Gayle Kawaipuna Prejean
Gayle Kawaipuna Prejean (April 14, 1943 – April 14, 1992), was a Native Hawaiian aloha ʻāina advocate and activist that dedicated his life to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and protection of Hawaiian rights. During the Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970’s, Prejean was said to be a pioneer of Hawaiian sovereignty, being one of the first Kanaka Maoli to advocate for Native Hawaiian independence at the United Nations in Geneva. In 1974, Prejean became a founder of the Hawaiian Coalition of Native Claims, which would later become the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, as it is known today. As Native Hawaiians faced continued challenges in obtaining leases from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Prejean, alongside Randolph Kalahiki, Roy Ula Kawelo, and Steve Morse, conceptualized a law firm that would focus solely on Native Hawaiian rights. Their efforts were successful, and 40 years later the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation is still an active non-profit law firm specializing in Hawaiian land rights, use of natural resources, and Hawaiian sovereignty.
In the late 70’s, Prejean went on to become one of the “Kahoʻolawe Nine,” helping formulate the movement that would successfully end the US Navy’s bombing of the island. Prejean continued to advocate for Hawaiian rights and sovereignty until the day died, at the young age of 49. Just before his death, Prejean was actively fighting to end the construction of the Interstate H-3 on Oʻahu, which destroyed countless traditional sites, negatively impacted native species, and contributed to the ongoing marginalization of predominantly Native Hawaiian communities. Today we remember Kawaipuna Prejean as an exemplar of Hawaiian activism and a revolutionary of advocate for our sovereignty. His legacy lives on in each of us, as we continue to stand for our rights to self-determination.