Smith sought calm in sovereignty debate

ANAHOLA – Independence advocate Hanalei Henry Smith was a Hawaiian with


His family members and friends say Smith displayed that quality in

addressing an issue that was close to his heart: Sovereignty.

He could

have joined militant Kanaka maoli (the aboriginal people of Hawai’i) to push

for the resurrection of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Instead, his family member and

friends said, he chose his own path, speaking for calm and reason and

initiating friendly discussion on the issue.

Smith, 64, died Sept. 17. He

had suffered an aneurysm last month.

A memorial service is scheduled for

Sept. 30 at Aliomanu River.

Because he was not physically able to do so

after the attack, he had his daughter testify on his behalf at a meeting on

Kaua’i related to federal legislation recognizing a relationship between the

United States and Native Hawaiians. Smith condemned the bill.

Smith used

the court system to challenge the title of lands in Princeville, Kilauea and

Kealia owned by private developers, said Butch Kekahu, a close friend and a

sovereignty advocate.

Smith felt the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in

1893 was illegal and believed the court system offered solutions, said

longtime friend and sovereignty advocate Michael Grace.

“He was more

legal-minded,” Grace said. ” He wanted to do things peacefully.”

In the

late 1980s, Smith joined other Hawaiians in what they said at the time was the

peaceful occupation of a vacant Department of Hawaiian Homelands lot on the

mountainside of Anahola Beach.

Along with Grace and his wife, Sondra,

Smith served 45 days on contempt charges related to the occupation of the


State officials said the occupation was illegal and amounted to

trespassing. Smith and others argued the waiting line for the land was too

long and that they had the right to use it.

In 1996, Smith felt first hand

the pain of fighting for sovereignty and ongoing disputes with Department of

Hawaiian Home Lands.

His brother, Kahale Hilbert Smith, had a

long-standing dispute with the state agency over the workmanship of a DHHL home

he occupied in Anahola. In January 1996, he poured gasoline on the house, set

it on fire, barricaded himself inside and died.

The brothers were

“warriors,” said Sondra Grace. “They never stopped believing that justice could

come back to the Hawaiian people.”

At meetings, Henry Smith talked about

the need for the Kanaka maoli to be united to carry out self-determination, she


“Henry would help anyone who had questions about land titles,” Kekahu

said. “He reminded people that the title of the lands belongs with the Hawaiian


His father’s belief in independence and his notions of what was

right and wrong helped shape him, said Kamealoha Smith, a Hawaiian and Japanese

language instructor at Kapiolani Community College on O’ahu, and one of Henry

Smith’s eight children. “We grew up with his teachings that the nation was

whole. He influenced my decision in what I am doing now.”

His father,

Smith said, “was very committed to the children. Through him, we leaned about

ohana and aloha. I really appreciated my dad.”

Staff writer Lester

Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and [



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