The Abuse, Misuse, and Theft of the Ceded Lands Trust

By Trustee Rowena Akana
March 5, 1993

Ceded lands are the remains of an estimated 1.8 million acres of public, private and crown land annexed by resolution from a provisional government to the United States in 1898. Hawaiian Home Lands, once part of ceded lands, are scattered tracts comprising about 200,000 acres Congress set aside in 1921 for native Hawaiian homesteaders.

For the last 100 years, these land trusts have been impoverished through executive orders, lands swaps, sales and general theft. With each change of government trusteeship were agreements to provide for the needs of the land’s inhabitants: the Hawaiians. Each trustee government, in turn, has thoroughly mismanaged the inhabitants’ land. A few examples for your reading displeasure:

MILITARY

In 1959, when the Admissions Act turned responsibility for the remaining 1.2 million acres of ceded lands over to the new State of Hawaii, the federal government “set aside” several hundred thousand acres for its military installations.

Today, more than 100 bases crowd the eight Hawaiian islands, a land area approximately the size of Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. The armed forces control 10 percent of the state and 25 percent of O’ahu. All the military bases occupy ceded lands, and at least six occupy — without consent or compensation – Hawaiian Home Lands. Among those, Pohakuloa on the Big Island is an Army training camp, Lualualei in Waianae is a Navy target range and Kekaha on Kauai is a Navy ammunition dump.

Kaho’olawe, The Target Island, was set aside by a presidential order for the military’s use during WWII. It was supposed to be cleared of ordnance and returned to human use after the war. Today, Kaho’olawe’s soil remains bomb-rich and human-poor — despite its placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

DEPARTMENT OF HAWAIIAN HOME LANDS

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands estimates territorial and state governors issued between 40 and 60 executive orders setting aside Hawaiian Home Lands for military use. In 1978, a federal district court ruled all the governors’ executive orders were illegal.

In 1984, the governor ordered the DHHL to rescind nearly 30 of these illegal deals, covering some 30,000 acres. The state attorney general, meantime, decreed the U.S. Navy’s occupation of 1,400 acres of prime homelands near Honolulu to be a ‘fundamental breach of trust.’

Rather than evicting the offending land users, which include state and federal agencies, the DHHL opted for monetary settlements totaling less than $10 million. The DHHL did mount one challenge to evict the Navy, but the judge decided the department waited too long to sue.

However, the DHHL has evicted Hawaiians off land to which they held title, but the state never bothered to install utilities, roads and water as it is required.

Until recently, the DHHL had no funding to improve land management or infrastructure except the general use leases it was allowed to grant non-Hawaiians on land “not immediately needed” for homesteading. Consequently, the DHHL leased more land to non-Hawaiians than to Hawaiians.

Because of this, only 5,889 Hawaiian homestead leases had been awarded as of June, representing just 21.5 percent of the total Hawaiian Home Lands property, while 47.5 percent was under lease to non-Hawaiians.

Meanwhile, there are an estimated 14,400 qualified applicants in the Hawaiian Homes waiting list, many of whom have waited for 40 years or more.

Many more have died waiting.

DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

For the state’s first 20 years, the Department of Land and Natural Resources managed ceded lands without scrutiny. Among other abuses, DLNR allowed use of ceded lands by other state departments without adequate compensation, and it executed a slew of summary land swaps. The land between Hanauma Bay and Waimanalo, once Hawaiian Home land, now belongs to just about everyone but Hawaiians.

In 1985, the state swapped a Big Island forest preserve for other acreage so Campbell Estate could construct a geothermal development, now plagued with technical problems and lawsuits.

In fact, until 1986 the DLNR didn’t even have an inventory of which state lands were ceded lands and which were not, and no one still knows the exact amount the state earns from this inventory. A 1986 “Final Report on the Public Lands Trust” did manage to identify some major parcels of ceded or Hawaiian Homes land commandeered for public use without compensation. A small sampling: Hilo Municipal Golf Course, Maui’s Waiehu Golf Course, Kauai’s Wailua Golf Course, Ala Wai Golf Course, Sand Island, Ala Moana Beach Park, Kapiolani Park, and their rentals, Honolulu Harbor, Kahului Harbor, Kewalo Basin, Keehi Lagoon, Honolulu International Airport, General Lyman Field, Molokai Airport and the University of Hawaii.
All occupy in part or whole ceded and/or Hawaiian Home lands — at the expense of Hawaiians and native Hawaiians.

