News Briefs | May 2023


Nā Hanana o OHA at the Merrie Monarch Festival

Photo: Kumu Kānāwai Panel
Uʻilani Naipo, program administrator at Miloliʻi Community Based Subsistance Fishing Area and Dr. Pua Kanahele, a founding member of the Kanakaʻole Foundation were featured panelists for a discussion on Kumu Kānāwai Pre- and Post-Hawaiian Kingdom. The discussion was part of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Nā Hanana o OHA, an offering of cultural workshops and panel discussions during the Merrie Monarch Festival celebrations held in Hilo last month. Pictured (l-r) are Naipo, OHA Beneficiary Services Agent (Hilo) ʻIlima Kela, OHA Public Policy Advocate (Kona) Shane Palacat-Nelson, OHA Public Policy Advocate (Hilo) Kamaile Puluole-Mitchell, and Kanahele. – Courtesy Photo

Cagasan Named KSM Poʻo Māhele Luna

Photo: Lance Cagasan

Kamehameha Schools (KS) has named Lance Cagasan poʻo māhele luna (upper division head) for grades 6-12 at its Maui campus. Cagasan is responsible for overseeing the development of personalized learning pathways that nurture and empower haumāna to be ʻŌiwi leaders today and in the future.

“Through Lance’s leadership, the unified grades 6-12 program will provide the rigor, excellence, and dedicated support needed to ensure that every student can kuʻupau – go the limit,” said Dr. Scott K. Parker, KS Maui poʻo kula (headmaster).

Cagasan joined KS Maui as a teacher 24 years ago. He has since served as a coach, vice principal, principal, assistant upper division head, and interim division head. Prior to joining KS, he was a teacher with the Hawaiʻi Department of Education. He holds a Master of Education in Instructional Leadership from Chaminade University as well as a Professional Diploma from UH Mānoa.

“I feel truly blessed to be entrusted with the kuleana to guide the continued growth of our innovative and collaborative learning environment,” Cagasan said.

Ke Ao Haliʻi Acquires 94 Additional Acres

Photo: Members of Ke Ao Haliʻi
Members of Ke Ao Haliʻi, a Hāna-based nonprofit formed in 2018, have been successful in purchasing 190 acres of coastal land in Hāna to preserve it in perpetuity. – Courtesy Photo

In late March, 94 acres of land along the Hāna coastline – plus a gift of $100,000 to help mālama the land – was transferred from HRP-Hāna, LLC (formerly Hāna Ranch Partners LLC) to Hāna-based nonprofit Ke Ao Haliʻi.

The donation marks the final phase of a multi-year cooperative effort by Ke Ao Hāliʻi, the Hawaiʻi Land Trust, Maui County’s Open Space Program, the State Legacy Land Conservation Program, HRP-Hāna and the Hāna community to permanently preserve a total of 190 acres of coastal land, encompassing 1.5 miles of coastline in Hāna.

The final donation of 94 acres includes culturally significant sites including Puʻu Kauiki, the hill overlooking Kapueokahi (Hāna Bay) the birthplace of Queen Kaʻahumanu.

With the final phase of the project completed, all undeveloped land ma kai of Hāna Highway from Hāmoa Beach at Mokae to Makaʻalae Point and Waioka Pond are now protected in perpetuity and under the ownership of Ke Ao Haliʻi.

Ke Ao Haliʻi was formed in 2018 by Hāna residents for the sole purpose of protecting the moku of Hāna by preserving this wahi pana and its natural and cultural resources for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the Hāna community now and for future generations.

