News Briefs | December 2022


Culturally Rooted Accelerator Program for Native Hawaiian Businesses

Purple Maiʻa

Purple Maiʻa Foundation has announced the launch of Mālama Design Studio (MDS) with support from a $498,660 Community Grant Award for Economic Stability from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The program will select and support 20 Native Hawaiian business owners over two years by implementing Purple Maiʻa’s in-house MDS team to hoʻolana (propel) their companies to the next level.

The MDS creative team will spend nine months guiding the companies through design-thinking processes rooted in Hawaiian culture to evaluate revenue models and implement technology solutions aimed at scaling each business. The accelerator will provide branding, marketing, website development, UI/UX, SEO, and business strategy services to develop a network of Kānaka Maoli businesses working together across the pae ʻāina to cultivate waiwai (community wealth) for our islands.

“Mālama Design Studio is incredibly excited to partner with local, talented Kānaka Maoli entrepreneurs to pursue Hawaiian economic acceleration and to create a more fertile ecosystem,” said MDS Managing Director Keoni DeFranco. “Our intention is to build a coalition of Kānaka-owned businesses working together to create local, high-wage jobs and steer Hawai’i towards self-sufficiency. This is merely the beginning of a deep economic and systemic shift on our shores. This is a kāhea for aloha ʻāina and regenerative revenue models focused on sustainability.”

MDS seeks companies that are majority Native Hawaiian-owned, early stage, revenue-generating, and based in Hawaiʻi. Businesses should also participate in the core markets of Hawaiʻi’s economy: tech, health and wellness, food systems, clean energy, fashion, and education. “Most importantly, MDS seeks entrepreneurs focused on social impact, aiming to strengthen and empower our lāhui. We must always be thinking forward to the next seven generations and leave behind a better future for our kēiki,” said DeFranco.

Mālama Design Studio is now accepting applications at: Selected companies will be notified by March 1, 2023.

Water Protectors Serve the U.S. Navy an “Eviction Notice”

Photo: Water protectors from more than a dozen organizations gathered at the Makalapa Gate entrance of INDOPACOM
Water protectors from more than a dozen organizations gathered at the Makalapa Gate entrance of INDOPACOM on Nov. 20 to observe the one-year anniversary of the jet fuel leak at Kapūkakī (Red Hill) and to deliver an “eviction notice” to the U.S. Navy. – Photo: Rebekah Garrison

On Nov. 20 – the anniversary of the 19,000 gallon Red Hill fuel spill that led to the poisoning of thousands – water protectors from across the island presented an “eviction notice” to Navy leaders, noting that, for decades, the actions of the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defence (DoD) have threatened and harmed the lands, waters and people of Hawaiʻi.

Prior to presenting the notice, water protectors gave out hundreds of ice pops and informational brochures to families shopping at the Navy Exchange.

People on the Navy’s water system need to be informed that there are still health and contamination issues,” said Wayne Tanaka, Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi executive director. “We want these families to understand that we are all connected. We all need water, and we all need to take care of each other – as well as these islands we are blessed to call home. That is what today is all about.”

Water protectors expressed alarm that the Navy has not acknowledged the emergency nature of the continued presence of 104 million gallons of fuel just 100 feet above Oʻahu’s Sole Source Aquifer. They also cited disappointment in the Navy’s refusal to hold public meetings to receive and respond to community concerns.

Documenting Cultural Context and Pandemic Response

Last month the Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Hawaiʻi COVID-19 Team (NHPI 3R) and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH) announced the release of a new report: “COVID-19 Vaccination Experiences and Perceptions among Communities of Hawaiʻi.”

The report, a collaboration of the DOH and community and academic researchers, examines the COVID-19 vaccine effort in Hawaiʻi to better understand successful strategies and identify lessons learned. The report offers insight into creating equity and access for underserved and marginalized communities.

Improvements to public health emergency response in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities are recommended – such as fostering collaborative partnerships and trusted community messengers; ensuring transparency and diverse representation in decision-making and resource allocation; and prioritizing in-language services, cultural values, and traditional practices.

Following a series of interviews, the emerging themes highlighted the impacts of colonization that have led to health disparities and inequities: degradation of natural resources, urbanization fueled by consumerism, introduction of foreign diseases, systemic changes in social and economic systems, and generational traumas.

This report recognizes the uneven burden borne by NHPI communities, identifies the root causes of those disparities, and offers valuable insight into improving access and equity for underserved and marginalized communities.

Read the Report

Lopes Will be the First ʻŌiwi Face of Nike7

Pi‘ikea Lopes is the new face of the Nike N7 collection. – Photos: Nike

UH Mānoa recently announced that Piʻikea Kekīhenelehuawewehiikekauʻōnohi Lopes, a graduate student and the reigning Miss Aloha Hula, will be the new face of the Nike N7 Collection.

