less 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 the event.

Hawaiian 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.

Ian Lind