Adapted from the speech I presented at the AHCC convention in November
Since being elected Chair in December 2020 I have preached the value of lōkahi, of working together in unity toward a common goal. We can accomplish so much more with our collective impact.
We carry the wisdom of our ancestors and lessons from our aliʻi. As we celebrate this 63rd annual convention of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, let us remember that it was Prince Kūhiō who believed that the future of the Hawaiian community could only be protected through an organized effort by Hawaiian leadership.
This year’s convention theme, “Mōhala i ka wai ka maka o ka pua – unfolded by the waters are the faces of the flowers,” refers to thriving people found where living conditions are good. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) is advancing its efforts to better the conditions of the Native Hawaiian people by:
- Beginning year three of our 15-year Mana i Mauli Ola Strategic Plan focusing on the needs of our people in education, health, housing, and economic stability on a foundation of strengthened ʻohana, moʻomeheu, and ʻāina.
- Implementing a new governance structure and policy framework.
- Reorganizing the agency to reduce overhead, streamline operations and redirect resources to our beneficiaries and communities.
- Increasing our grant awards from $6 million in 2006 to $16 million in FY 2022; our overall two-year fiscal biennium budget for grants and scholarships has been set at $30.2 million.
- Publishing 18 years of financial statements and audit information on our website, plus three years of single audits of OHA’s Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund in the interest of financial transparency.
- Completing the updated CLA – OHA and LLCs contracts and disbursements.
- Continuing to litigate mismanagement of the wahi pana of Maunakea.
- Preparing OHA for a greater role in matters of military engagement including the expiration of military leases in areas like Pōhakuloa.
- Raising issues regarding the State’s responsibility to protect iwi kūpuna and sacred sites, and support island Burial Councils via our Compliance and Enforcement unit.
- Welcoming the affirmation of the federal government’s trust responsibility to Native Hawaiians including the recent announcement of a formal consultation policy with Native Hawaiians.
- Moving forward to revitalize our 30-acre waterfront property in Haku-one (formerly Kakaʻako Makai) to strengthen and diversify our endowment. We are assembling a Hawaiian-led, in-house advisory team to oversee community meetings. We hope that a thoughtful, data-driven community-based approach to doing what is pono for our people will engage the public and win their support.
We Hawaiians must work together in lōkahi to better the lives of all our people. OHA is trying to model this in multiple ways. For example, OHA is one of 60 organizations on the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Response, Recovery and Resilience team that is leading the fight against COVID-19 under the leadership of Dr. Sheri-Ann Daniels and Dr. Keawe Kaholokula.
Additionally, in FY 2021, OHA’s Grants Program provided funding to more than 80 Hawaiʻi-based nonprofits that serve the lāhui in ways that align with our strategic plan. We are proud to partner with so many outstanding organizations.
And we have created a platform in our print and online publication, Ka Wai Ola, to highlight the news and accomplishments of other Hawaiian-serving organizations.
This is a new day at OHA and we will continue to seek excellence, continue to kūlia i ka nuʻu, continue to hoʻomau until we are satisfied that we have created the type of agency that the Native Hawaiian community deserves.