“It’s nice being noticed by a globally known brand wanting to feature Hawaiʻi and acknowledge hula as a sport,” said Lopes.

The Nike N7 Collection seeks to celebrate “Indigenous communities through footwear and apparel offerings and honors various Indigenous cultures and traditions,” according to Nike.

Lopes is the first Native Hawaiian to be featured with this collection.

Nike’s production crew traveled to Oʻahu in September for a photo shoot with Lopes at Mākaha Beach and Nike officials expressed to Lopes their appreciation for her authenticity and commitment to ensuring the campaign was culturally appropriate.

Lopes has a BA from UH Mānoa in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and is currently working on a master’s degree in teaching. She is currently a student teacher at Roosevelt High School where she teaches ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi to first- and fourth-year students.

KOKO Awarded Grant for Ulu Laukahi Project

Kīpuka o ke Ola (KOKO) has been awarded a three-year Administration for Native Americans grant of nearly $1.5 million for its Ulu Laukahi Project (ULP).

“Native Hawaiians disproportionally struggle with chronic disease and mental health conditions. This federal grant acknowledges this struggle and assists us with the financial capacity to address this health disparity,” said KOKO CEO Dr. Claren Kealoha-Beaudet.

KOKO is an Independent Rural Health Clinic located in Waimea on Hawaiʻi Island with a mission to ensure that “Native Hawaiians living in North Hawai’i will enjoy the highest quality of comprehensive healthcare from prenatal to end of life.”

The Ulu Laukahi Project aims to improve the health of 240 Native Hawaiians by one clinically significant level in two of five chronic disease conditions to mitigate obesity, hypertension, diabetes, depression and anxiety that contribute to premature death.

They want to do this by educating, inspiring and assisting program participants to successfully integrate healthy habits into their daily lives and to pass those healthy habits to the next generation of their ʻohana. The program will provide the necessary tools to participants to encourage long-term changes in their health and wellbeing.

Reelitz Named Compass CFO

Photo: Kalani Reelitz
Kalani Reelitz

Compass, Inc., a leading tech-enabled real estate brokerage, has announced the appointment of Kalani Reelitz as its new Chief Financial Officer (CFO). As CFO, Reelitz will be responsible for all aspects of the company’s financial operations and will focus on building sustained profitability and free cash flow generation.

Reelitz is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools and joins Compass after nearly 20 years of finance, business and operational experience across the real estate and retail industries, serving in several senior financial and business leadership roles at Cushman & Wakefield Americas including CFO and chief operating officer.

“Kalani is a strong leader with a deep understanding of the real estate business,” said Compass CEO Robert Reffkin. “The combination of Kalani’s operational excellence and financial discipline will be an incredible asset as we accelerate our path to profitability.”

“I could not be more excited to join the team at Compass at this critical time in the company’s journey to profitability,” said Reelitz. “Compass has accomplished amazing things in its first decade, becoming the largest brokerage in the country by sales volume and joining the Fortune 500. I am excited to be a part of the next chapter of growth and success with this team.”

Reelitz has a BA in business administration and an MS in accounting from Loyola University Chicago.

Agreement Reached to Protect Endangered ʻUaʻu

The Grand Wailea Resort on Maui has implemented protective measures, including reducing lighting, to help protect the endangered ʻuaʻu (Hawaiian petrel). The agreement, finalized on Oct. 21, resolves an Endangered Species Act (ESA) case brought by Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi and the Center for Biological Diversity, represented by Earthjustice.

ʻUaʻu is a native seabird that is considered endangered under the federal ESA and Hawaiʻi state law. It travels thousands of miles across the Pacific to forage for squid and other marine life, but Hawaiʻi is the only place in the world where the ʻuaʻu breed, with adults returning to nest at the same site where they fledged after spending the first six years of their lives at sea.

The largest surviving nesting colony exists on the volcanic slopes of Haleakalā, where the birds dig burrows in the rocky soil.

Fledgling ʻuaʻu leave their nests for their first flight to the sea from mid-September to mid-December. Some birds are attracted to and disoriented by artificial lights, circling the lights until they fall to the ground from exhaustion – or strike other human-made structures. Once grounded, it is difficult for ʻuaʻu to take flight, leaving them highly vulnerable to predators, dehydration, and starvation.

This agreement resolves the conservation groups’ lawsuit filed in Feb. 2022.

ʻŌpelu Point Purchased for Conservation

Photo: ʻŌpelu Point in Kīpahulu, Maui
ʻŌpelu Point in Kīpahulu, Maui, will be protected into perpetuity. – Photo: Courtesy

Hawaiʻi nonprofit Kīpahulu ʻOhana, Inc., announced the acquisition of a 9.5-acre coastal property known as ʻŌpelu Point in Kīpahulu, Maui. The parcel will be protected as conservation land in perpetuity, in partnership with the County of Maui and the Hawaiʻi Land Trust (HILT).

