The Trustees of OHA, myself included, voted to reject and oppose the 2022 legislative measure on Maunakea for good reason.
After years of strife, demonstrations by thousands of Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians and the arrest of 30+ Hawaiian kūpuna, state legislators and commercial science contractors were able to “negotiate” a compromise measure that maintains the status quo, fails to accommodate Hawaiian rights to worship, engage in cultural practices including the gathering of seeds and water, and maintain the traditional burials of the mauna.
In the testimony submitted by myself and my ʻohana to the Saiki Working Group, we noted that both their report and the bill failed to address the critical issues which Hawaiians have identified and worked to address over the past 30 years. Hawaiʻi law requires that whenever ceded lands are leased, an appraisal must be taken to set the commercial value of the lease and to ensure that the lease rent is set to ensure the highest return to the State and to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
History verifies that this requirement was ignored by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the University of Hawaiʻi and instead, a “Science Reserve” was created and the annual rent set at $1.00 per year, with OHA receiving 20 cents per year.
Because of this illegal arrangement, the public and Native beneficiaries, and the state, have lost millions of dollars. This political “deal” facilitated the state’s and university’s claims that there was no money or budget to address and remedy the problems on the Mauna including the removal of invasive species, feral animals, and the protection and preservation of the historic sites, places of worship and burial caves of the Mauna, which Hawaiians view as a wahi pana, a sacred place.
In our OHA testimony, dated April 5, 2022, the Trustees noted the following:
- The “new” authority meant to replace the old dysfunctional oversight body (UH, Board of Regents and President Lassner) was, in fact, comprised of the same people and groups as in the “old” oversight group. Most troubling was the conspicuous absence of DLNR, which is supposed to have oversight and funding to preserve historic sites and protect traditional burials. As noted in our testimony, the result is not good governance, it is pono ʻole (i.e., unjust).
- OHA also objected to the lease terms which allow for a supermajority to approve lease renewal for 65 years without considering the impact as alienating those Ceded Lands.
- OHA also objected to the directive that allows the new authority to bypass the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 consultation with Native Hawaiians.
I was proud to vote with the OHA Trustees on this position.
The Court was forced to dismiss the criminal charges against the kūpuna arrested on the Mauna, however, the state is seeking a dismissal “Without Prejudice” so they can bring charges against us again. We will not be deterred.
Kū Kiaʻi Mauna, Maunakea is Sacred. Aloha, Mililani