Mirafuentes Wins OHA ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi Award

Photo: Meleāna Kamalani Mirafuentes
E hoʻomaikaʻi to 2023 Miss Aloha Hula contestant Meleāna Kamalani Mirafuentes, who took home the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ (OHA) Hawaiian Language Award on April 13. The award was presented by OHA BOT Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey. Mirafuentes was also the third-place winner of the overall Miss Aloha Hula competition. Mirafuentes dances with Hālau Nā Mamo O Puʻuanahulu under the direction of nā Kumu Hula William “Sonny” Ching and Lōpaka Igarta-De Vera. Mirafuentes’ kahiko presentation was “He Lei No Kaʻiulani,” a mele inoa written in 1893 to honor Princess Kaʻiulani, praise her efforts to rectify the wrong imposed on her aunt, Queen Liliʻuokalani, and assert her rights as heir to the throne. – Photo: Tracey Niimi/Merrie Monarch Festival.

Endangered Monk Seals Returned to Kuaihelani

Three endangered Hawaiian monk seals are back at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, thanks to a partnership between NOAA Fisheries, The Marine Mammal Center, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The rehabilitated seals have a new chance to thrive at Kuaihelani (Midway Atoll).

NOAA Fisheries observed the malnourished juvenile seals in 2022 and an intensive search and rescue effort followed. After rehabilitation, they were carefully released at Kuaihelani in March. Back in their home territory, the seals should be able to adapt and flourish.

Rescuing Hawaiian monk seals is no easy feat. The seals don’t make themselves easy to find. With just two days to locate and safely prepare the malnourished seal PP32 (Alena) for transport, NOAA Fisheries staff were thrilled to successfully bring her aboard the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette. They also rescued another malnourished seal, DQ10 (Lelehua), on the same trip. The pair joined WQ08 (Ikaika), who they rescued on a previous cruise, at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital on Hawaiʻi Island in 2022.

UH Diabetes Study Seeks ʻŌiwi Participants

A potential link between intestinal bacteria and the disproportionately higher rates of chronic disease among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) has been discovered by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from UH Mānoa.

The researchers from the John A. Burns School of (JABSOM) and the UH Economic Research Organization (UHERO) identified key differences in the numbers and types of intestinal bacteria strains in NHPIs that track with age, type 2 diabetes status, body mass index and self-esteem.

The new research is based on findings from a cohort of more than 500 Hawaiʻi residents. The surveys were conducted by UH’s Hawaiʻi Social Epigenomics of Early Diabetes Cohort (HI-SEED) project and designed to identify biomarkers predictive of diabetes to enable prevention.

“Your gut microbiome is affected by what you eat and your environment, and for the first time, we have uncovered differences in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders that contrast with findings from other populations. This may better explain higher rates of chronic health conditions among NHPIs that cannot be explained by social environmental factors alone,” said report co-author Alika Maunakea, an associate professor at JABSOM.

NHPIs suffer disproportionately higher rates of and deaths from type 2 diabetes than other ethnic groups in the state. In 2018, the diabetes death rate among NHPIs was more than 2.5 times higher than that of the general state population.

“Our findings have significant implications for personalized medicine and improved strategies to enable interventions aimed at preventing chronic disease outcomes, especially among NHPIs,” added report co-author Ruben Juarez, HMSA-endowed professor at UHERO.

Recruitment of the HI-SEED cohort participants is ongoing and open to qualified Hawaiʻi residents between the ages of 20-50. Participants will be paid $100 and must complete a comprehensive questionnaire and a physical exam. For more information about the project and eligibility criteria go to:

