By Robin Puanani Danner and Mike Kahikina
Congratulations to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature and to Hawaiian Home Land beneficiaries on the waitlist and on the land! A special mahalo to all of the homestead public policy advocates that work together year-round to advance greater awareness and understanding of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA)!
The appropriation by the Hawaiʻi State Legislature to fund $600 million to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) as the state agency responsible to fulfill the duties of state government, made to native Hawaiians in 1959 at statehood, is good news.
The section of the bill that attempts to pay people to remove themselves from the waitlist will very likely require Congressional action. There is no provision in the HHCA that would allow the state government to remove someone from the waitlist, to summarily disregard the birthrights of an HHCA beneficiary, even if paid money.
However, the initiative to provide down payment or rental support to an HHCA beneficiary is well within the HHCA. Said simply, these services can definitely be provided, but removal from the waitlist cannot be imposed without Congressional action.
The SCHHA supports the assistance but would adamantly oppose any removal from the waitlist.
Most exciting is that the majority of the $600 million to implement the HHCA and get waitlisted Hawaiians and their families a homestead land award, will be spent on installing infrastructure – power, roads and water to our lands! And indeed, by purchasing additional lands for this purpose too!
Let’s not repeat the reality of the 1995 appropriation of $600 million where $150 million still remains in DHHL’s coffers unspent!
In August, all of us, both on and off homesteads, get to vote in the Democratic primary for governor. The Hawaiʻi State Legislature has appropriated $600 million – a major step, but only half the solution. The next governor will have the kuleana to move these funds quickly in order to move land into Hawaiian hands and move the waitlist.
Let’s vote Hawaiians, like our lives depend on it, like our lands depend on it.
Congratulations to everyone. Special mahalo to all that are on the Hawaiian Home Land waitlist. We mahalo you for your diligence and patience with the state government.
Guest co-author Mike Kahikina is the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands waitlist chairman.