Native Hawaiians from across the nation will participate in a series of protests over the next week against what organizers are calling “aggressive efforts” by Aloha Poke Company “to assert ownership over the Native Hawaiian word ‘aloha .'”
The “Aloha Not For Sale” campaign includes three peaceful rallies, a march and an educational workshop beginning Friday, August 10, and continuing through Wednesday, August 15. (The complete schedule is posted below.)
The company responded to recent backlash on July 30th, saying, “a significant amount of misinformation about Aloha Poke Co. has been shared on social media.” In the statement , the company said, “Perhaps the most important issue that needs to be set straight is the false assertion that Aloha Poke Co. has attempted to own either the word “Aloha” or the word “Poke”. Neither is true and we would never attempt to do so. Not ever.”
The protests are being coordinated by a coalition of Native Hawaiian organizations from Chicago, Hawaiʻi and Alaska. The coalition is led by Lanialoha Lee of the Aloha Center Chicago, a multi-media resource cultural center in Chicago dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of Native Hawaiian and South Pacific Arts.
Organizers say the protests are in response to the Aloha Poke Company sending cease-and-desist letters to poke restaurants in Hawaiʻi, Alaska and other places “demanding that they stop using aloha in their names.” Aloha Poke Company claims to hold the trademarks for aloha and poke.
Organizers say “Aloha means love, hello and goodbye in the traditional language of Native Hawaiians, the indigenous people of Hawaiʻi. Poke is a traditional Native Hawaiian dish of small, cubed raw fish that is becoming popular throughout the United States.” The controversy, organizers say, has “outraged” many in the Native Hawaiian community.
“Aloha Poke Company’s trademark represents the most reprehensible form of cultural appropriation ,” said Kamanaʻopono Crabbe, Chief Executive Officer of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a state agency in Hawaiʻi that is participating in the protests. “Aloha Poke Company mistakenly believes that they can steal our culture, claim ownership over it, sell it and then prevent us from ever using it again. In our native language, we call this hewa (wrong).”
An online petition  against Aloha Poke Company already has received more than 160,000 signatures.
Joining the protests in Chicago will be members of the Kahele family, the owners of the poke store in Anchorage, Alaska, that received a cease-and-desist letter from Aloha Poke Company. To avoid potential litigation, the Kahele family recently re-named their store Lei’s Poke Stop.
Stand for Aloha Sign Waving
Friday, August 10, 2018
12 to 1 p.m.
303 W. Madison St. Chicago, IL 60606
Rally Workshop with Kumu and Hawaiian Activist Vicky Holt-Takamine
Sunday, August 12, 2018
5 to 8 p.m.
Amundsen High School Auditorium
5110 N. Damen Ave (corner of Damen and Foster)
Chicago, IL 60625
Rally and March to Aloha Poke Co (Clark Street)
Monday, August 13, 2018
10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Meet up and initial rally at Millennium Monument at 10:30 a.m. (201 E. Randolph Street)
March through downtown Chicago 11 a.m.
Rally outside of Aloha Poke on Clark Street 12 to 1 p.m. (125 S. Clark St)
Peaceful Rally (W Fullerton)
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
818 W. Fullerton
Chicago, IL 60614
For more information on the Aloha Not For Sale campaign, visit www.alohanotforsale.com.
A delegation of Native Hawaiian organizations from Hawaiʻi will also travel to Chicago to participate in the protests. Hawaiʻi based organizations attending include:
Office of Hawaiian Affairs – Established by the state Constitutional Convention in 1978, OHA is a semi-autonomous agency of the state of Hawaiʻi. OHA is mandated to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians. Guided by a board of nine publicly elected trustees, OHA fulfills its mandate through advocacy, research, community engagement, land management and the funding of community programs.
ʻĪlioʻulaokalani Coalition – ʻĪlioʻulaokalani Coalition is a Native Hawaiian political advocacy organization comprised of kumu hula (hula teachers) and other cultural practitioners. Founded in 1997, the coalition has been at the forefront of advocating for the protection of Native Hawaiian rights, culture and land. ʻĪlioʻulaokalani held conferences on Native Hawaiian intellectual property rights in 2003, 2004 and 2007. The first conference led to the adoption of the Paoakalani Declaration, a statement affirming the Native Hawaiian people’s collective right, as the creators of their traditional knowledge, to protect their cultural expressions from misuse by individuals who behave disrespectfully and inconsistently with their worldview, customs and traditions.
Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement  – CNHA is a member-based Native Hawaiian nonprofit organization led and governed by a 21-member board of directors elected by its 160 due-paying members, which are Native Hawaiian organizations and business owners. Its mission is to enhance the cultural, economic, political and community development of Native Hawaiians.