A Force to be Reckoned With

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Lōkahi (nvs. Unity, agreement, accord, unison, harmony, agreed, in unity)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

ʻUmia ka hanu! Hoʻokahi ka umauma, ke kīpoʻohiwi i ke kīpoʻohiwi; Hold the breath! Walk abreast, shoulder to shoulder.

This ʻōlelo noʻeau speaks to the importance of being in one accord, as in “exerting every effort to lift a heavy weight to the shoulder and to keep together in carrying it along.” It is an appropriate reminder as we begin this new year at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).

This ʻōlelo noʻeau is a vision of all nine trustees working in one accord, unified as leaders of our organization and our people, and together shouldering the kaumaha (weight) of their collective kuleana to our lāhui.

It is the very image of lōkahi – a concept that Chair Hulu speaks passionately about and models with the Board of Trustees. At its most basic, lōkahi means “unity.” But it is more than simply presenting a united front – it also refers to an “agreement in mind” or a “unanimity of sentiment.”

There is much work ahead this year for OHA – and to achieve our goals we absolutely must work together, fully embracing a spirit of lōkahi.

The state’s failure to provide OHA with its rightful 20% pro rata share of Public Land Trust (PLT) revenue continues to hinder our efforts to provide the level of funding, programs, research and advocacy needed to make the kind of social- economic-political impact that our people deserve. OHA’s involvement in the state’s PLT working group in the coming year will be critical.

Another focus for 2023 is Hakuone, OHA’s 30 acres of land at Kakaʻako Makai. At issue is an outdated 17-year-old law that prevents the development of homes ma kai of Ala Moana Boulevard – despite the preponderance of luxury condos being built on the ma uka side of the street.

We will push to have that law changed during the upcoming legislative session to enable OHA to fulfill its vision of developing the area as an “economic engine” for our lāhui – a distinctly Hawaiian gathering place in Honolulu that includes Native Hawaiian businesses, health and healing areas, art centers, restaurants – and housing that kamaʻāina can actually afford.

I am optimistic about our future. The legislature’s Native Hawaiian Caucus remain staunch allies. And Gov. Josh Green’s recently announced cabinet picks include Native Hawaiians in key roles including Housing Chief Nani Medeiros, Hawaiian Homes Commission Chair Ikaika Anderson, Department of Transportation Director Ed Sniffen, and, for the first time in history, two Native Hawaiian women – Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Dawn Chang and Department of Land and Natural Resources First Deputy Laura Kaʻakua – will lead the state in the stewardship of our lands.

While there is tremendous work ahead in so many different areas, if Native Hawaiians join together in lōkahi, and stay focused on that which unites us – our aloha for our ʻohana, moʻomeheu (culture) and ʻāina – we will be a force to be reckoned with.

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer