A Summary of OHA’s 2024 Legislative Package

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2024 Legislative SessionOn Dec. 9, 2023, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board of Trustees approved OHA’s 2024 Legislative Package containing four measures, each of which was developed with three foundational principles in mind: Stop Native Hawaiian identity erasure; elevate Native Hawaiian identity as an inseparable facet of the state’s identity; and uplift and empower our most vulnerable communities as a crucial component of Native Hawaiian self-determination.

OHA-1: Amending the Board of Agriculture to include OHA

What? We are asking the Legislature to include OHA on the Hawaiʻi Board of Agriculture.

Why? Native Hawaiians were the first mahiʻai (farmers) and kahu holoholona (ranchers) in the Hawaiian Islands. Our traditional and customary hānai ʻai (food producer) practices, rooted in time-proven principles of sustainability and self-sufficiency, should provide guidance to the future of food security here in Hawaiʻi.

Despite this obvious fact, Native Hawaiian farmers and ranchers struggle with high operational and land ownership costs, facing greater disparities at a higher rate than others. The unfortunate result here is the loss of Native Hawaiian lands and the severing of Native Hawaiian cultures that were integral to the mālama of the ʻāina they were pili to.

By including OHA on the Hawaiʻi Board of Agriculture, the broad scope of Native Hawaiian knowledge will have a decision-making seat in the strategic agricultural and aquacultural directions of the state. OHA would also have the capacity to work more collaboratively within the Department of Agriculture to address the needs of Native Hawaiians throughout the food system for the overall betterment of conditions of Native Hawaiians.

OHA-2: Requesting OHA to Identify the Scope of Native Hawaiian Cultural Appropriateness for the Purpose of Addressing Native Hawaiian Disparities

What? We are asking the legislature to reaffirm its support for Native Hawaiian identity by asking OHA to identify the scope of what it means to be “culturally appropriate” in every relevant policy area.

Why? Native Hawaiian identity is a facet of Native Hawaiian existence, and it faces widespread erasure from the severing of Native Hawaiians’ culture from ʻāina to cultural misappropriation. The State of Hawaiʻi should have a very strong Native Hawaiian identity. ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi should be normalized and widely used. Native Hawaiian culture should be normalized as part of everyday life instead of exploited and commodified. Hawaiʻi should feel like the homeland of Native Hawaiians and be an inviting home for all Native Hawaiians to which to return. This is where that all begins. From education and economic development to housing and health, this measure will echo the state’s commitment to the betterment of conditions of Native Hawaiians.

OHA-3: Urging the State’s Commitment to Providing Culturally Appropriate Resources, Services, and Programs for Native Hawaiian Individuals and Families Experiencing Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD)

What? We are asking the Legislature to urge the state government to better address the needs of the I/DD community with a focus on Native Hawaiian cultural pathways for overcoming challenges.

Why? The State of Hawaiʻi has a very long way to go in terms of providing the necessary resources, services, and programs to meet the needs of individuals and families in the State of Hawaiʻi who are experiencing I/DD. For socially and historically disadvantaged people, like Native Hawaiians, the disparities are even greater, and their vulnerabilities are far more pronounced.

Native Hawaiians with I/DD have the right to find healing through their culture. There needs to be Native Hawaiian cultural and combined cultural solutions, to existing and emerging challenges that individuals with I/DD, and their ʻohana, face.

OHA-4: Requesting OHA to Report on Strategies for Native Hawaiian Rural Resiliency

What? We are asking to provide the Legislature with a report on the unique needs of Native Hawaiian rural communities.

Why? A century ago, everywhere in the Hawaiian Islands outside of Honolulu would have been considered “rural.” Socio-economic upheaval essentially drove Native Hawaiians out of rural communities and into urban centers for economic opportunities – for survival. Does this sound familiar?

The difference today, is that Hawaiʻi has become so expensive that Native Hawaiians are being forced out of their ancestral homeland for economic opportunities – survival – elsewhere. The passage of time here chronicles the systematic erasure of Native Hawaiians from ʻāina throughout Hawaiʻi. Our rural communities are some of the last bastions of intact Native Hawaiian identity rooted in place.

By identifying and addressing the unique needs of each rural community, OHA can assist the state and counties in providing meaningful and effective guidance on this crucial matter of Native Hawaiian self-determination.

Be an Advocate for our Lāhui in 2024

Check out the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ governance webpage and stay up-to-date on issues and legislation affecting OHA and our lāhui throughout the 2024 Legislative Session.

Our webpage provides practical information on how to register for an account on the Hawaii State Legislature’s website, as well as how to submit testimony online. There is also a short video that explains how a bill becomes law, along with links to other resources and information.

Bookmark www.oha.org/governance on your laptop or mobile device.