News Briefs | July 2023


OHA Hosts Meeting With ANA Commissioner Kunesh

Photo: OHA staff and trustees with ANA staff
Photo: OHA and ANA Staff

On June 20, trustees and staff of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) met with Commissioner Patrice Kunesh (Standing Rock Lakota) of the Administration for Native Americans (ANA). The ANA promotes self-sufficiency and cultural preservation for Native Americans (including Native Hawaiians) by providing social and economic development opportunities through financial assistance, training and technical assistance. Kunesh’s visit with OHA was part of her inaugural visit to Hawaiʻi after her confirmation earlier this year. The meeting included a presentation by OHA’s Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund (NHRLF) Manager Aikūʻē Kalima. Following the formal meeting NHRLF staff accompanied Kunesh on a site visit to Pearlridge Mall in ʻAiea to meet OHA Mālama Loan recipient and businesswoman Kanani Miner, owner of Hina Hawaiʻi. Miner shared her experience working with OHA and how her loan from NHRLF has helped her build and expand her business. Top photo (l-r): OHA Chief of Staff Colin Kippen, Trustee Kalei Akaka, Patrice Kunesh, Pacific Region ANA Technical and Training Assistance Director Matthew Kaulana Ing, Trustee Luana Alapa, and OHA CEO Dr. Sylvia Hussey. Photo: Kanani Iaea. Bottom photo (l-r): OHA Loan Underwriter Stephen Barnes, Ing, Kanani Miner, Kunesh, OHA Loan Officer Lareina Meinecke, Aikūʻē Kalima, and OHA Loan Processor Robert Crowell. – Photo: OHA NHRLF

Aki Named Public Affairs Manager of Alaska Airlines

Photo: Jacob Aki
Jacob Aki

Alaska Airlines has named Jacob Aki as the new public affairs manager in Hawaiʻi. Aki is the former director of communications for the Hawaiʻi State Senate.

A graduate of Kamehameha Schools Kapalāma, Aki earned a BA from University of Hawaii at Mānoa, and a master’s degree from George Washington University.

In his new role, Aki will help represent the airline in state and local government affairs within Hawaiʻi, as well as in West Coast cities. He will work alongside Daniel Chun, Alaska’s Hawaiʻi director of sales, community, and public relation.

“Jacob is a highly respected, hard-working leader, and we’re thrilled to welcome him to our team,” Chun said. “His extensive experience in state government and communications will allow us to deepen our engagement within Hawaiʻi as we continue to care for our local guests and communities.”

As director of communications for the Hawaiʻi State Senate, Aki was responsible for managing public relations, digital media, and external communications of legislative initiatives and policy issues. Prior to that, he served as a senior legislative advisor at the Hawaiʻi State Legislature.

“Alaska’s long-term commitment to our community and sustainability goals really excite me, and I am looking forward to being a part of the Alaska team here in Hawaiʻi,” said Aki.

161-lot Homestead Project in Waikapu

The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) broke ground in May on a $17 million project that will pave the way for 161 homestead lots in Waikapū – the first project funded via the historic $600 million that lawmakers set aside to help Native Hawaiians on the DHHL waiting list.

“A portion of that was used to fill the gap needed to make this project a reality,” Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairperson Kali Watson said. He described the project as “a vision realized.”

The Puʻunani Homestead project, managed by Dowling Company Inc., will include grading, construction of roads and utility improvements for the residential subdivision. Improvements include internal roadways, potable water, sewer, drainage detention basin, utility connections and roadway frontage improvements along Honoapiilani Highway.

Construction should be complete by the fourth quarter of 2024 and the first of 137 turn-key homes expected to be offered in the third quarter of 2025, pending the completion of an additional water tank.

Kapuni-Reynolds Named Associate Curator for NMAI

Photo: Kapuni Reynolds
Halena Kapuni-Reynolds

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), recently named Halena Kapuni-Reynolds as their associate curator for Native Hawaiian history and culture. Kapuni-Reynolds, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of American Studies at UH Mānoa, is the first Native Hawaiian to be appointed.

Although the museum’s is located in Washington, D.C., Kapuni-Reynolds will telework from Hawaiʻi Island. Michelle Delaney, assistant director for history and culture, wrote the grant proposal for the nascent Native Hawaiian associate curator position to be community focused and 100% remote.

“We are thrilled to have Halena join the NMAI team and welcome the increased emphasis on Native Hawaiian cultural research and programming which will be developed over time,” Delaney said.