The Office of Climate Change, Resiliency and Sustainability (CCRS) awarded a grant of $2.5 million from the Open Space, Natural Resources, Cultural Resources, and Scenic Views Preservation Fund to Kīpahulu ʻOhana for the acquisition of ʻŌpelu Point.

The property overlooks Lelekea Bay – an important location for managing the proposed Kīpahulu Moku Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA). Lelekea Bay is a traditional spot for harvesting akule (big-eyed scad), but the area is exhibiting the negative effects of unmanaged recreational use.

ʻŌpelu Point is adjacent to another 9-acre parcel managed by Kīpahulu ʻOhana through a state lease. It will expand the ʻOhana’s existing cultural, agricultural and shoreline programs to encompass both properties.

The ʻŌpelu Point conservation easement marks HILT’s 50th conservation easement. HILT will monitor the property in perpetuity to guarantee conservation easement restrictions are followed.

“Hawaiʻi Land Trust is honored and humbled to partner with Kīpahulu Ohana and the County of Maui to ensure ʻŌpelu Point will serve as a food basket for Kīpahulu families and the greater community forever,” said Shae Kamakaʻala, director of ʻĀina Protection for HILT.

Transient Accommodation Caps Bill Passes

The Maui County Council has passed Bill 159, FD2 (2022), amending the comprehensive zoning ordinance to establish lower transient accommodations caps.

This legislation was introduced by Council Vice-Chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who said it is the culmination of well-considered solutions that resulted from the Tourism Management and Economic Development Temporary Investigative Group last year. Rawlins-Fernandez said that Bill 159 establishes a point-in-time freeze on all existing short-term rental uses and creates a regulation prohibiting camper-van vacation rentals on public property.

“Since I got onto the council nearly four years ago, residents made abundantly clear that they felt inundated by the sheer number of people visiting Maui,” said Rawlins-Fernandez. “The county is limited in its jurisdiction to control tourism – for example, we cannot limit the number of planes flying here – but we can limit the number of lodging units, disincentivize the proliferation of vacant second homes, and prohibit camper vans used as vacation rentals on public land.”

For more information visit or contact the Office of Council Services at (808) 270-8008.

Lopez Becomes Youngest Female HAM Radio Operator in Hawaiʻi

Photo: Lokelani Lopez
Lokelani Lopez

Alohalani Lopez, a 16-year-old junior at Hakipuʻu Academy Public Charter School in Kāneʻohe, recently passed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Amateur Radio Technician test. She is now Hawaiʻi’s newest member of the Ham Radio Community and the youngest female licensed operator in the pae ʻāina.

Ham refers to amateur radio – a popular hobby that allows people to communicate with others all over the world without the internet or cell phones. More than a social activity, ham radio can be a lifeline in a crisis. All amateur radio operators must pass an exam for the FCC license to operate on radio frequencies known as “amateur bands.”

Lopez became interested in ham radio after her uncle, a ham radio user, moved to Idaho. “He did not own a phone. Whenever we needed to contact him we had to call a friend who relayed our messages to him over ham radio,” she said.

Concerns that her family would not be able to communicate in the event that telephone lines and cellphone towers are damaged in a severe weather emergency – such as a hurricane – prompted Lopez to pursue a license. “As a licensed amateur radio technician, I can legally assist in communication during emergencies.”

It took her about two months to complete certification training and study for and pass the exam. Lopez is currently studying for the FCC’s General Class License.

Play Akamai; Be Akamai

Akamai Web Technologies

A new board game dedicated to uplifting Hawaiʻi is now available just in time for the holidays. Akamai is described as “a game of wit, knowledge and humor” wherein players answer questions about Hawaiʻi language, traditions, history, sacred places and popular culture to earn points and claim victory.

Akamai encourages cooperative relationships and is designed for everyone, from keiki (age 8+) to kūpuna and is for all people who are interested in Hawaiʻi, Hawaiian culture and our diverse cultural communities. Game components and strategies reflect a Hawaiian narrative of Aloha Akua, Aloha Kanaka, Aloha ʻĀina – Divine grace, human compassion and devotion to the earth.

The board game is the newest addition to EA Hawaiʻi’s educational repository. Akamai was conceived by Pūlama Collier as a learning and teaching tool. From Maui, Collier is a scholar, educator, philosopher, artist and founder of ʻUhane Designs.

It is available for purchase at Native Books, Arts & Letters Gallery and Nā Mea Hawaiʻi on Oʻahu, at Kahua o Maliʻo on Maui, at Hawaiian Force on Hawaiʻi Island, and online at It retails for $88.

EA Hawaiʻi is a grassroots movement for Indigenous higher learning dedicated to “radical collaboration, mutual emergence, and the power and purpose of aʻo aku, aʻo mai – by my actions, teach my mind.”