News Briefs | January 2023

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OHA’s BOT Establishes Internal Leadership Structure

On Dec. 12, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board of Trustees unanimously selected Maui Island Trustee Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey as its board chair, a position she has held since December of 2020. The board also selected the vice chair for the full board and named the leadership for the board’s two standing committees:

OHA Board

Chair: Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, Maui Island trustee

Vice Chair: Mililani Trask, Hawaiʻi Island trustee

Committee on Resource Management

Chair: John Waiheʻe IV, At-Large trustee

Vice Chair: Luana Alapa, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi Island trustee

Committee on Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment

Chair: Kalei Akaka, Oʻahu Island trustee


New Forum Series Highlights Water Access and Sustainability

Concerns connected to water access and sustainability in Hawaiʻi took the spotlight at the first in a new series of forums at UH Mānoa. The inagural Piʻo Summit: Wai Sovereignty and Justice launched on Dec. 15 spearheaded by UH Mānoa Professor Dr. Kamanamaikalani Beamer. The summit brought together respected community leaders and advocates to discuss advancing the protection of ʻāina and wai.

“We created these Piʻo Summits to highlight the pressing issues of our time. Hawaiʻi is in a crisis where we need courageous leadership and ancestral innovation to solve the problems of our times,” said Beamer.

The summit was held at the Imin International Conference Center at the East-West Center. It featured two panels. The first included aloha ʻāina leaders, wai advocates and practitioners from loko iʻa (fishponds) and loʻi kalo focusing on water’s significant role in feeding Hawaiʻi’s communities.

The second panel featured individuals at the forefront of the Shut Down Red Hill movement.

Renowned philosopher, political activist, intellectual and author Cornel West headlined a moderated keynote discussion following the summit. He spoke on imperialism and the occupation of Hawaiʻi, while placing the islands within the context of peoples’ movements for liberation and justice across the world.

“Dr. Cornel West has been one of the most influential thinkers of our time when it comes to race, social justice, economic justice, and the liberation of oppressed peoples and occupied nations,” Beamer said. “He is a globally recognized philosopher and progressive activist for human rights.”

The Piʻo Summit will be held annually and is hosted by Pōʻai Ke Aloha ʻĀina, a project of the Dana Naone Hall chair, which aims to elevate aloha ʻāina practices within our community.

New Permits Recommended for Subsistence Fishing

Fishery managers from across the Western Pacific recommended fishing regulations for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) Expansion Area.

Members of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council recommended the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) authorize noncommercial and Native Hawaiian subsistence fishing from 50 to 200 nautical miles around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). For Native Hawaiian practices, this would include an opportunity to recover fishing costs up to $15,000 per trip.

“It is important to provide this opportunity for people in the Pacific, specifically Hawai‘i, to provide food for their community, especially areas that have been culturally their place to fish,” said American Samoa Councilmember Will Sword.

“I’m concerned that any action we take here will define our culture and its evolution,” said Manny Dueñas, councilmember from Guam. “In the end, we are looking at ways to sustain our native peoples and see them flourish like hundreds of years ago.”

Some members disagreed with the recommendation. State of Hawaiʻi representative David Sakoda expressed concern about dissolving established Native Hawaiian rights under the State Constitution. “We don’t want to water down customary and traditional rights by extending beyond what is included in the Constitution,” said Sakoda. “The state was amenable to cost recovery, as long as it was only included in the noncommercial fishing permit.”

Coco Palms Resort Lawsuit

A Native Hawaiian community organization, I Ola Wailuanui, is suing Hawaiʻi’s Board of Land and Natural Resources, for failing to conduct proper environmental assessments before renewing permits for the Coco Palms Resort on Kauaʻi.

According to the lawsuit, the land beneath Coco Palms are ceded lands, intended to benefit the Hawaiian people. The land, known as Wailuanuiaho‘āno, is a wahi pana with important cultural and spiritual meaning.

I Ola Wailuanui is seeking to purchase Wailuanuiaho‘āno to promote Hawaiian stewardship and develop a public center for education and preservation of Hawaiian cultural practices – instead of seeing another resort built on the island.

Wailuanuiaho‘āno was a royal residence and birthing site and also includes heiau and burial grounds. Two ancient fishponds are still present at the location, as is Kauaʻi’s oldest coconut grove.

