Photo Above: L-R: Malia Nobrega-Olivera, Haunani Lemn, Alan Murakami, Kuʻulei Santos – Photo: Jason Lees
Nearly 200 people gathered at Waiwai Collective on September 27, 2019 to hear Malia Nobrega-Olivera & Kuʻulei Santos of the Hui Hana Paʻakai o Hanapēpē, NHLC Attorney Alan Murakami, and facilitator Haunani Lemn discuss the issues surrounding the historic practices and management of the Hanapēpē Salt Ponds. Together they shared the importance of preserving salt-making practices as well as the current conflict over the area’s different uses, including their ongoing battle with their neighbors, Maverick Helicopters. The Future of the Hanapēpē Salt Ponds panel discussion was hosted by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs with co-sponsors Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, Kanaeokana and Waiwai Collective. A live stream recording of the panel discussion is available for viewing on the OHA Facebook page.
OHA Approves $3 Million for Hawaiian-Focused Charter Schools
At an October 17th meeting, OHA’s Board of Trustees approved $3 million in grant funding over the next two fiscal years to support 17 Hawaiian-focused charter schools.
“We are proud to continue our longstanding commitment to the Hawaiian-focused charter school movement,” said OHA Chair Colette Y. Machado. “Despite facing funding shortages and other challenges that normal public schools do not have, these charter schools are still successfully raising our lāhui’s next generation of leaders and preparing them to flourish both academically and culturally.”
Since 2006, OHA has provided $21.6 million to assist 17 Hawaiian-focused charter schools located throughout the state. These schools provide innovative culture-based education to more than 4,700 students, more than 75% of whom are Native Hawaiian.
Trustees also voted to award Kanu o ka ʻĀina Learning ʻOhana (KALO) with a grant to administer the lion’s share of the $3 million to 16 Hawaiian-focused charter schools. OHA’s Grants Department will directly administer $249,411 to the last school, Kanu o ka ʻāina Charter School, because of the school’s close affiliation with KALO. KALO was chosen to administer the grant through a competitive selection process.
DHHL Completes Hanapepe Firebreak
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) recently completed an extensive landscaping project in Hanapēpē, Kauaʻi that included the installation of a firebreak to protect 47 homes on Hawaiian Home Lands. The firebreak installation, conducted by Kauaʻi Nursery & Landscaping, resulted in the removal of over 30 abandoned vehicles and roughly 80 tons of trash that included refrigerators, washing machines, other various appliances, scrap metal, tires and household items.
“We are pleased that DHHL has moved forward with installing this important safety measure,” said Kauaʻi Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Kilipaki Vaughan. “The overgrowth in the area presented a tremendous fire threat to all of the nearby homes. Creating this strategic firebreak and maintaining its landscape will effectively prevent fires from occurring or spreading, which will ultimately protect the homes and lives of all ʻohana in the area.”
Affected homesteaders were notified about the landscaping work that would be occurring outside of their respective property lines.
“We’re just grateful to the Department for cleaning it up and cutting back all that growth,” said Michael Chandler, who has been on Hawaiian Home Lands in Hanapēpē since 1998. “It was so bad you couldn’t see what was going on back there. Now at least we can see and it looks better.”
The Department will install a protective fence and mow the grass on a regular schedule to maintain the fire break. For increased safety, DHHL also plans to improve an existing drainage ditch.
Hawaiian Homestead Loan Funds Receives $300,000 in Investments
The Homestead Community Development Corporation (HCDC) recently received a total of $300,000 in capital investments to start up its Homestead Loan Fund which will serve residents of Hawaiian Home Lands statewide. A $150,000 investment was made by a national intermediary non-profit, First Nations Oweesta Corporation, headquartered in Longmont, Colorado. Another $150,000 investment was awarded by the U.S. Treasury Department, CDFI Fund in Washington D.C.
“These investments launch a new chapter in the economic self-determination of homesteaders eligible to receive land allotments under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 (HHCA),” said Robin Puanani Danner, HCDC CEO. “They are investments that we intend to grow year after year, to open the pathway of capital for homes, farming and ranching for Native Hawaiian families, as well as for mercantile businesses and general consumer purposes on the homesteads.”
Danner founded the first Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) through the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA). CDFI has made more than $5M in loans to Native Hawaiians statewide, specifically general business and interim home construction loans.
“It became clear that given the focus of farming, ranching and mercantile as key purposes of the HHCA, a loan fund that offered dedicated expertise in our land trust law was needed,” Danner said. “Our HCDC board directed the development of a homestead loan fund, and challenged our team to not just make loans and grants, but to educate our people on the HHCA itself, on their rights and responsibilities as beneficiaries of this congressionally enacted law.”
Rolina Faagai, who has a background in investment finance, was hired in May 2019 to lead the Homestead Loan Fund, and in September, HCDC was awarded funding from First Nations Oweesta and the U.S. Treasury Department to advance the priorities of HCDC. “We are establishing all of our loan systems, our criteria, and programming to meet the needs of homesteaders, especially in the specialty areas of family farms, ranches and added-value agriculture,” explained Faagai from her office on Kauaʻi. “Increasing access to capital for our families statewide, where our trust lands are located, will grow our overall economic sustainability as a people, and will benefit surrounding communities too.”
Chrystel Cornelius, Oweesta Corporation CEO said, “HCDC and the Homestead Leaders in Hawaiʻi are focused on economic growth, and we are proud to invest in their vision. Trust lands have a unique purpose; a unique relationship to the Federal Government. Our investment is merely a beginning to support Hawaiians in achieving economic prosperity on their lands.”