When will this sickening litany of abuse, misuse and fraud end? When will the state or federal government keep a promise to the Hawaiian people? When will others stop managing our affairs in their interest, stop taking for theirs that which they agreed in writing was ours and stop actively campaigning against any meaningful resolution to our plight?

When? You have the answers.

Entitlements–It Belongs to You

By Trustee Moses Keale
November, 1992

Source Ka Wai Ola O OHA

These are tough times for all of us. Last month I issued a challenge to everyone to speak loudly and clearly that we, the native sons and daughters of this land want our full entitlements. Do you remember my question last month? “Does all this really matter?” And do you remember my answer? “…the total entitlements compensation would approach $30,000,000 yearly. … if you factor in the back payments for rents for these lands the total back rent could exceed $300,000,000!”

Yes, it does make a great deal of difference! I remember all too well how OHA began 12 years ago. We, the nine trustees, were told to run an agency to better the conditions of the Hawaiian people. And they said we were entitled to do this on a budget of $225,000 of public matching funds supplemented by our entitlements income. With the expectation of the people high and the money minimal, it was a struggle to keep our heads above water. For many years there was very little change in our income stream. Between 1981 and 1989 OHA’s annual operating income from special and general funds amounted to an average of $2,066,000 per year. The most significant changes in public funding came in fiscal year 1988 when the legislature almost tripled our general funding level. This was accomplished under the guiding hands of then Administrator Kamaki Kanahele now an accomplished Trustee.

Our biggest break, though, came in 1990 when agreements were reached with the Governor’s office on the PROPER entitlement amount. This was a quantum leap in revenue amounting to more than $8,000,000 annually. Now, under these conditions, we could really function. Now, we could really implement a large portion of the master plan. We conducted public hearings to revise the functional plan and the Board met to implement new policies and procedures.

We hired a new administrator and at his request we reorganized the office. In fact, based on his recommendation, we requested that the legislature change the Hawaii Revised Statutes to allow the Administrator to employ all personnel without obtaining the approval of the Board as was the previous practice. Then, we asked him to draft and to implement a plan that would effectuate the major objectives of the master plan and would incorporate the new functional action items. This was a bold new experiment for us which reflected our ability to use the newly obtained resources.

The Trustees had done their job in obtaining the revenue stream and now it was up to administration to provide programs to impact the beneficiaries. It was our hope that you, the Hawaiian people, would finally begin to feel the impact of new programs to service your needs. Well, the experiment has been a failure! Certainly, three years is adequate time to evaluate the impact of the new products.

In reviewing all of our present initiatives, and after eliminating the ongoing projects which began prior to the reorganization (for example: The Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund, Aha Opio O OHA, Aha Kupuna, educational tutorial programs, the embryo of our self-help housing program, and our ongoing health initiatives), it seems our new programs have fallen far short of the mark. Administration proposed a revolutionary program called I Luna Ae, a 7-point initiative, designed to address concerns and provide services where services were needed. Included in this 7-point initiative were:

Operation Ea, designed to address restitution from the federal government;

Operation Ka Poe, otherwise known as the single definition mandate;

Operation Ohana, targeted to gain data on all Hawaiians to effectuate a better system for the delivery of services and benefits to every Hawaiian;

Operation Malama Mau, created to address the need to identify and protect our cultural heritage and cultural assets;

Operation Alohi, a program designed to enhance our communications system in order to keep our beneficiaries informed of our work;

Operation Hui Imi, a task force of Hawaiian Agencies created to coordinate services to lessen duplication and overlapping of strategies;

Operation Hookuleana, designed to effectuate full entitlements from the state government.

Well, after extensive review, I find that the following is true:

Operation Ea, which began with the publishing of the “Blueprint for Native Hawaiian Entitlements” and other promises of securing restitution, has produced three pieces of proposed federal legislation. One of these draft bills is seriously flawed, another is presumptuous and the third needs input from the effected beneficiary class. No formal hearings have been held on these documents and the public input process has been limited.

Operation Ka Poe, reflects serious flaws in thinking. Less than 1/2 of the Hawaiians over the age of 18 actually received ballots. Of those who received the ballots only 38% returned them. Therefore, the 19,000+ Hawaiians voting in favor of this initiative represented only 16% of the estimated 125,000 adult Hawaiians residing in the state. It was not the overwhelming voice of the Hawaiian people who spoke up for a single definition, it was only a select few.

