Kai Markell


Compliance Enforcement Manager
Community Engagement
17 years at OHA

At OHA, Kai Markell is responsible for ensuring that other government agencies comply with their constitutional, statutory and judicial mandates to assist Native Hawaiians. Before joining OHA, Markell worked for 10 years at the Department of Land and Natural Resources protecting ancestral burial and historic sites.

Every year, OHA receives hundreds of requests to review and comment on various federal, state and county projects and the discretionary permitting by these agencies. Conducting these reviews is the kuleana of Markell and his team.

One ongoing review project concerns the state’s inefficient handling of ancestral burial site care, management and protection. There are also multiple environmental reviews related to the military including land retention at Pōhakuloa and Mākua, the $2 billion Missile Defense Agency radar project, and the leaking Red Hill fuel tanks. Another high-priority focus for his team is the near-imminent extinction of four highly endangered native birds.

Markell says he is a very simple kanaka who lives life with humility, gratitude and aloha. His role models are Christ and Queen Liliʻuokalani, both of whom taught him the virtues of love, peace and forgiveness, and his favorite books are by the Dalai Lama and Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Markell seeks to refine his soul and become a more loving and peaceful being. He is also a huge Star Wars fan. “I remain intrigued at the ability of people to possess elements of both Jedi and Sith,” he said, noting that we all have light and dark within us and must find balance.

For Markell, a graduate of Kamehameha and UH Mānoa’s Richardson School of Law, working at OHA is a way to serve our people. “After almost 30 years on the frontlines, to wake up each day and utilize my knowledge, skills, experience, ‘ike Hawaiʻi and aloha to serve the lāhui alongside beautiful, committed, dedicated co-workers brings me tremendous personal satisfaction.”