News Briefs | September 2021

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Native Hawaiian Community Leaders Unite To Stop The Surge of COVID-19

Photo: Native Hawaiian leaders from various sectors of the lāhui united at a press conference
Native Hawaiian leaders from various sectors of the lāhui united at a press conference on August 26 outside the State Capitol to encourage all Kānaka Maoli to do their part to stop the current surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant. With a unified voice, ‘Ōiwi leaders expressed their collective concern that Native Hawaiians are experiencing the highest rate of infection compared to all other ethnic groups in Hawai’i, and advocated for vaccination, mask-wearing, and staying at home to prevent the continuing spread of the virus. The coalition included representatives from all of the Ali’i Trusts, OHA, CNHA, PID, Kanaeokana, the Association of Native Hawaiian Physicians, Native Hawaiian legislators, the Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Hawai’i COVID-19 3R team and more.- Photo: Jacob Aki

Papa Ola Lōkahi to Administer American Rescue Plan Funds

Papa Ola Lōkahi has announced that $20 million in American Rescue Plan funding for the federal Native Hawaiian Health Program will be used to strengthen vaccination efforts, mitigate and respond to the spread of COVID-19, and enhance health care services throughout communities on all islands.

“This funding will relieve the additional burdens placed on systems of care since the pandemic, and be further invested in our communities to strengthen the infrastructure and extend the reach to areas of greatest need,” explained Sheri-Ann Daniels, executive director of Papa Ola Lōkahi.

This federal relief funding is intended to serve the health and wellbeing needs of Native Hawaiians in Hawaiʻi over the next two years to address the inequities revealed so clearly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems across the state, along with community based organizations, will increase vaccine capacity, improve COVID-19 response and treatment capacity, increase capacity to sustain accessible and available health care services, and deliver education and services during the ongoing recovery and stabilization.

“Papa Ola Lōkahi is uniquely poised to administer American Rescue Plan funds to provide relief and support related to COVID-19,” said Daniels. “Mahalo nui to Sen. Brian Schatz and all who have worked to assure Native Hawaiian communities are equitably included and represented at all levels of decision-making and resource allocation. We are grateful.”

Alo Named USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year

Photo: Jocelyn Alo with Sen. Gil Riviere and Rep. Sean Quinlan
Jocelyn Alo with Sen. Gil Riviere and Rep. Sean Quinlan. – Photo: Courtesy

Jocelyn Aloha Pumehana Alo has been named USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. This award is the most prestigious honor in Division I women’s collegiate softball and recognizes outstanding athletic achievement by female players across the country.

Born and raised in Hauʻula, Oʻahu, Alo is a member of the University of Oklahoma Sooners softball team and led the nation in home runs this year with 34 while aiding the team in breaking the NCAA single season record for home runs with 161.

Alo attended Kahuku High and Intermediate School, capturing the state wrestling championship in her weight class during her sophomore year, and was part of Campbell High School’s softball team when they won back-to-back state titles in 2016 and 2017.

Last month the Hawaiʻi Legislature awarded Alo a certificate in recognition of her national achievement.

Rep. Sean Quinlan noted that, “Jocelyn possesses the skills and talent necessary to succeed at the highest level. What sets her apart is the drive, determination, and focus to be the best. She truly exemplifies the values of the Koʻolauloa community, and we are so proud to honor her.”

Sen. Gil Riviere added that Alo is a great example for other young people in Hawaiʻi. “Jocelyn knows how to compete at the highest level while staying grounded with family and friends. She credits faith, family values, and a strong work ethic for her success. We in Hawaiʻi, and especially Hauʻula, are fortunate to have such a well-rounded person representing us on the world stage.”

Moore the First Woman to Win an Olympic Gold Medal in Surfing

At last month’s Olympic Games in Japan, Native Hawaiian surfer Carissa Kainani Moore became the first woman to win a gold medal in the sport.

This is the first time that surfing, considered by many to be Hawaiʻi’s national sport – as it was invented and perfected in Hawaiʻi – has been included in the Olympic Games. The competition was held at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba Prefecture about 40 miles east of Tokyo.

Moore defeated Bianca Buitendag of South Africa by more than six points in the women’s gold-medal match. Buitendag went home with the silver medal and Japan’s Amuro Tsuzuki took home the bronze.

Moore’s father, Chris Moore, taught her to surf in the waves off Waikīkī Beach. Moore is a four-time World Surf League Women’s World Tour champion.

