Thirty-three years after its birth, SCHHA coordinated its very first conference using virtual technology to bring over 152 attendees together for two days at the 2020 Homestead Summit.
Seven sessions were held on December 12-13, featuring powerful speakers. Malia Akutagawa from UH Mānoa reminded homesteaders and those on the waitlist of our origins and history, and the grit of early homesteaders on Molokaʻi that, through pule and hard work, convinced the Department of Interior 90 plus years ago to move Hawaiian homesteading from a pilot to a permanent program.
Sen. Brian Schatz engaged with participants in the conference’s largest session to discuss the top homestead federal priorities, focusing on the continuation of the senator’s work and former President Obama’s work from 2016 to promulgate additional federal regulations left undone for over 95 years and to strengthen the oversight of the federal government. The dialogue included requests to address access to capital and bring parity with fellow citizens of Hawaiʻi and the country.
The 501(c)(3) Homestead Community Development Corporation (HCDC) hosted a session led by Vaipuarii Tapiero-Kight and Rolina Faagai on the available grants and loans being deployed across the state. One of the new grant programs is the HCDC Food Sovereignty grant program, that will support the efforts of families to grow more food in residential backyards and on farm and ranching homesteads.
Participants also enjoyed direct dialogue with state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, chair of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs, to share the work of homestead leaders across the state to advance technical amendments to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA).
Three bills are being sought by homesteads for introduction by the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs to help DHHL administer our land trust more impactfully, to make the HHCA work better for families and Hawaiian businesses, to provide autonomous legal counsel for the Hawaiian Homes Commission, and to streamline policies at DHHL to move hundreds of vacant homes in the agency’s inventory into the hands of those on the waitlist.
None of the three bills impact the general funds budget, and one technical amendment would ensure that interest earnings paid by Hawaiians themselves to their trust fund for loans would revolve in order to add new capital, upwards of $4 million annually, to the loan fund managed by DHHL to be deployed into community and Hawaiʻi’s economy.
The 2020 Homestead Summit set the stage for the work plan of the 2021 calendar year, especially important as SCHHA engages with the state Legislature and the new administration of President-elect Biden. What made this summit especially important to every homestead and waitlist beneficiary is the partnership with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. A heartfelt mahalo to a trust agency that has made our trust land families more and more visible in recent years.
If you have an interest in the happenings on our trust lands in Hawaiʻi, email firstname.lastname@example.org to add your name and stay plugged into the talent and efforts of SCHHA members in Hawaiʻi and on the continent.
A national policy advocate for native self-governance, Robin Puanani Danner is the elected chair of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, the oldest and largest coalition of native Hawaiians on or waiting for Hawaiian Home Lands. Born on Kauaʻi, Robin grew up in Niumalu, and the homelands of the Navajo, Hopi and Inuit peoples. She and her husband raised four children on homesteads in Anahola, Kauaʻi, where they continue to reside today.