The property has a long history of disputed ownership dating back to the 1800s when it was contested after the death of Kauaʻi’s monarch, Kaumu- aliʻi, who ceded the island to King Kamehameha I during the unification of the Hawaiian Islands.

OHA Awards $1.5 million to Honolulu Habitat for Humanity

Honolulu Habitat for Humanity has been awarded $1.5 million from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) to create affordable homeownership opportunities for Native Hawaiian families.

The program will provide permanent, affordable shelter and foster economic self-sufficiency for 36 Native Hawaiians over the next two years. Funds will be used to conduct outreach and education sessions to prospective homeowners and construct nine occupancy-ready homes on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Honolulu Habitat brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. Since 1988, it has helped more than 400 people build or improve a place to call home. Habitat homeowners help construct their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage.

“We are so grateful for this opportunity to partner with OHA,” said TJ Joseph, chief executive officer of Honolulu Habitat, “As a Native Hawaiian woman and Habitat homeowner residing on the homestead, I know the transformative power of having a safe, affordable place to call home. Their support will create life-changing outcomes today and build impact and opportunity for future generations of Native Hawaiians.”

$17M to Improve Internet Connectivity on Homesteads

On Dec. 19 Sen. Brian Schatz announced that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) will receive $17.3 million in new federal funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce to expand high-speed internet access in Native Hawaiian communities.

“This funding will increase broadband internet access in Native Hawaiian communities across the state, helping families and small businesses get the high-speed internet they need and supporting the expansion of important services, including telehealth and remote learning,” said Schatz.

The funding comes from the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which expands broadband access on Tribal lands. It will include new broadband equipment and software, new computers and personal devices, support for increased remote learning, telehealth and digital inclusion programs, and staff to ensure their successful implementation. Funding will also support a DHHL survey of Native Hawaiian households. The data gathered will be used to help develop a statewide collective broadband strategy.

New Plan Guides Kahikinui Forest Restoration

A project to restore a 4,500-acre portion of native forest on the slopes of Haleakalā that began over 25 years ago has recommenced through the efforts of Native Hawaiians from the Kahikinui Homestead Community.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) issued a Right of Entry (ROE) Permit to the Ka ʻOhana o Kahikinui, Inc. homestead association following approval of the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC) in June 2022. The ROE allows for the community organization to capture and remove feral cattle from DHHL lands within the remnant native forests of Kahikinui.

“Restoration of our native forests should always be held to a high standard of importance,” said outgoing Hawaiian Homes Commission Chair William J. Ailā, Jr. “However, beyond the acknowledgment of the rehabilitation needs, what is key here is that this work is being led by the Native Hawaiian homesteaders of the area. They have asked to take on the responsibility, and the department is pleased to partner in a guidance role and support them as they tackle this critical kuleana.”

The forests of leeward Haleakalā were once rich in native species, dominated by koa and ʻōhiʻa, and full of diverse understory trees, shrubs, lichens, and ferns that formed complex and stable ecosystems that supported communities with sustainable fresh water and forest products. DHHL lands in Kahikinui contain the largest and most intact native forests remaining in the area.

Assistance Fund Expanded for Kauaʻi and Hawai‘i Island Homeowners

Building on the success of the past year, the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) for residents on Hawaiʻi Island has expanded to $9 million and expanded to $3 million for residents of Kauaʻi.

Eligible homeowners on either island can apply for grants up to $30,000 to reduce monthly payments, pay past-due mortgages, pay past-due property taxes, and/or pay past-due homeowner association fees. All homeowners who apply may receive free HUD housing counseling to assist with creating a budget and action plan, including loan modifications, to prevent foreclosure.

The expanded program will continue through September 2025 or until the fund is depleted, whichever is sooner.

The HAF program is funded through the counties of Hawai‘i and Kauaʻi and administered together by Hawai‘i Community Lending (HCL) with applications being accepted by phone, online, or in person at Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) run by partner nonprofit, Hawaiian Community Assets (HCA).

For more information about the program or to apply, contact HCL at 808-587-7656, www.HawaiiCommunityLending.com or email HAF@HawaiianCommunity.net.