Hawaiian natives fight for their land.

Author:Hannah, Aja
 
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For centuries, the Native Hawaiian people struggled against the United States government to defend their land and customs. The fight continues in 2016, with scientists and the native population at odds over how to best preserve the 'aina, or land.

Historically, scientific progress has almost always trumped Native Hawaiian rights and traditions. Land would be closed to the public, fenced off, and used for science. But co-ops and associations are trying new strategies to bring science and tradition together.

Most recently, this conflict can be seen in the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. When the expansion was proposed, Native Hawaiians protested the sudden seizure of their traditional lands by the federal government. Small gatherings and rallies followed until a rally at Honolulu's Pier 38 in July drew 200 opponents of the expansion. Former Hawaii Governor George Ariyoshi addressed the crowd. "We should not let the federal government come in and tell us what to do with our ocean," he said.

Chefs and longline fishermen held signs saying "Fishing Means Food" and "MVP Most Valuable Poke," a reference to Hawaii's beloved raw-fish salad. Former Governor Benjamin Cayetano, former Senator Daniel Akaka, and Ariyoshi wrote a joint letter to the President about their opposition, which stated that "Native Hawaiian rights and Hawaii State rights have not been considered and there is no transparency in the process."

At the start of August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held two public meetings on Oahu and Kauai on the matter. Comments from the islands of Hawaii and Maui had to be submitted in writing.

On August 26, with the support of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), President Obama quadrupled the size of the monument under the Antiquities Act. Now, it covers 582,578 square miles of the northwestern islands and ocean.

Because of its no-catch, no-commercial fishing policy, this "blue park" will be a sanctuary for endangered species like the Hawaiian monk seal, the short-tailed albatross, and the blue whale. In fact, a quarter of the species found within the expanded monuments territory do not live anywhere else in the world. Conservation on the islands in the monument is also crucial, because almost 87 percent of Hawaii's endemic plant species are threatened with extinction, according to a release by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The monument, wrote Hawaii Governor David Ige in a letter to the President, "strikes the right...

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