News Briefs | October 2023


OHA at the Queen Liliʻuokalani Festival in Hilo

Photo: Kamaile Puluole-Mitchell
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Public Policy Advocate Kamaile Puluole-Mitchell represented the organization at the County of Hawaiʻi’s He Haliʻa Aloha No Liliʻuokalani Festival on September 9. Held at Hilo’s Liliʻuokalani Gardens Park, the festival was a celebration of the Queen’s birthday and included music, hula, arts and crafts, food, demonstrations, games and cultural activities. More than 300 people attended the festival. – Photo: Courtesy of Kamaile Puluole-Mitchell

CNHA Opens Kākoʻo Maui Relief & Aid Services Center

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) has opened its Kākoʻo Maui Relief & Aid Services Center at Maui Mall Village. The new hub, open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., will focus on providing a cultural approach to help those impacted by the wildfires to best navigate the application process for direct aid and services.

The center will host both nonprofit service providers and representatives from various agencies including Imua Family Services, Hawaiʻi Community Lending, Hawaiian Community Assets, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi, Papa Ola Lōkahi and more.

CNHA is also offering its fundraising campaign, the Kākoʻo Maui Fund, to direct resources to Hawaiian communities impacted by the Maui wildfires. Funding supports various needs including shelter, food, financial assistance, and other services as identified by partners doing critical work on Maui.

For more information on the center, or to make a donation, visit

Kane Recognized as a Grist 50 “Fixer”

Photo: Haunani Kane
Haunani Kane – Photo: Todd Glaser

UH Mānoa Assistant Professor Haunani Kane, Ph.D., was recently honored as a leader in climate and justice as a Grist 50 “Fixer.” She was recognized for her efforts to drive fresh solutions to the climate crisis and for helping to pave the way for a greener, more just future.

In 2018, Kane became the first Native Hawaiian woman to earn a Ph.D. in geology at the university. She is currently studying sea-level rise and island resiliency in Hawaiʻi and other Pacific Islands to protect land, communities, and culture. Her research combines coastal geology, reconstructions of past climate conditions, and an Indigenous perspective to investigate how islands, reefs and island people are impacted by climate change.

Grist is a nonprofit, independent media organization. The Grist 50 is an annual list of leaders from across America who are working on real-world solutions to our planet’s biggest challenges, hence the moniker “fixers.”

Grist Fixers include scientists, artists, policymakers, farmers, social justice advocates, storytellers, entrepreneurs – people from varied backgrounds who are pointing the way toward a just, sustainable future. Collectively, their work shows what a vibrant, diverse climate movement looks like, and how we all have a place in it.

Hawaiʻi Island Festival of Birds Coming to Hilo

The Hawaiʻi Festival of Birds, a celebration of Hawaiʻi’s diverse bird species, will be held on Oct. 21, 2023, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo.

The event will feature conservation organizations, guest speakers, manu hula presentations, activities, and talk story and shopping opportunities. Proceeds raised from the festival will support future Hawaiʻi Island Festival of Birds events, as well as the conservation work of the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Center and the Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi.

The full day festival will include a Hula Manu Hōʻike featuring guest hālau, along with vendors and exhibitors. Opportunities for guided bird walks and tours the day after the festival will be available, with sign-up at the Saturday fair. For tickets go to

HCA Receives $1.5M From OHA to Help Hawaiians Rent or Own Their Homes

Hawaiian Community Assets (HCA) has received a $1.5 million grant from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) to increase access to services, grants, loans, and housing opportunities for Native Hawaiians looking to rent or own homes.

With this funding, HCA will establish the Native Hawaiian Occupancy Ready Project to create an occupancy-ready database of Native Hawaiian residents who have enrolled in HCA’s free financial counseling services.

“We are so humbled by this generous grant from OHA,” said Chelsie Evans, executive director of HCA. “This funding will empower us to expand our programs for more rent to own options, increase those reached through personalized housing-ready counselors, and equip Hawaiʻi’s people with the knowledge and resources necessary to achieve stable and sustainable housing.”

As a nonprofit organization and HUD-certified housing counseling agency, HCA is committed to helping local families build generational wealth, and establish economic empowerment and financial stability.

Purple Maiʻa Receives $200,000 Grant From OHA

The Purple Maiʻa Foundation has announced a grant award totaling $200,000 that will support the Native Hawaiian community through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Community Grants program for education.

With the award, the Purple Maiʻa will focus on introducing students and teachers in Hawaiʻi to artificial intelligence (AI) through workshops, training sessions, and mentorship programs. By equipping Native Hawaiian students with AI knowledge and skills, they aim to increase their college, career, and community readiness, and ensure they are prepared to participate in the rapidly evolving field of AI.

Moreover, by increasing the number of Native Hawaiian professionals in STEM and AI-related fields, Purple Maiʻa aims to contribute to the development and innovation of AI in Hawaiʻi and ensure that Hawaiian perspectives and values are integrated into the field.

This long-term community goal was developed in response to the growing importance and impact of AI on the Native Hawaiian community and the recognition that AI is rapidly becoming an essential part of many industries, including healthcare, finance, and education. The development and innovation of AI in Hawaiʻi will require a diverse range of perspectives, including the perspectives of the Native Hawaiian community.