Kapuni-Reynolds is a Kanaka ʻŌiwi composer and scholar, born and raised in Keaukaha on Hawaiʻi Island. He holds a BA in anthropology and Hawaiian studies from UH Hilo and an MA in anthropology with a focus on museum and heritage studies from the University of Denver.

His duties include performing professional curatorial work associated with research, exhibits planning and development, collections review, collections development and information, community outreach, public programming, education and public service functions.

Kapuni-Reynolds is currently completing his dissertation which tells a decolonial story of Keaukaha.

Hālau Heads to Aotearoa for a Hōʻike

Photo: Charles Aulii Mitchell
Kumu Hula Auliʻi Mitchell

Hālau ʻo Kahiwahiwa is venturing to Aotearoa this month. The upcoming cultural exchange brings together two parts of one hālau – both of which are under the direction of Kumu, Auliʻi Mitchell.

Mitchell earned a master’s degree in Applied Indigenous Knowledge from Te Wananga O Aotearoa at Kirikiriroa, in Hamilton, Aotearoa. While living there, he brought his family’s hula legacy to his Polynesian cousins and founded Hālau o Hālau Moana-nui-a-Kiwa in Tāmaki Makaurau. This trip brings his two hālau together for the very first time.

The hālau will showcase its hula, mele, and oli in a performance at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The highlight of the hōʻike will be sharing a nearly extinct form of hula called hula kiʻi, or Hawaiian puppetry – the dance of the sacred image. Mitchell is the leading expert in reviving this ancient and rare form of hula.

The hālau will be joined by the Hula Preservation Society under the direction of Kumu Hula Maile Loo, and Nā Hanona Kūlike ʻo Piʻilani under the direction of Kumu Hula Kaponoʻai Molitau. All three kumu will also be the featured guest speakers at the museum’s Ngā Kākano Talks, a panel discussion centered around Indigenous experiences, perspectives, expertise, and insights.

Revitalizing Hawaiʻi’s Lei Industry

BEHawaiʻi, a nonprofit whose mission is to empower and elevate Hawaiʻi’s people by raising awareness and providing support to create prosperity, has launched a new program called the Lei Poinaʻole Project (LPP).

LPP was formed in 2022 after BEHawaiʻi Board Members heard concerns from Hawaiʻi lei flower growers, lei makers, and vendors about changes in the industry and the steady decline of lei resources and materials.

Funded by a grant from The Administration for Native Americans, BEHawaiʻi was able to hire a full-time team dedicated to furthering its impact across Hawaiʻi. This includes the organization’s first Executive Director, Makana Reilly.

Born and raised on Oʻahu, Reilly currently resides on Kauaʻi. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Miami and an MA in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi from UH Mānoa.

Waiʻanae-born Christian Zuckerman was also hired as LPP’s lei farm specialist and will be responsible for supporting eight pre-existing small and medium lei growers and eventually developing 16 new small and medium lei growers across Hawaiʻi by 2025.

Waiawa Inmates Earn Culinary Certificates

Photo: Antonio Belen preparing focaccia sliders

Antonio Belen plates 811 focaccia sliders. – Courtesy Photo

Eight inmates from Waiawa Correctional Facility (WCF) celebrated newly acquired culinary arts certificates and showcased their new skills by preparing and serving a banquet for invited family and friends on June 15.

To earn their certificates, they completed four college-level classes taught by Kapiʻolani Community College (KCC) Chef/Instructor Lee Shinsato over six months. Five of the eight graduates identify as Native Hawaiian: Gabriel Apilando, Antonio Belen, Keith Ke-a, Darius Thompson and Kawika Krueger.

“The culinary program taught me that anything is possible. As long as I put my mind to it and Iʻm willing to persevere and overcome and move forward in my life, I can achieve all,” said Belen.

“This program helped me a lot,” added Apilando. “It’s giving me a lot to look forward to – a career or trade when I get out there ʻcuz I’m not getting any younger.”

This is the first time in 20 years that WCF has offered inmates a culinary program. KCC has operated the program at the Women’s Community Correctional Center for more than 10 years with over 130 participants. Last year, KCC extended the program to WCF.

“My hope is that students buy into my thoughts of how a professional kitchen should be run – respect, professionalism and to always strive for perfection. These are three soft skills that are transferable to any part of life (personal or professional),” said Shinsato.

Court Rebukes BLNR Over Maui Water Permits

Environmental court Judge Jeffrey P. Crabtree ruled on June 16 that the Board of Land and Natural Resources’ (BLNR) issuance of temporary permits to divert streams from East Maui was “in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions” and “made upon unlawful procedure.” Crabtree reduced the amount of water that the permits authorize Alexander & Baldwin (“A&B”) and East Maui Irrigation (“EMI”) to take from east Maui streams from 40.49 million gallons per day (“mgd”) to 31.5 mgd.

