Ka Wai Ola

Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

Aloha mai kākou,

I would like to take the opportunity in this month’s column to thank all of you for having the confidence in me to represent you all at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. To the many beneficiaries that took the time to share their mana‘o. To the many non-Hawaiians that took an active interest in the OHA race, understanding that what was good for Native Hawaiians is good for everyone in the State of Hawai‘i.

Forty years ago, an idea was borne to have this thing that would advocate for those that first brought life to this ‘āina. Here, we are now with nearly $600 million in assets, it’s time for us to holomua and take this thing that was created and make the Office of Hawaiian Affairs do what it is supposed to. We’ve heard the winds of change before. In 1996 with Nā Lei Lōkahi, Malia Craver stated “It’s time for a change. We’ve had the older [Trustees] in there for years now, and it’s not working…” Now with an uncharted path before us with a unified board of nine unanimous votes for board leadership, maybe now is the time we can make this happen. We will keep Nā Lei Lōkahi alumnus Warren Perry words in our pu‘uwai, “It’s like having a tree, and every spring you pull it up and examine the parts. Then replant it. I’d like to see the agency firmly established. I’d like to be able to say, ‘OK, that’s the way it’s going to be, now let’s get on with the work OHA was created to do.’”

As your newest Trustee At-Large, I come with an understanding of the kuleana that I have taken on. My promise is that I take that kuleana seriously and will work to better Hawai‘i for all. In the coming months, we at OHA will start to plan for the next ten years with a new strategic plan. I urge all beneficiaries to provide OHA with their input. We work for you and want to hear from you. We all know housing is important, jobs are important, health care, economic sustainability, the homeless issue, are all important; but what is important to you, individually? Your voices are what we need to hear. Your voices are what will help to bring clarity to our vision of where to point our wa‘a. We will make course corrections along the way. As we all know Hōkūle‘a does not sail in a straight line, we will mālama together and navigate the swells as they come.

In the coming months, I will share with you more about issues that OHA is, should be, or will be taking a more impactful role in. I look forward to learning what you feel those should be and ideas you may have about what we are working on.