He Ali‘i Ka ‘āina…

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Dan Ahuna, Vice Chair, Trustee, Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihauI recently visited Keaukaha, Hawai‘i Island to meet with a group of young Kānaka Maoli who are taking steps to ensure our people return to the ‘āina.

An important topic came up in this meeting. Since 2008, OHA has made annual payments of $3 million to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL). The recent State audit characterized this payment as “discretionary” spending. This is not accurate as OHA is legally bound to make this payment for 30 years.

With regards to Maunakea, nearly one-third of the total DHHL lands entrusted to benefit the native Hawaiian people sit at its slopes in the ‘āina Mauna region. One of the most devastating problems on Maunakea has been the spread of gorse, a highly invasive weed. Gorse is very difficult to remove and is an extreme threat to our environment. Furthermore, until it is cleared, the DHHL is hesitant to move forward with any plans in these areas.

I believe OHA and DHHL should execute an agreement that going forward, $1.5 million of the annual payment that OHA makes to DHHL be earmarked for removing gorse and other invasives from the slopes of Maunakea, and that the project be completed in 5 years.

Simultaneously, we must empower beneficiaries and our communities to mālama these resources so they can return to the land.

The following was submitted by the Beneficiary Trust Council (Keaukaha, HI):

In response to the growing number of crises affecting Kānaka Maoli, the aboriginal people of the Hawaiian islands, as well as the utter mismanagement and gross negligence by the de facto State of Hawai‘i government of our environment and natural resources, which has subjected our people to cultural and socio-political genocide and Americanization for far too long, we as the Koa Kia‘i Project in partnership with the Beneficiary Trust Council – Moku o Keawe, have been developing a Kānaka Maoli Ranger Program to assist with culturally-based stewardship of our country – the lands, natural resources, and communities of ko Hawai‘i pae ‘āina.

'Aina Needs Kānaka

In our research, we have been greatly inspired by our aboriginal cousins across the Pacific at “Country Needs People,” and the successful implementation of their Indigenous Ranger Program throughout the Australian continent. In particular, what has resonated with us most is the corresponding philosophy that the “Country Needs People,” which we understand through our own ancestral knowledge and history as the intrinsic relationship between the aboriginal and indigenous peoples, nā po‘e maoli a me ‘ōiwi, and our shared environment.

From a Hawaiian standpoint, our concept of ‘āina represents the familial and symbiotic relationship between People and the Lands and Environment they come from. ‘āina (translated as “that which feeds”) consisting of relationships based on cultivation and stewardship, provides food and nourishment not just for ourselves but for all species and life forms, including nā akua and ‘aumākua, from time immemorial and continuing in perpetuity for generations to come.

In essence, what we are setting out to do, in a very grassroots yet dynamic way, is to combat systemic racism in occupied Hawai‘i. This Kānaka Ranger Program provides a tangible mechanism for Hawaiian cultural stewardship and management. We as Kānaka can no longer afford to wait, sentenced to die on wait-lists and forced to stand-by idly as our environment and resources are further compromised and abused.

Whether it’s for the development of proper environmental and cultural protocols, or for the protection of sacred sites and other unique and fragile ecosystems, or for the stewardship and curatorship of large tracts of our land and country and its critical resources, the solution is clear to us: #AINANEEDSKANAKA