Ka Wai Ola

Peter Apo, Trustee, O‘ahu In my last column I set forth seven recommendations for Trustees to consider in order to hit the reset button on the way we manage beneficiary business and maximize our proficiency in carrying out our fiduciary duty in ways that clearly allow us to determine what is it we’re supposed to be doing, what’s working, what’s not, and how do we fix the things that aren’t working.

The first two initiatives I call for are (1) revisiting the constitutional intent of OHA and (2) retrofitting OHA’s overarching vision and mission statements. A review of the constitutional language that created OHA in 1978 and the legislatively constructed language of Chapter 10 of the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes that spell out OHA’s authority loom important, not so much for what they say, but for what they do not say.

For the past 37 years since 1980, most OHA Trustees have seemed to presume that the notions of political sovereignty, political self-determination, and the politics of nation-building were fundamental to the purpose for which OHA was created. A considerable amount of resources has been committed to nation-building since OHA’s inception. Yet nowhere in either the constitutional language that created OHA, or in Chapter 10 of the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes, are these concepts mentioned.

To be clear, my intention is not to invalidate OHA’s pursuit of self-determination or nation-building but simply to suggest that trustees self-reflect on our priorities based on the language of the constitution and Chapter 10.

What I hope might emerge from my call for OHA to revisit, clarify, and perhaps amend its currently stated vision and mission is that the process will yield a realignment of OHA’s strategic plan with an eye toward a restructuring of OHA’s governing model.

Personally, I continue to support political self-determination. But, OHA need not continue to be the elephant in the living room on this political objective. For those who pursue federal recognition (which does not preclude seeking independence) there is a new center of gravity that emerged from the ʻAha process last year that yielded a constitution that needs to be ratified by some form of an electorate free of OHA influence.

For those who seek independence, and there are at least a dozen organizations competing for the high ground on that political objective, there is little agreement on how best to unify those of that persuasion in order to bring clarity on what a “restored” Hawaiian nation might look like. But I wish them well.

Then there is a third alternative, with a significant percentage of Hawaiians in favor of the status quo. Some are essentially happy with their way of life. Others hope to protect millions of dollars in federal entitlement programs now in play that may be threatened by political redesignation of Hawaiians as aboriginal peoples of Hawaiʻi.

All of the above is subjective and I stand to be corrected, criticized, or enlightened except for my final observation. Everything on the table for discussion is rooted in the language of section 5-f of the Hawaiʻi Admissions Act that spells out that the trust responsibility of the state of Hawaiʻi is to engage in the active pursuit of the “betterment of conditions of Native Hawaiians.” OHA owes its existence to this provision and has an obligation to clearly live up to its promise.

I welcome you to visit my OHA webpage, PeterApo.com.

Note: Trustee columns represent the views of individual trustees and may not reflect the official positions adopted by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.