The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation’s 2017 Native Hawaiian Advocate of the Year is Professor Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie. On Wednesday, October 11, 2017, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) honored Professor MacKenzie during the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s annual conference.

Professor MacKenzie’s commitment to the betterment of the conditions of Native Hawaiians is second to none. She graduated from the William S. Richardson School of Law in 1976 and served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Wiliam S. Richardson before joining the staff of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation in 1981. At NHLC, she served as a staff attorney, executive director and senior staff attorney. She was also the chief editor of the Native Hawaiian Rights Handbook, published in 1991. While with NHLC, Melody worked on cases asserting Hawaiian traditional and customary rights, dealing with quiet title and land issues, and defending the constitutionality of Native Hawaiian programs. Her carefully crafted legal briefs and logic driven arguments confirmed her keen intellect and compassionate heart.

Transitioning from litigator to professor, Melody began teaching courses in Native Hawaiian Rights, Federal Indian Law and legal writing at the William S. Richardson School of Law. She now heads Ka Huli Ao, a center within the law school that stresses academic education, scholarship, community outreach and collaboration on issues of law, culture and justice for Native Hawaiians. In 2013, she was awarded the University of Hawaiʻi Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching. Professor MacKenzie is currently the acting dean of the law school.