Helping Fellow Kānaka to Stay in Hawaiʻi

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Photo: Kawehi Onekea

By Kawehi Onekea

Is there anything sadder than a Hawaiian who has to move away or can’t return home because they can’t afford to live in Hawaiʻi?

I wonder if I’ll be the last generation in my family to live here. With home prices near a million dollars I don’t anticipate being able to ever buy a home here, and I fear that unless I can leave property to my sons, the market will continue to price them out of being able to stay.

If you feel in your naʻau that one of our greatest callings is helping fellow Hawaiians stay in and return to Hawaiʻi, join me in taking daily action to make it happen. Many Hawaiians own businesses and rely on them for their entire income or to make ends meet. Support from the lāhui can mean the difference between struggling and surviving.

    1. Buy from Kānaka and choose Kānaka-made. Be conscious of where you spend your money – whether buying goods, services, or dining out. Large corporations may hire local people, but their profits leave our local economy. In contrast, Kānaka keep money in our communities.
    2. Understand that it’s expensive to do business in Hawaiʻi (from shipping costs to rent, fees, and taxes) and expect to pay more. Big box stores can get better shipping rates, outsource labor to cheaper international markets, and buy in bulk. With the support of the community, a small business can grow, achieve scale and eventually lower prices. If you find cheap, handmade, locally sourced, Kānaka-made goods, it’s likely the business owner is underpaid for their time and/or goods and is losing money.
    3. Support the little guys as well as big designer names. We all love MANAOLA, but there are other talented Kānaka who also need your help to succeed.
    4. If you love a Kanaka’s craft, mission, advocacy, or content – support them. Hawaiians are incredibly generous, especially with their manaʻo and ʻike. If you appreciate what they share or how they contribute, give back.

Even if you don’t have much money, you can still kākoʻo:

  1. Share and support Kānaka businesses through social media and word of mouth. Tell people in your circles about this business and why you think they’re cool.
  2. If you have a lot of something – like mango – share to show appreciation, especially to those who give a lot freely. This goes for kumu and community volunteers too.
  3. Finally, remember your fellow Kānaka when you see opportunities. Share opportunities with them and put in a good word.

If we band together and direct our dollars towards the lāhui, we invest in ourselves and can give our brothers and sisters a fighting chance at being able to live where they belong.


Kawehi Onekea is a resident of Kaimukī and founder of Onekea Bros. General Store. She aspires to help others live aloha ʻāina daily through education and inspiration. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @onekeabros.