Brown Wins Miss Aloha Hula 2023

E hoʻomaikaʻi to Agnes Renee Leihiwahiwaikapolionāmakua Thronas Brown of Kāneʻohe, Oʻahu, who was named Miss Aloha Hula 2023 at the Merrie Monarch Festival on April 13. Brown represented Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai O Haʻehaʻe, under the direction of nā Kumu Hula Tracie and Keawe Lopes. Brown’s hula kahiko presentation was “Poli Lauaʻe Makana” an oli honoring King Kaumualiʻi of Kauaʻi written by the late Kumu Hula Henry Moʻikehaokahiki Pā. Her ʻauana presentation, “Kuʻu Home a i Kāneʻohe” composed by Louise Hart Hopkins, was especially meaningful to the 21-year-old Brown whose ʻohana has resided in Kāneʻohe for generations. In second place was Breeze Ann Kalehuaonālani Vidinha Pavao of Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leinʻala under the direction of Kumu Hula Leinaʻala Pavao Jardin, and in third place was Meleāna Kamalani Mirafuentes of Hālau Nā Mamo O Puʻuanahulu under the direction of nā Kumu Hula William “Sonny” Ching and Lōpaka Igarta-De Vera. Brown is the third consecutive dancer from Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai O Haʻehaʻe to be named Miss Aloha Hula. Last year, the honor went to Piʻikea Lopes, the daughter of Tracie and Keawe Lopes, and in 2021, their hula sister Rosemary Keamoai-Strickland was named Miss Aloha Hula. – Photo: Bruce Omori/Merrie Monarch Festival

“Uncle Bo” Campos Scholarship

Kai ʻŌpua Canoe Club in Kailua-Kona has two $1,000 college scholarships available for graduating seniors from Hawaiʻi Island.

Created to honor Lawrence “Uncle Bo” Campos, the scholarship is open to seniors with a 3.0 GPA or higher, who demonstrate academic achievement and community participation, and who have paddled at the club or high school level in the past three years. In addition to strong academics, active volunteerism and leadership in their school, community, church, and/or employment will be considered. Funds will be dispersed directly to the recipients to be used to support studies at a trade school, community college, or college/university program.

Uncle Bo is remembered for his efforts to perpetuate outrigger canoe paddling and was enthusiastic about getting people, especially keiki involved in canoe racing. He knew that by keeping kids on the water they would learn the culture and pass it along to the next generation. This scholarship carries his legacy forward.

The application deadline is May 31, 2023. Additional information and the scholarship application are available at

Governor Green Signs Lā Kūʻokoʻa Bill

On April 19, 2023, Gov. Josh Green signed Senate Bill 731 into law. Introduced by the Senate Native Hawaiian Caucus, the bill designates November 28 of each year as Lā Kūʻokoʻa – Hawaiian Independence Day – to celebrate the historical recognition of the sovereign nation status of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi by France and England in 1843. Although not a state holiday, the recognition is a step in the right direction. On hand at the signing were representatives from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Kamehameha Schools and other Hawaiian organizations. Pictured here (l-r) are OHA CEO Dr. Sylvia Hussey, Trustee John Waiheʻe, Trustee Luana Alapa, Gov. Green, Trustee Mililani Trask, Trustee Kalei Akaka, and Trustee Keoni Souza. Courtesy photo.

Barbee to Lead HCDB

Photo: Patti Barbee
Patti Tancayo Barbee has been named president and CEO of the Hawaiian Community Development Board (HCDB). Barbee served as senior vice president at HCDB for over 20 years. She replaces Kali Watson, who was recently appointed and confirmed as chair of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL).

“I am honored and excited to continue working for the Native Hawaiian community,” said Barbee. “Projects such as the one in concert with King Lunalilo Trust will provide comfortable and secure living environments for kūpuna that cater specifically to their needs.”

“Patti is by far the best person to continue the work of HCDB. She has the experience and, as importantly, the deeply felt commitment and passion to carry on this work of strengthening and building Hawaiian communities and the fulfillment that comes with that,” Watson said.

Born and raised on Molokaʻi, Barbee grew up on her great-grandfather’s Hoʻolehua homestead. As a wait-listed would-be homesteader, Barbee has a keen understanding of the critical need for housing and is passionate about creating meaningful solutions.

Barbee was previously a housing and community development supervisor at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. She has a BA in business administration from Chaminade University in Honolulu and is a Certified Commercial Investment Member candidate.

Youth Plaintiffs Prevail in Climate Case

Following a hearing in a packed courtroom on Jan. 26, 2023, the constitutional climate case Navahine F. v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation will proceed to trial.