Project Encourages Planting Native and Canoe Plants

The Hawaiʻi Forest Institute (HFI) has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Atherton Family Foundation to encourage residents and businesses to grow Native Hawaiian and Polynesian “canoe” plants. The project was initially launched in 2020.

The “Go Native: Growing a Native Hawaiian Urban Forest” project will promote growing Native Hawaiian and “canoe” plants with a series of videos and a quick reference guide suitable for gardeners to landscape architects.

“Our long-term goal is to create a series of kīpuka or micro-forests within the urban and suburban core,” says HFI’s President Dr. Travis Idol, a professor at UH Mānoa’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management. Idol says that if enough people use Native Hawaiian and canoe plants in their landscaping, they can collectively become a human-made surrogate for the natural forests that once existed abundantly in dryland and mesic areas.

HFI has also started a sub-project to document sites around the state where people are growing Native Hawaiian plants and has plans to launch a contest so homeowners can show off their native Hawaiian landscaping and inspire others.

A Native Hawaiian urban forest network can offer innumerable benefits by providing a refuge for native animals; wildlife corridors for native invertebrates, birds and bats; preserving genetic variation within plant and animal species; and enhancing cultural and spiritual links with the past. It could also help to increase the redundancy, representation and resiliency of existing natural forests.

Mauna Kea Working Group Invites Public Input

A Mauna Kea Working Group (MKWG) webpage has been created and can be accessed on the Legislature’s website: capitol.hawaii.gov/. Click on the House tab on the right side of the page to take you to the “House Links” at the center of the page and click on “Mauna Kea Working Group.”

The goal of the MKWG is to present recommendations for a new governance and management structure for Mauna Kea to the Legislature by Dec. 31, 2021, as requested in HR 33. The Legislature will then hold public hearings on bills based on these recommendations to create laws needed to enact an effective governance and management structure.

Since early August, the MKWG has focused on organization, ground rules, and planning. Their first focus has been to listen and learn from each other. The diverse membership has enabled differing perspectives to be shared in a collaborative and respectful manner. Additional expertise will be invited, as needed.

The working group welcomes public input, emailed to MaunaKeaWG@capitol.hawaii.gov. All submissions will be shared with working group members.

Tourism Authority Takes Steps to Mitigate Visitor Impact

Under the leadership of Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority President and CEO John De Fries, HTA is taking steps to mitigate the impact of tourism on some of Hawaiʻi’s most over-visited and vulnerable places.

One example is Hāna Highway. Traveling the scenic 64-mile drive is a major attraction for visitors and this has resulted in severe traffic congestion due to heavy use, illegal parking and jaywalking, creating an undue burden for the residents of Hāna and Keʻanae for whom the highway is their main thoroughfare.

To manage the problem, HTA is working with county officials and state agencies to encourage visitors to experience the road via permitted tours led by professional guides, and advocate for enforcement of current laws. According to the Maui Police Department, they issued 389 parking citations and 83 warnings along the highway, primarily to tourists, from June 1-23.

In response to concerns expressed by residents of Kohala on Hawaiʻi Island, HTA is funding the Pololū Trail Steward Program, a pilot project in collaboration with KUPU, Nā Ala Hele Trails and Access Program, Protect Pololū and the lineal descendant community of Pololū, Makanikahio, and neighboring ahupuaʻa that will utilize local “stewards” to assist with interpreting the natural and cultural history of the area, as well as to mitigate unwanted behaviors and ensure safety.

The hope is that this project can serve as a model for other collaborations with local communities to manage the impact of tourism on Hawaiʻi’s natural and cultural resources.

Hawaiian Groups Rally at Laniākea to Protect Hawaiian Honu

Photo: Hawaiian and community groups gather at Laniakea
On Saturday, August 8, Hawaiian and community groups rallied to raise awareness regarding the need to protect endangered Hawaiian honu at Laniākea Beach on the North Shore of O’ahu. The harassment of endangered honu and monk seals on Hawaiʻi beaches is an ongoing problem that has recently become more visible with self-condemning social media posts by disrespectful tourists. The situation at Laniākea is particularly bad, with tour buses offloading tourists so they can get close to the resting honu and creating traffic jams in the process. Moreover, Kānaka Maoli cultural practitioners and other local people are being crowded out by the large number of tourists and tour buses who visit the beach and take up the parking. – Photo: @Andrewbryantsimms