Deliberate Misinformation: The contemporary approach to trampling Hawaiian rights

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Mililani B Trask: Trustee Hawaiʻi Island

I began 2023 filled with optimism that OHA would finally be free to get on with the task of developing its 30 acres in Kakaʻako Makai. These were lands given by the state in 2012 in supposed settlement of a long overdue debt for years of unpaid ceded land revenues to which OHA was entitled, but that the state had failed to pay.

My optimism has been replaced with righteous anger as I watch the unfurling of a deliberate campaign of disinformation by parties determined to stop OHA from developing its lands on behalf of its beneficiaries.

FACT: The 30 acres we call Hakuone is not “public land.” They are Hawaiian lands. Either we, the Indigenous people of these islands, have the same freedoms as everyone else to do what we want with our assets, or we don’t. Some, clearly, would prefer to dictate to us.

Friends of Kewalos are engaging in malicious distortions despite having had extensive briefings from OHA executives. OHA’s 30 acres comprise just 14% of Kakaʻako Makai’s 221 acres, yet flyers summoning people to a so-called “community informational meeting” conflates OHA’s lands with all of Kakaʻako Makai. The impression left is that OHA’s plans to develop housing on some of its land would transform ALL of Kakaʻako Makai. Not true.

FACT: OHA wants to offer a variety of housing options that would be affordable for Hawaiians, too many of whom are houseless, wishing to return to the “sands of our birth.” The very people who were briefed by OHA are behind this misinformation campaign. The group’s “long term vision” for what could be created in Kakaʻako Makai is presented as if they had never heard of OHA’s vision for the creation.

FACT: OHA envisions not just housing, but a true Hawaiian neighborhood with pedestrian walkways, a Hawaiian Cultural Center, opportunities for small businesses, artists and performers to showcase their work, a place where families could enjoy day care for keiki and kūpuna, holistic healing services, and, despite all the fear-mongering to the contrary, multiple access points to the ocean.

A particularly insulting touch is the promise on the opposition flyer that “Hawaiian food will be served” at the opposition meeting. What? Pandering to the Natives before hoodwinking them?

The misinformation goes beyond just one flyer.

Katherine Lindell of HawaiiOceannews.com emailed her opposition to all lawmakers. She presumes to lecture us about “Hawaiʻi’s delicate ecosystem and the sacred nature of Hawaiʻi’s ʻāina.” She continues with a full-throated endorsement of Sen. Sharon Moriwaki’s assertions that OHA plans to “build residential on all nine of its parcels,” that OHA plans to “build 400-foot towers…without first doing serious study of the impacts and costs of their building on our treasured last open public shoreline in urban Honolulu.”

FACT: OHA’s 10 acres of planned open space represent one-third of its total Kakaʻako Makai lands.The impertinence of the opposition is as breathtaking as the lies; that these people would presume to school Hawaiians who have been wise stewards of these islands for generations.

FACT: Grassroots Native Hawaiian communities across the islands are showing the larger community, and the government too, how best to protect the ʻāina. Conservation is deeply woven into our reverence for the ʻāina. The opposition’s brazen cultural appropriation is surpassed only by Lindell’s declaration that “OHA should be disbanded and re-established to truly represent the Hawaiian people.”

OHA is not going away. Native Hawaiians are not going away. We did not survive colonization, U.S. imperialism, deadly diseases, and blatant attempts to wipe out our culture to now yield to these scurrilous attacks. We will fight back.