The Honorable Jeffrey P. Crabtree presided over the hearing at the Environmental Court of First Circuit. What is most notable in this case is that the plaintiffs are all minors. This will be the second constitutional climate trial and the second youth-led climate trial in U.S. history. It is also the world’s first constitutional climate change case directed at stopping climate pollution from transportation systems.

Filed in June 2022, Navahine F. v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation contends that the Hawaiʻi State Department of Transportation (HDOT) operates a transportation system that emits high levels of greenhouse gasses (GHG) impacting their ability to live healthy lives now and in the future. HDOT has missed every benchmark to reduce GHG emissions since 2008.

“I am glad that my story is helping to advance climate action in Hawaiʻi. I don’t want anyone else to suffer the way I and my family have,” said plaintiff Kaliko T. Her home was destroyed during Tropical Storm Olivia.

Lead plaintiff, Navahine F. is a 10th-generation kalo former. “I and my fellow plaintiffs are holding this so-called state of Hawaiʻi to its own promises and its own laws because we have a fundamental right to a safe climate. We will not allow our public trust resources to be further desecrated by state agencies working to make the climate crisis worse for all of us,”

In rendering his decision Crabtree noted that the “Plaintiffs are minors. Article XI, Section 1 [of the Hawaiʻi Constitution] is ‘For the benefit of present and future generations.’ Plaintiffs allege nothing less than that they stand to inherit a world with severe climate change and the resulting damage to our natural resources.”

The plaintiffs are represented by lead attorneys Andrea Rodgers with Our Children’s Trust and Leināʻala L. Ley with Earthjustice.

The case moves to trial in September.

Restoring Hawaiian Brewing Traditions

Kanaka-owned Ola Brews Co. has announced they will begin making ʻōkolehao – liquor distilled from kī (ti-leaf) plants on Hawaiʻi Island.

As Ola perfects its process, they plan to teach outside farmers and begin outsourcing kī from them, as well. ʻŌkolehao’s potential to be entirely made in Hawaiʻi means it has the potential to be Hawaiʻi’s biggest agricultural commodity in history — bigger than sugar cane, coffee or pineapple.

Despite being compared to moonshine, ʻōkolehao is not a whiskey. The kī plant is a close relative to agave, giving it a flavor profile similar to caramel or molasses like tequila.

ʻŌkolehao will be Ola’s first spirit. Its facility in Kona handles Ola’s current line of products – ciders, seltzers, and beers. In Feb. 2022, Ola purchased the old Wainaku Executive Center in Hilo and will renovate it as a distillery.

Ola plans to open the new distillery in 2024. The site will feature a restaurant, tasting room, and viewing area to see ʻōkolehao’s distillation process. Until then, their Kona and Hilo tap rooms remain open for business.

Federal and State Transportation Administrators Meet With OHA

At the request of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), administrators from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) met with USDOT Deputy Secretary for Tribal Affairs Arlando Teller (Navajo) on April 18, 2023, at OHA’s Honolulu office. The meeting was to learn how the USDOT can better consult with Native Hawaiian organizations at a policy level. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Federal Highways Administration (FHA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), as well as the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation (HDOT). While in Hawaiʻi Teller and his team conducted consultation sessions with community leaders on Kauaʻi, Maui, Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi Island. Pictured (l-r): Capsun Poe, Community Engagement director & interim chief advocate, OHA; Kim Evans, community planner, FAA, Honolulu Airports District Office; Richelle Takara, Hawaiʻi division administrator, FHWA; Arlando Teller; Dr. Sylvia Hussey, OHA CEO; Misty Klann, consultative planner, USDOT, FHWA, Office of Tribal Transportation; Ed Sniffen, director, HDOT; Ryan Fujii, general engineer, FTA; and Kamakana Ferreira, lead compliance specialist, OHA. – Photo: Jason Lees