Ka Wai Ola

Aloha mai kākou,

Hawai‘i voters will be electing five trustees to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs board in 2018. OHA’s Board of Trustees administers a $370 million trust in the interest of Native Hawaiians, so it’s critical to be informed about the candidates and the positions they are vying to fill.

This month’s issue of Ka Wai Ola provides an opportunity for all candidates in the gubernatorial and OHA races to address our readers directly on key Hawaiian issues. On July 2, OHA, in partnership with Kamehameha Schools, will be hosting a “Super Debate” on Hawaii News Now, featuring Democratic primary candidates for U.S. Congressional District 1, lieutenant governor and governor. Other organizations will also be publishing candidate surveys and hosting candidate forums and debates. I attended one such forum myself recently at Windward Community College.

You can read about the candidates’ positions in Ka Wai Ola’s primary election guide. To put their answers in context, you can use OHA resources to get a better understanding of what the agency is trying to accomplish, as well as what role trustees play in helping OHA achieve its mission.

I believe that as Hawaiians, it’s our kuleana to be informed. That makes it OHA’s kuleana to be transparent. Since I became Ka Pouhana in 2012, OHA has made increasingly more of our data available to the public. We collect comprehensive, impactful statistics about Hawaiians here and on the continent, not just because it’s a constitutional mandate, but because we want that information to be accessed, understood and applied as we work together to improve the well-being of the lāhui and the state as a whole.

OHA was created during the 1978 Constitution Convention to right the injustices suffered by Native Hawaiians since the overthrow of the monarchy 125 years ago. The agency is an advocate for Native Hawaiian rights, including access rights mauka to makai for traditional and customary practices. OHA also has a rightful claim to ceded lands revenue, and the fiduciary duty to manage these funds to improve the conditions and well-being of Native Hawaiians. Ceded land revenue, OHA’s investment portfolio and revenue from OHA’s commercial properties allow the agency to provide grants, scholarships and other resources to our beneficiaries.

You can see how it all breaks down in annual financial statements and grant listings have been published in Ka Wai Ola and remain accessible online at www.oha.org. Each month, Ka Wai Ola also publishes how trustees vote on every issue, and board agendas and meeting minutes are housed on the website. OHA also publishes the Native Hawaiian Data Book, which contains comprehensive statistics that can be used for research, grant writing, creating programs, planning communities and setting policy. The Data Book can be found on our website, in libraries across the state, at the state Capitol and in Washington, D.C.

We try to help the public better understand OHA’s work by showcasing its real-world impact. We regularly publish stories about programs we’ve funded, scholarship recipients we’ve helped graduate from college and research we’ve conducted. Video on our social media channels highlight cultural practitioners who are perpetuating our heritage and traditions; community nonprofits that are working on the ground to improve our beneficiaries’ health, economic standing and educational attainment; and the land stewards who protect our natural resources. In highlighting these accomplishments, we’re also letting our beneficiaries know about resources for rental and housing assistance, for vocational training and for continued strengthening of cultural identity through language, tradition and practices.

In addition to sharing its own work, OHA builds connections in our communities. Outreach staff on all islands are available to beneficiaries, and their interactions make us more effective advocates at the state Legislature and county councils. As land stewards, our staff members strive to exemplify great konohiki by including area experts and residents in planning, ensuring our comprehensive management plans reflect cultural uses and future aspirations identified by Hawaiians with ties to the area. Our staff is currently working on a community-driven master plan for our 511-acre Wahiawā property surrounding the Kūkaniloko birthing stones to protect that important cultural site while keeping in mind the needs of our farmers and others who use the land.

Our transparency is an invitation to the public to hold us accountable and help us in our efforts. As informed Hawaiians we can uplift the lāhui and create a great Hawai‘i.

‘O au iho nō me ke aloha a me ka ‘oia‘i‘o,

Kamana‘opono M. Crabbe, Ph.D.

Ka Pouhana/Chief Executive Officer