“We believe the long-term community goal of seeing that Native Hawaiian students are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to pursue and succeed in AI related fields and contribute to the development and innovation of AI in Hawaiʻi, must begin with education. That is why Purple Maiʻa Foundation has put an emphasis on developing this project we have named ‘Waiw.AI,’” said Mike Sarmiento, Purple Maiʻa vice president of education.

Creation of a Lahaina Advisory Team and an Office of Recovery

In a key step toward recovery, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen has formed a five-member Lahaina Advisory Team comprised of Lahaina residents. The Advisory Team will serve as a critical resource and will meet weekly with Bissen to ensure the needs and desires of the community are part of discussions and decisions at the county level.

“As parents, business owners, compassionate community leaders and residents who have long-standing and generational ties to Lahaina, each member offers a perspective that will help guide key discussions as we purposefully and mindfully go forward,” Bissen said. “I’m deeply grateful for their willingness to give their time and their collective voice to help navigate these unprecedented times that truly must involve our community.”

Members of the Lahaina Advisory Team are: Archie Kalepa, a ninth generation resident of Lahaina and leader of Maui Ocean Rescue and Safety; Kaliko Storer, the area training and cultural advisor for Hyatt Resorts; Kim Ball, founder and president of Hi-Tech Maui, Inc., and Lahainaluna High School wrestling coach; Laurie DeGama, owner of Lahaina’s No Ka Oi Deli and Lahainaluna PTSA president and; Rick Nava, president and owner of Lahaina-based MSI Maui.

Maui County’s newly established Office of Recovery will address intermediate and long-term disaster recovery needs and be the center of coordination for integrated outcomes in community planning; housing; infrastructure; natural, historical, and cultural resources; economic resiliency; and health and social service systems.

“The way forward is together,” Bissen said. “We will do everything in our power to bring stability and support to all our Maui ʻohana who are experiencing unimaginable hardship.”

Hawaiʻi AG Selects FSRI to Investigate Maui Fires

Hawaiʻi Attorney General Anne E. Lopez has announced that she has selected Underwriters Laboratories’ Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), a nonprofit research organization, to assess the policies and performance of state and county agencies in preparing for and responding to the Maui wildfires.

FSRI is dedicated to addressing the world’s unresolved fire safety risks and emerging dangers.

“I am committed to an independent, unbiased, and transparent investigation into government actions during the fires,” Lopez said. “I hear the frustration and understand that many have had their belief in government shaken by this unprecedented tragedy. It is crucial to preserve faith in government action by using science and sound investigative techniques to determine the facts.

“We can improve our responsiveness and resilience. Once the investigation is completed, our next step is to take decisive action to rectify any issues and develop new policies, procedures, and necessary actions to save lives in the future.”

Lopez said FSRI will complete a thorough investigation of government agency actions up to and during the first 24 to 72 hours of the fire and its aftermath, with the final report anticipated in approximately 12 months – in late 2024.

FSRI will conduct the investigation in three phases and each phase’s timing will be shared with the public. Any additional time required will be announced, with the intent of ensuring a thorough investigation.

Lopez will share information with the community at the end of each phase and at the completion of the investigation. She also will share the recommendations directed to state and county agencies to help prevent and better prepare communities for future disasters.

“The FSRI investigation, and what we learn from science and sound investigative practices, will result in a set of concrete policy recommendations that will help ensure a safer, more prepared Hawaiʻi,” Lopez said.

Point in Time Count Releases Native Hawaiian Sub-Report

Point in Time Report - Native Hawaiian Sub-Report Highlights

Download Point In Time Report Highlights – PDF Format

The Oʻahu Point in Time (PIT) Count is a federally required census count that determines the number of people experiencing homelessness on Oʻahu on one night in January – in this case, Jan. 23, 2023.

The Native Hawaiian sub-report represents individuals experiencing homelessness on Oʻahu who reported being Native Hawaiian. It seeks to understand how Native Hawaiians are affected by homelessness and how their experiences may differ from other populations.

The PIT Count is divided into two sections: the Unsheltered Count, which counts individuals staying on the street, in cars, on beaches, or other places not meant for human habitation; and the Sheltered Count, which counts individuals who stayed in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or veteran safe havens.

Highlights of the Native Hawaiian sub-report includes the following statistics: Hawaiians experiencing homelessness increased 16% from 2022; Hawaiians have consistently accounted for about 40% of the homeless population for the past six years; the Waiʻanae Coast has the largest unsheltered Native Hawaiian population and; Hawaiians report higher rates of all causes for homelessness with health-related causes being the greatest.

For the full PIT report please refer to the Point In Time Count 2023 Comprehensive Report at

Interim Working Groups Formed to Address Wildfire Relief

In September, House Speaker Rep. Scott Saiki, Majority Leader Rep. Nadine Nakamura, and Minority Leader Rep. Lauren Matsumoto announced the establishment of six interim House working groups tasked with the crucial responsibility of evaluating specific topics related to the Lahaina wildfire and making recommendations for appropriate legislative action in the 2024 Legislative Session.

