The Legislature’s Kuleana for DHHL


Kathryn Mackenzie

During the recent Senate confirmation hearing for Ikaika Anderson as head of Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) an important argument was brought up many times. Should the head of DHHL focus on the trust or the beneficiaries?

The line should be clear to lawmakers though. The State Constitution clearly lays out, in Article XII, Section 1, that the legislature shall make sufficient sums available to administer the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act in full faith and in the spirit with which the Act was written. The fiduciary responsibility lays with the legislature, not the administration or the department itself.

Sen. Les Ihara spoke at length on how he wants a candidate for the DHHL position who is focused on the trust, not the beneficiaries. I ask this senator, when will you focus on the trust? When will you push the legislature to fulfill its constitutional obligations to the trust and fund it fully every year until the waitlist has been exhausted?

Yes, last year $600 million was appropriated to DHHL but you, Sen. Ihara, have been in the legislature for decades and have not had the trust in mind. Maybe, you too, should no longer be considered for the job you hold. As majority policy leader you have not used that position to prioritize the fulfillment of the State’s trust duties to DHHL. Your statements in Ikaika Anderson’s hearing not only upheld the belief that the trust is more important than the beneficiaries but was yet another example of how the legislature continues to mislead the public on who has the true duty to ensure DHHL is fully funded.

The head of the department is an administrator. The job is to administer the funds appropriated by the legislature to rehabilitate the native Hawaiian people. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has no requirement to be self-funding and legislators suggesting that it does, whether through confirmation questioning or bills designed to make it so, are quite simply failing to uphold the fiduciary responsibility of their offices.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands needs an administrator who will, in accordance with the terms and spirit of the Act, put native Hawaiians on the lands that have been held in trust for them. I expect better from my government, better from legislators we elect to be our voices. I write this to remind not only my legislator, Sen. Les Ihara, of his responsibility, but to remind all those in our state Legislature of the constitutional obligations they have to the native Hawaiian people.