ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — In East Anchorage, the signs outside of a local poké business have been taken down.
Natasha Kahele, owner of Lei’s Poke Stop says it's rebranding after receiving a cease-and-desist from a Chicago-based chain named Aloha Poke Co., saying to remove the words 'Aloha' and 'Poke' in combination with each other.
The cease-and-desist letter Aloha Poke Co. says the words 'Aloha' and 'Poke' are trademarked.
Kahele says it has rebranded from Aloha Poke Stop to Lei’s Poke Stop.
"It was a lot more emotional for us being that we native Hawaiians and being told we are not able to use those two words," Kahele said. "Something that is very unique to our culture that is our native language."
E.J. David says he is a regular customer and feels like it is wrong for the business to have to change their name.
"I think it is the epitome of colonialism and the legacy of colonialism and it's a perfect example of cultural appropriation," David said.
That sentiment is being shared by many others on social media. An online petition with more than 35,000 signatures as of Tuesday night calls on Aloha Poke Co. to "'cease and desist' from the use of the words 'Aloha', 'Aloha Poke' and 'Poke' from all current and future businesses.'"
Aloha Poke Co. issued a statement on Facebook, saying in part "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."
Reports of cease-and-desist letters have also been sent to poke businesses in Washington and Hawaii.
Kahele says, she hopes that future Hawaiian families doing business will not be restricted from using their own language.