A Look Back


Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

As we come to the end of 2021, we look back on the year that has passed and start to look forward to the year ahead.

The last two years have been rough, as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has lost a wealth of knowledge and history from its ranks.

With the departure of our chief advocate, two public policy managers, our Washington, D.C., bureau chief and then our interim bureau chief, our community engagement director, controller, multiple public policy staff, and more, most of these positions continue to be either vacant or covered by the CEO, COO, CFO, or other management. While OHA continues to actively advertise to try and fill these positions, the practice of multiple-hat-wearing seems to be the norm in the foreseeable future.

With the recent filling of the chief advocate position, this Trustee looks forward to seeing what is being proposed for OHA’s legislative package for 2022.

Here is hoping that OHA chooses to advocate for Native Hawaiian rights, whether it be land, water, or cultural practices. Or broader issues that affect everyone, such as a living wage, state preschools, or the biggest issue facing us all – affordable housing.

Affordable housing is, in this Trustee’s mind, the most important issue – and the silver bullet that can help address multiple issues facing Native Hawaiians, from drug and domestic abuse to criminal recidivism. With a plan to help Native Hawaiians with a down payment for homeownership, let us hope politics – or a lack of leadership or vision – will not put up speed bumps or roadblocks to get Native Hawaiians into homes.

With Hawaiʻi’s high vaccination rate and both county and state restrictions loosening, we all look forward to gathering safely with our ʻohana. As Hawaiʻi opens back up to the world, let us all continue to be safe and look out for our ʻāina, our ʻohana, and our kuleana.

From my ʻohana to yours, have a Merry Christmas and we look forward to seeing you all safe and healthy in the new year. Mele Kalikimaka a me ka Hauʻoli Makahiki hou.