Operation Ohana, was one of the most noteworthy programs in concept. The goal, as articulated by the administration, was to enroll 150,000 Hawaiians by 1990. It is now 1992 and the latest report indicates that less than 10,000 Hawaiians have completed the enrollment process.

Operation Malama Mau, has met many of its objectives. The Native Hawaiian Historic Preservation Council has been diligent in its work and has achieved notable progress in the area of cultural preservation and protection of sites and practices.

Operation Alohi, has finally begun to make limited inroads toward a commitment to communicate with the beneficiary. After nearly three years of failures and large expenditures of funds, the program has finally begun to move toward its target goals thanks to the efforts of the new public information officer.

Operation Hui Imi, has been operational and met with success. Coordination of program and program services among the agencies and organizations servicing Hawaiians have improved.

Operation Hookuleana, also has been successful. But this success can be directly attributable to work by the Trustees who have been in direct control of the process from the beginning. There is still much to be done and the Trustees are continuing to work directly with the Governor’s office.

Taken as a whole, I find that while we have spent large sums of moneys, expended an enormous amount of staff time, and committed a great deal of office resources toward the efforts of the I Luna Ae program, the success ratio is dismal. Of the seven initiatives, three of the most costly programs have been failures, one could not meet its targeted objective because of severe understaffing, and one was taken over by the Trustees with outside help hired to complete the task. Of the two remaining program initiatives, Operation Malama Mau’s product has been tainted because of administrative misdirection while Operation Hui Imi appears to be self-sustaining.

It is time for us to take a hard look at whether our resources are being directed in an efficient manner. The bottom line is whether you are receiving the benefits that we have mandated the office to deliver. Ultimately, it is the duty of the nine trustees to evaluate the progress and determine whether the work of this office is acceptable. Our focus should now turn toward building the best “delivery of service program” that we can muster. To this end I have always pledged my energies. To this end my efforts will be concentrated. Although we must not lose sight of gaining full entitlements for the Hawaiian people, it is time to concentrate on the delivery of these entitlements to the people. Although this may require tough and unpleasant decisions, that is the nature of position of leadership to which each of us is elected!

IMUA E NO OHANA. A INU I KA WAI AWAAWAI

A i manao kekahi e lilo i pookele i waena o oukou, e pono no e lilo ia i kauwa na oukou. Na ke Akua e malama a e alakai ia kakou apau.

OHA’s Rowena Akana Testifies Against Acquisition of Ka’iwi Shoreline

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, July 10, 1991

On July 1, 1991, OHA Trustee Rowena Akana, Vice Chairwoman of the OHA Board of Trustees testified against acquisition of Ka’iwi Shoreline Park by the federal government. Trustee Akana spoke at a hearing in Honolulu conducted by Senator Akaka before the U. S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Public Lands and National Parks and Forests. The official position of OHA and Trustee Akana was stated and included the following testimony:

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs recognizes that the Ka’iwi area has a unique and recreational value to the people of the State and should be preserved as open space. But, OHA believes the best interests of Hawaii and the Hawaiian people will not be served by allowing the federal government to acquire the property in question. OHA believes that preservation can best be handled at a local level where the concerns and considerations of both the Hawaiian community and the general community are better understood.

The basis of OHA’s opposition is two-fold: First, much of the property included in the park proposal is owned by the Bishop Estate. For those unfamiliar with Hawaii, the Bishop Estate is a private trust estate established by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the line of Kamehameha. The sole purpose of this trust is to educate native Hawaiian children. We cannot overemphasize the importance of Kamehameha Schools in their educational goals to the Hawaiian community. Bishop Trust is one of the remaining legacies of a proud Hawaiian nation. We are especially concerned with the involuntary taking of Bishop Estate land by any entity.

Secondly, Hawaii has a long and often bitter history with the federal government over Hawaiian land. With the active and illegal involvement of the United States, the Hawaiian nation was overthrown and more than 1.8 million acres of Hawaiian land were seized without the consent of, or compensation to, the native Hawaiian people. They continue to seek the return of the Hawaiian lands to the Hawaiian people, but their land claims against the federal government have not yet been addressed. Under such circumstances, the acquisition of more land by the federal government cannot be justified.

