We Must Hold Fast


ʻOnipaʻa (vs. Fixed, immovable, motionless, steadfast, established, firm, resolute, determined.)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

ʻOpihi are amazing animals. They can endure long periods of drying sun exposure at low tide and powerful crashing waves at high tide. Their muscular “foot” keeps them firmly attached to the rocks and their low, slightly rounded grooved shells help mitigate the impact of the waves by channeling the water down their sides. No matter the condition of the world around them, ʻopihi cling firmly to their foundation.

Sometimes I think we need to be more like ʻopihi.

For the past two years the waves crashing over us have felt particularly onerous and dangerous. And so we must hold tight to our foundation – our ʻohana, our moʻomeheu, and our ʻāina – and remain ʻonipaʻa (steadfast) in the storm.

Just last month, the Navy admitted that fuel from their massive tanks at Kapūkakī (Red Hill) had contaminated the drinking water of more than 92,000 Oʻahu residents. Gov. Ige and the Department of Health issued an emergency order to immediately suspend operations at the facility, which the Navy has ignored. Their negligence has galvanized our community, but the path forward is long.

Ironically, military land use leases for Hawaiian land at places like Pōhakuloa, Kahuku and Mākua will expire in seven years and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has unveiled a new Hawaiʻi Military Land Use Master Plan that proposes expanding their existing acreage.

Our state leaders should pay close attention to what is happening at Kapūkakī before extending more land leases to the military. Our state leaders also need to address their own failure to fulfill the state’s Public Land Trust (PLT) revenue obligation to Native Hawaiians.

The PLT includes the government and crown lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom seized during the overthrow and now held “in trust” by the State of Hawaiʻi. By its own laws, the state must allocate 20% of all PLT revenue to OHA – to be used to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians. For 40 years the state has not fulfilled this kuleana. OHA will continue to pursue this matter at the legislature.

Too often our precious value of aloha has been used as a tool against us by those for whom our discontent is uncomfortable and our resistance inconvenient. “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Our time is now.

January has been declared “Kalaupapa Month” and this issue of Ka Wai Ola celebrates the people of Kalaupapa. Despite harsh, painful beginnings they built a vibrant, joyful community. Their stories are examples of ʻonipaʻa for our lāhui.

Jan. 17, 2022, will be 129 years since the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and an ʻOnipaʻa March from Maunaʻala to ʻIolani Palace has been organized to mark that dark day in our history. Notably, “ʻonipaʻa” was also Queen Liliʻuokalani’s motto.

In these conditions that we presently find ourselves – as our lāhui is buffeted by waves of injustice and bad policy – we must hold fast to our rock and foundation. As were our kūpuna, we, too must be hopeful and grateful. We must be courageous and resolute.

We must be ʻonipaʻa.

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Ka Pouhana/Chief Executive Officer