AKINA, Keli’i

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Questions
1 Normalization of Hawaiian language and culture is foundational to a thriving lāhui. Please share the traditional/cultural practices that are part of your daily life and any ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi background or experience.
2 What do you feel are the biggest barriers to affordable housing opportunities for Native Hawaiians? What can be done to overcome these barriers or otherwise provide greater housing opportunities for Native Hawaiians?
3 UH’s mismanagement of Maunakea has garnered significant attention in recent years, and for many is yet another example of sacred sites being neglected, mismanaged, or even desecrated across the islands. What have you done to better ensure the appropriate treatment of Hawaiʻi’s sacred sites and spaces?

Photo: Kelii Akina

Email: wkakina@gmail.com
Website: www.keliiakina.com
AGE: 62
OCCUPATION: OHA Trustee-at-Large and President/CEO, Grassroot Institute of Hawaiʻi
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: Honolulu, Oʻahu
SCHOOL(S) ATTENDED: Kamehameha Schools, Northwestern University (B.A.), University of Hawaiʻi (M.A., Ph.D.)
CURRENT RESIDENCE: Honolulu, Oʻahu


  1. My first exposure to ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi was from my Tutu-lady Alice Wahine Akina, whose Baibala Hemolele is one of my most cherished possessions. I later studied Hawaiian at Kamehameha where I became the school court chanter. Eventually, I chanted for the hālau of a renowned kumu hula, with whom I transcribed a collection of ancient chants. That training gave me a deep appreciation for Hawaiian knowledge and equipped me for my Masters and Ph.D. degrees from UH Mānoa in East-West philosophy and ethics. To this day, chanting is an important personal and cultural practice.
  2. OHA needs to exercise greater kuleana for the Hawaiian Homelands, where tragically more than 27,000 applicants are on the waiting list. DHHL is land-rich but cash-poor. OHA can become cash-rich and help finance homestead infrastructure as well as help all Hawaiians gain access to housing. If re-elected I will continue to pursue my 3-point plan to develop OHA’s trust fund and build wealth for Hawaiians: (1) Protect the Trust through audits and sound fiscal policies; (2) Grow the Trust by developing the financial potential of Kakaʻako Ma Kai and other properties; and, (3) Use the Trust for the real needs of Hawaiians, especially housing. OHA can also partner with stakeholders, the Aliʻi trusts, and developers to create innovative solutions.
  3. While I have served as a watchdog to protect the OHA trust from fraud, waste, and abuse, I am pleased in the majority of votes, to have stood with my fellow trustees to mālama our sacred ʻĀina. With respect to Maunakea, though trustees have differing views as to the TMT, we have stood together for the pono management of the Mauna to protect its unique cultural and environmental value. I have also been passionately committed to the preservation of sacred spaces such as the Kūkaniloko Birthstones site and am proud of our restoration efforts. Based upon input from OHA beneficiaries into our strategic plan, I have promoted good stewardship of existing legacy lands rather than acquiring more, until OHA funds are sufficient for housing and other urgent needs of the beneficiaries. I have also worked to ensure qualified candidates are recommended by OHA for board positions on the Council that oversees burial sites under the state Historic Preservation Law. The value of Mālama ʻĀina captures my heart whenever I visit Waimea Falls, which OHA wonderfully maintains, and chant at the burial site of high priest Hewahewa, one of the first Hawaiians to become a Christian.

View more of this candidate’s manaʻo from the Ka Wai Ola News 2020 Primary Election Survey