Immediately upon acquiring the public trust lands which were meant to be held for the benefit of the Hawaiian people, the federal government began manipulating their use. With the sugar industry in mind, the federal government created the Hawaiian Homes Trust in 1920 and set aside certain lands for native Hawaiian homesteads and agricultural purposes. This planned community was kept to the most marginal lands, while planters were allowed the most productive agricultural lands for sugar and pineapple. Subsequently, even the marginal lands were taken for federal non-trust purposes.

Lualualei Naval Ammunition Depot on Oahu is built on more than 1,000 acres of Hawaiian Homes Trust lands. The buffer zone around the Pacific Missile Range facility is Hawaiian Homes Trust land also. Large segments of private and public lands have been appropriated by the federal government with a promise of return when the stated need is over. Most often, that promise has been broken by the federal government. Kahoolawe, Waikane Valley and Bellows Field were taken in response to the urgencies of World War II. More than 50 years later, none of that land has been returned to its owners.

Although we are grateful to Senator Akaka in 1990 for establishing the Kahoolawe Conveyance Commission, we are hopeful that at least that part of our concerns will be resolved with the Commission’s work and with the Senator’s continued assistance, the days of a much more adequate and responsible federal response will be upon us soon. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for Waikane Valley and Bellows Field. Instead of returning Waianae, the federal government is condemning the privately owned land and suggesting the State buy back trust lands.

The Hawaiian people have spent a full century trying to overcome the consequences of the federal stewardship of our land and resources. Recently, there has been a growing understanding in our community of the Hawaiian history and its effect upon the lives of the Hawaiian people. There is little doubt that Senator Akaka, as a native Hawaiian, understands and shares our concerns and is just as eager to try to correct the injustices that have occurred.

OHA’s official position is that the Ka’iwi area should not be turned over to the federal government under the National Parks and Forests, and that it should remain under state control.

As Hawaiians continue to forge their plans for the future, they believe that it is best to manage their own resources. They can only truly be accountable for their future when they have control over that future.

Akana Targets “Anti-Hawaiian” Democrats

By Mike Yuen
May 16, 1991

Source Star Bulletin

A trustee of the semiautonomous Office of Hawaiian Affairs has made overtures to Republican legislators for help in finding candidates to seriously challenge Democratic lawmakers seen as “anti-Hawaiian.”

OHA at-large trustee Rowena Akana, a Democrat, cited House Speaker Joe Souki (D, Wailuku), House Majority Leader Tom Okamura (D, Aiea), House Finance Chairman Calvin Say (D, Palolo), House Hawaiian Affairs Chairman Ed Case (D, Manoa) and freshman Rep. Kenney Goodenow (D, Waimanalo), whose district has a high percentage of native Hawaiians.

“What we saw during the legislative session this year can only be described as one of the worst assaults on Hawaiian entitlements in OHA’s 17 years,” said Akana, an organizer of the Hawaiian silent prayer vigil at the state Capitol during the past session.

She directed much of her criticism at a House-approved bill crafted by Case that would have nullified a Circuit Court ruling that expanded the definition of what was covered by the 20 percent the state owes OHA for use of ceded lands.

That provision, based on the House’s conclusion that the ruling judge misinterpreted legislative intent, was eliminated during conference negotiations at the insistence of Senate conferees. The bill approved by both chambers temporarily sets the state’s ceded-land payments at $15.1 million annually while special commission tries to resolve the dispute between the state and OHA.

Republican state Reps. Quentin Kawananakoa (Nuuanu) and Sam Aiona (Makiki), both of Hawaiian ancestry, acknowledged that Akana has had “informal discussions” with GOP lawmakers. But, they maintained, the talks have yet to reach the point of targeting any Democratic lawmaker.

The House’s 12 Republicans have closely aligned themselves with native Hawaiian concerns. Kawananakoa and Aiona said that was done because it was the right thing to do – not for strategic reasons.

Akana said she is turning to the GOP and to independents because she has yet to see Democrats back a Democratic challenger over a Democratic incumbent.

Akana stressed that while other OHA trustees are unhappy with how the Democratic-controlled Legislature acted on Hawaiian issues, her contacts with the GOP don’t reflect an official board position.

But, she added, “As a trustee, my first priority is to protect our trust. I’m not here as a Republican or a Democrat. I’m here as a nonpartisan person. When people become the enemies of this trust, whether they are Democrat or Republican, they become my enemy too.”

Akana declined to identify pro-Hawaiian candidates because there are no firm commitments.