Sierra Club Director Wayne Tanaka proclaimed the court’s decision a “victory for the streams, and a vindication of both the law and the facts.”

The 31.5 mgd allowed under the court’s order will still exceed the amount of water foreseeably needed for agriculture and Upcountry Maui, while ensuring that unneeded water would remain in east Maui to support the region’s watersheds, estuaries, and community members reliant upon stream flow for recreation, cultural practices, and subsistence.

In its ruling, the court criticized BLNR for dismissing “Sierra Club’s advocacy out of hand by denying them a meaningful opportunity to be heard,” an act that “offends the constitution” and held that BLNR must grant Sierra Club a contested case hearing to examine legal and factual issues and concerns associated with the permits, including the amount of water wasted by unmaintained diversion infrastructure.

“This ruling will help us to strike a better balance in the sharing and protection of East Maui’s streams, at least for the near future,” said Tanaka. “With new leadership at BLNR, and new opportunities such as the Maui County Water Authorities, I am hopeful that we can end the rampant waste and corporate monopolization of water.”

Researchers Deploy to Papahānaumokuākea

Photo: NOAA Field Researchers
Seven researchers will be in Papa-hānaumokuākea this summer to monitor the honu and monk seal populations. – Courtesy Photo

This year marks the 50th anniversary of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) sending field researchers to Lalo (French Frigate Shoals) in Papahānaumokuākea to monitor honu (green sea turtles) that migrate there to mate and lay their eggs. About 96% of Hawaiian honu use Lalo as their nesting grounds.

Having a research team at Lalo during the summer nesting months is important for monitoring the entire population. During the 2023 season, the three-person honu team will share a camp with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program’s four-person research team.

Photo: Monk Seal Pup
A monk seal mother and her pup rest on the sand. – Photo: Glauco Puig-Santana

In 2018, Hurricane Lane caused the turtles’ primary nesting habitat, East Island, to lose half its size. So far this year, East Island appears large and stable enough to support short-term camping during peak nesting weeks, although researchers will be based on Tern Island. The short trips to East Island will allow the team to collect vital data on the number of females that nest each night. Researchers have not been able to gather this data since 2018.

Monk seal researchers will also be monitoring the subpopulation of Lalo and provide life-saving interventions for animals at risk. While the Hawaiian monk seal population hit a new milestone with 10 consecutive years of slow-but-steady growth, there are still many threats to their survival. Seals at Lalo make up 20% of the seal population within Papahānaumokuākea.

The researchers will also tag this year’s cohort of new pups, survey the seal population, and address survival threats.

Hawaiʻi Students Compete in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi Showcase in D.C.

National History Day® (NHD), with the support of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C., and the Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities, announced the exhibition of six student historical research projects presented in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

In this special “In Language There Is Life: I ka ʻŌlelo nō ke Ola Showcase,” middle and high school students from Hawaiʻi who completed a National History Day project in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and qualified at the Hawaiʻi affiliate contest, were invited to Washington, D.C., to share their work with a national audience. Their projects support larger community efforts that perpetuate and give life to Indigenous languages.

The student projects also reflect the 2023 NHD theme, “Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas.” This is the first live Language Revitalization Showcase and joins the roster of student websites, performances, papers, exhibits, and documentaries showcased in cultural institutions in Washington, D.C.

“This is such an exciting opportunity for our Hawaiian language speaking youth to share their academic work in the language of Hawaiʻi with a broader audience. It’s inspiring to see the ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi category grow like this and is a sign that the endangered Hawaiian language is undergoing the process of renormalization,” said Hawaiian Language Scholar and Historian Bruce Torres Fischer.

Emmy Award-Winning Series Returns to PBS

Photo: Heather Haunani Giugni
Heather Haunani Giugni

Family Ingredients, a PBS series that explores the connection between food, family, and cultural origins, is set to return for its third season this July. The Emmy award-winning series takes viewers on a journey to discover the stories behind some of Hawaiʻi’s most iconic dishes.

“We are thrilled to bring back Family Ingredients to PBS for another season,” said series creator Heather Haunani Giugni.

Hosted by popular Hawaiʻi Chef Ed Kenney, the program highlights Hawaiʻi’s rich multicultural communities while weaving together untold stories to reveal a history that few people know. Kenney dives deep into the fascinating histories of some of Hawaiʻi’s most notable residents as he examines their favorite dishes.