“While we remain in mourning for the tragedy, the House will take action prior to the legislative session to focus on immediate issues that require temporary or transitional relief,” Saiki said. “Members of the interim working groups will collaborate with subject experts and various agencies, engage in extensive discussions relating to the Lahaina wildfire, and formulate recommendations for the upcoming session.”

During the interim, members of the bipartisan working groups are called to collaborate with federal, state, and county agencies, along with community stakeholders and interested parties. Each group is tasked with the responsibility of producing a final report by December 15. These reports will detail ongoing actions and recommendations for potential legislation relating to the Lahaina wildfire.

“We recognize that concerns such as wildfire prevention, shelter, schools, jobs and businesses, environmental remediation, and supplies remain top-of-mind for Maui residents,” Nakamura said. “We look forward to productive discussions and establishing a framework that reflects the Legislature’s unwavering commitment to supporting Maui.”

“First and foremost, the Legislature needs to do everything in its power to provide relief to the victims in Lahaina and their families. These committees will help to shape legislation for the upcoming session to help those in Maui,” Matsumoto said.

Maunakea Presents at Native American Nutrition Conference

Photo: Dr. Alika Maunakea
Dr. Alika Maunakea
– Photo: UH

Dr. Alika Maunakea, an associate professor of epigenomics in the Department of Anatomy, Biochemistry, and Physiology at the University of Hawaiʻi John A. Burns School of Medicine, was one of the Indigenous presenters at the Sixth Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition, held in Minneapolis/St. Paul in September.

The worldʻs only conference series of its kind brings diverse stakeholders together to discuss native food systems, food sovereignty, nutrition and health.

Tribal and community leaders, nutrition and wellness educators, researchers and students, health practitioners, government officials, and funders participated in a wide variety of expert-led sessions and discussions focused on the current state of Indigenous and academic scientific knowledge about native food systems, food sovereignty, nutrition, and health.

The program included Indigenous perspectives on the role of food in health and wellbeing, model tribal programs, the state of Indigenous science, food policy, and more.

Kahanu Will Help Curate Hawaiʻi Triennial

Photo: Noelle Kahanu
Noelle Kahanu

Hawaiʻi Contemporary’s Hawaiʻi Triennial curatorial team for 2025 will include independent ʻŌiwi curator Noelle M.K.Y. Kahanu.

Kahanu spent 15 years at Bishop Museum, developing scores of exhibitions and programs. She worked on the renovations of Hawaiian Hall (2009) and Pacific Hall (2013), as well as on the landmark E Kū Ana Ka Paia exhibition (2010). She has a law degree from UH Mānoa and previously served as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.

She is currently an associate specialist in Public Humanities and Native Hawaiian Programs in the American Studies Department at UH. Her current research and practice explores the liberating and generative opportunities when museums “seed” rather than cede authority.

Also on the curatorial team are Wassan Al-Khudhairi, an independent curator most recently chief curator at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and Binna Choi, director of Casco Art Institute (Utrecht) and co-artistic director of Singapore Biennale 2022. Together, they will curate Hawaiʻi Contemporary’s fourth biennial/triennial exhibition.

“I look forward to maximizing our community connections to people and place and to building profound and transformative relationships between artists, institutions and our audiences,” Kahanu said.

Kahilu.TV Food Sustainability Mini-series

The first episode of a five-part documentary mini-series, Nā Pua Pasifika (Children of the Pacific), is now available to view for free on Kahilu.TV ( The original Kahilu.TV series promotes sustainability and focuses on growing traditional foods and cooking techniques.

Each episode will feature one of the five main food crops used throughout the Pacific that can be key building blocks for improving food security in Hawaiʻi: ʻulu (breadfruit), kalo (taro), uhi (yam), kapioka (tapioca), and ʻuala (sweet potato).

A person who grew up in a culture that relies heavily on the featured plant will share how the plants have been used over time, and then demonstrate several traditional ways of preparing it. The first episode is about ʻulu (breadfruit).

The series’ goal is to demonstrate how these plants can contribute directly to food security in Hawaiʻi. The show’s motto, “sustainability starts small,” encourages Hawaiʻi residents to grow some of the food they eat.

OHA Board of Trustees Meet in Waimea, Hawaiʻi Island

The annual OHA Hawaiʻi Island Community Meeting and Board of Trustees Meeting were held at Kanu o ka ʻĀina New Century Public Charter School on Sept. 14 and 15, 2023. OHA Trustees, administration and staff enjoyed the cool winds of Waimea and the opportunity to hear from Kanu poʻo kula, kumu and haumāna. Kanu was the first Native Hawaiian focused charter school established in the state. OHA also met with the Waimea Hawaiian Homestead Association and went on a site visit to its kānaka run Kīpuka o ke Ola (KOKO) Native Hawaiian Rural Health Clinic. KOKO CEO Dr. Claren Kealoha-Beaudet and COO Dr. Franco Acquaro shared how the clinic has grown in size and services to provide its patients with Western medicine and traditional healing practices. – Photos: Alice Silbanuz