Conference and Workshop Update

The Center recognizes the importance of discourse between the legal community, the Native Hawaiian community, and the community at large. Law students and faculty—through workshops, symposia, and meetings—inform and educate, and are educated and informed by, the community about significant legal issues regarding Native Hawaiians and their history and law. 

This year, the Center and its staff have been involved in a number of exciting and informative conferences and workshops.

International Developments in Intellectual Property Law: An Indigenous Perspective

On Thursday, April 19, 2007, the Center sponsored International Developments in Intellectual Property Law:  An Indigenous Perspective, featuring Mattias Ahrén of the Saami Council Human Rights Unit. Mr. Ahrén is a Saami from the Swedish side of Sápmi (Saamiland) and is an expert on intellectual property issues and how they affect indigenous peoples’ rights to traditional knowledge and cultural heritage.

A Celebration of Women’s History: He Ho‘olaule‘a No Nā Mo‘olelo o Nā Wāhine
Distinctive Women in Hawaiian History

On Saturday, April 28, 2007, the Center’s Research Fellow, Trisha Kehaulani Watson, spoke at

A Celebration of Women’s History: He Ho‘olaule‘a No Nā Mo‘olelo o Nā Wāhine, Distinctive Women in Hawaiian History at the Mission Memorial Auditorium. Her talk focused on “Queen Ka‘ahumanu: Reconsidering the Roles of Women in the ‘Ainoa and Adoption of Foreign Laws in Hawai‘i.

Federalism and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Comparative Perspectives and Strategies

On January 9-11, 2007, the Center and the Castan Centre for Human Rights at Monash University co-sponsored a successful 3-day conference at the William S. Richardson School of Law: Federalism and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:  Comparative Perspectives and Strategies. The conference featured internationally-recognized legal and Indigenous rights scholars and advocates from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Hawai‘i, who engaged in a dynamic and critical review of the practice of federalism, the distribution of legislative powers, and the struggles of indigenous self-determination in various countries.

The area of comparative federalism has been the subject of much intellectual and judicial activity. What has been missing from this debate, however, is discussion about the practice of federalism on Indigenous rights.  Each jurisdiction, to varying degrees, assumes the non-existence of Indigenous people as polities within the federal system. This conference brought this aspect of federalism to the surface, focusing on each jurisdiction’s laws and practices regarding Indigenous peoples and their rights.

Through paper presentations and lively exchange, conference participants compared and contrasted the ways in which federal and national constitutions structure Indigenous/non-Indigenous legal relations, and suggested strategies for advancing the rights of Indigenous peoples now and into the future. Sessions included: “Successes and Challenges in Structuring Indigenous/Government Relationships”; “Models of Sovereignty and Intergovernmental Relationships”; and “Resources: Land, Waters, Wildlife, Taxation and Revenue, and Governance.” 

Speakers included: Sherry Broder, Melissa Castan, Claire Charters, Gavin Clarkson, Andrew Erueti, David Getches, Hon. Walter Heen, Sarah Joseph, Pōkā Laenui, Hōkūlei Lindsey, Kent McNeil, Melody MacKenzie, Davianna McGregor, Brad Morse, Nell Jessup Newton, Jon Osorio, Khylee Quince, Lindsay Robertson, Lynette Russell, Jonathon Likeke Scheuer, Margaret Stephenson, Mark Stevenson, Nin Tomas, Rebecca Tsosie, Jon Van Dyke, David Yarrow and Christine Zuni Cruz.

The Federalism and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples conference is also part of the Center’s larger research and scholarship agenda. In collaboration with the Castan Centre, a monograph of the presented papers will be published along with a comparative chapter on the conference discussions.  The publication will provide a much-needed analysis of Indigenous rights and comparative federalism. 

Kānaka Maoli, the United States and International Law: A Symposia Series with Mililani Trask

In collaboration with the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies and the Indigenous Politics Program in the UH Department of Political Science, the Center sponsored a symposia series with internationally-recognized native rights attorney and activist, Mililani Trask. The series examined issues of critical importance affecting Kānaka Maoli and other indigenous peoples.

The Friday, March 9th session at the Law School, “The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” focused on the history of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its current status.  It reviewed the U.S. and other states’ objections to provisions relating to self-determination and state sovereignty, and examined indigenous global legal responses. This session was filmed by ‘Ōlelo Community Television.

Native Hawaiian Bar Association Panel

Also on March 9th, the Center’s Director, Melody Kapilialoha McKenzie, and Center Research Fellow, Iokona Baker, conducted a presentation for the Native Hawaiian Bar Association on the Center’s projects and initiatives. In particular, Iokona described and discussed his current research project on Native Hawaiian child welfare issues and the Indian Child Welfare Act.