In this upcoming season, featured guests include singer Raiatea Helm, surfer/model/photographer Haʻa Keaulana, and singer/songwriter Jack Johnson. Kenney will take viewers along as he explores the farms that feed us and visits the local fashion designers that dress us. The show aims to remind us of the values that bind us together, with a spotlight on stewardship, community and sustainability.

“Season 3 is special. I call it the ‘aloha ʻāina connection.’ The pandemic drastically changed our production schedule, but it gave us an opportunity to tell a deeper story about Hawaiʻi’s vibrant community,” director Ty Sanga said.

70 Oʻahu Public Schools Offer Fresh Poi for Lunch

In effort to increase local menu offerings to students, over 70 Oʻahu public schools now offer fresh local poi to students and staff as an accompanying lunch menu item.

“We’re really excited that for the first time in over a decade, we’re serving poi on our regular school menus,” said Randall Tanaka, assistant superintendent of the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Facilities and Operations. “We started with poi because there is truly a cultural significance and connection to our communities…All the kids in Hawaiʻi eat poi — we know that they eat it at home and we should be serving it in our schools.”

The DOE’s farm-and-school initiative aims to enhance food sustainability in Hawaiʻi, and aligns with Act 175, which focuses on improving the health of students while supporting local farmers.

This first rollout of fresh local poi from Pomai Kūlolo, LLC, was allocated to Oʻahu schools on a first-come, first-served basis with over 23,000 4-ounce servings distributed. Other Oʻahu and neighbor island schools that wanted to participate – but were impacted by procurement limitations – were encouraged to incorporate local ʻuala (sweet potato) into their lunch menus.

The DOE is the state’s largest institutional consumer of food products, serving over 100,000 students a day.

Genealogy Workshop Offered on July 1

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – Keolu Chapel, is hosting “Islands of the Pacific: A Family History Event” on Saturday, July 1, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and everyone interested in learning more about their genealogy is invited to attend.

Event participants will learn how to utilize the website to find ancestors and make genealogical connections. is a free resource. Users can set up an online account, create their family tree, add memories and include additional names.

Boards displaying hundreds of names will be showcased at the event, providing the opportunity to find relatives and make connections. FamilySearch global consultants Afiona Faumuina and Tagi Schwenke will provide instruction along with Honolulu FamilySearch consultants Karauna and Liza Nasau.

Whether you are searching for ʻohana here in Hawaiʻi (including those sent to Kalaupapa), or ʻohana from elsewhere in the world, FamilySearch can help.

The July 1 event is the last in a series of siamilar events offered on the island of Oʻahu. The event venue is at 1461 Kanapuʻu Drive in Kailua. Go to for a family search center in your area.

Affordable Kūpuna Housing Project Opens in Mōʻiliʻili

Hale Makana o Mōʻiliʻili, a 105-unit affordable rental housing project for kūpuna, has completed construction. A pule and blessing with a lei untying ceremony was held on June 9 at the housing project located at 2139 Algaroba Street.

The project, a total investment of $39.7 million, offers safe, secure long-term rental housing for low-income kūpuna, in an effort to foster a positive and supportive living environment enabling independence during residents’ “golden years.”

The project, a response to the urgent demand for affordable high quality housing options for kūpuna in the area, was made possible by Ikenakea Development, a partnership between 3 Leaf Holdings and the Hawaiian Community Development Board.

AHL designed the project and Moss & Associates carried out the construction. Philpotts Design helped to create an inviting environment. A distinctive feature, adding cultural significance, is the design pattern throughout the development by Manuhealiʻi.

The development is a modern mid-rise rental housing project with covered parking stalls, bicycle storage and an onsite community center.

Gov. Josh Green, Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters presided over the site blessing ceremony.

Nearly 700 Acres to be Added to State Legacy Land Inventory

Two properties on Oʻahu, one on Kauaʻi, and one on Molokaʻi are being added to the DLNR 2023 Legacy Land Conservation Program.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) approved $6.3 million in grant awards from the Land Conservation Fund to acquire the properties. County programs and private donations are expected to provide matching funds that total more than $9 million.

The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) will acquire the Molokaʻi property, while the other acreage is being purchased by nonprofit organizations.

DLNR/BLNR Chair Dawn Chang said, “These grant awards are instrumental in our fulfillment of our resource protection mission. They contribute to important private-public land conservation partnerships by ensuring protection and preservation of these significant ecosystems for watershed management, trails access, and protection from potential development.

The Legacy Land Conservation Program was established in 2005 to acquire lands of great resource value to the state. Since its inception, grants from the Legacy Land Conservation Program have supported the acquisition of 44 properties, representing nearly 2aloha
5,000 acres of land.