The Return of Trustee Accountability: Bring Back OHA Run Programs

`Ano`ai kakou…  With a New Year coming up soon I continue to hope that there will be positive changes at OHA.  However, change will not occur unless the Trustees begin to hold our Administration responsible for their actions.

The biggest problem is that the current system encourages Trustees to do nothing but show up to vote for action items written by the Administration.  Many of these action items are delivered to us a few days before a meeting, giving us very little time to properly review them.  This is why Trustees often feel blindsided at the table by last minute proposals.

Another problem is that OHA only reacts to problems as they pop up instead of proactively solving issues before they get serious.  With the many emergencies we face, our beneficiaries cannot afford Trustees that only sit back and passively wait to put out fires.

OHA used to be a hands-on agency with a variety of programs to help our beneficiaries.  Whenever a beneficiary would call with a problem, whether it had to do with health, education, housing, or even funds for an emergency, we could call someone in the OHA Administration for help.  Our beneficiaries were assisted quickly and efficiently by an OHA staffer.  That’s why having in-house OHA programs, closely monitored by the Trustees, are so important.

Today, OHA mostly operates like a charitable foundation that simply hands out grants and conducts research.  Most of the successful OHA-run programs, like Aha ‘Opio and Aha Kupuna, which took years of hard work by past Trustees to develop, have been contracted out or quietly discontinued.

OHA also had a very successful housing program through a partnership with Fannie Mae and implemented through First Hawaiian Bank.  We not only provided assistance with down payments but also classes on how to control debt in order to qualify for a mortgage.  In those productive years OHA ran many programs with just a quarter of our current staff.  While farming work out to nonprofits is appropriate in some cases, I believe OHA has gone too far.

A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Rebuilding our programs won’t be quick or easy, but there is hope.  For the last eight years, OHA contracted with a third-party “middle-man” to administer OHA’s funds to support 17 Hawaiian-focused charter schools.  The middle-man took a small percentage of the funds as an administrative fee to cover the costs of distributing the fund and ensuring compliance.  Since the Trustees approved $1.5 million for this school year and next school year, the administrative fee was estimated to be up to $200,000 for each year.

On October 19, 2017, the OHA Trustees approved distributing the $3 million directly to the charter schools over the next two years.  Amazingly, the Trustees finally decided to get rid of the middle-man.  This means that the administrative fee will now go to the schools.  It’s a win-win situation I’m hoping we can replicate with other OHA programs.

ACCOUNTABILITY

The Trustees are ultimately accountable for OHA.  Therefore it makes more sense to run our programs in-house so that we can monitor them.  That way, OHA Trustees will be more involved and regularly kept up to date on our programs’ progress.  This should be our goal for 2018.  I pray that the New Year will bring constructive and meaningful change.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Give OHA its fair share of ceded land revenues

`Ano`ai kakou…  In 2006, Senate Bill 2948 established the amount of interim revenue to be transferred to the OHA from the public land trust, each fiscal year beginning with fiscal year 2005-2006, at $15,100,000.

While I was not opposed to the $15,100,000 that was negotiated, I did have serious concerns about how the amounts were calculated.  I also questioned whether OHA’s negotiation team considered all of the facts and figures that were available to come up with a fair and justifiable amount.  The last discussion that I am aware of was in December 2005, when our attorney told us that the state owed a past due amount between $17-$30 million.

Despite my inquires, I have never gotten a satisfactory answer on how the final $15.1 million figure was calculated nor why this amount is lower than the $17-$30 million range that was discussed.  I did receive bits-and-pieces of information from the negotiation team from time-to-time.  However, even very important information, such as the calculations and figures compiled by OHA’s accountant in the past, had changed over the years and I questioned whether they were even considered.  There also did not appear to be a clear formula by which the negotiators calculated the amounts owed or even the future payments to be paid to OHA.

At no time was I ever privy to the formula which the negotiation team used to calculate the settlement with the Governor’s office, nor was I given any real numbers that showed exactly how the team had arrived at the numbers that they were suggesting.  Much of the specific details of the negotiations were kept a closely guarded secret.

On February 1, 2006, the State House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs had a hearing on Senate Bill 2948.  During the questions and answers period, committee members asked the State Attorney General about where the revenue would come from.  The AG replied that they were looking at receipts from the airport shops, the University of Hawaii Bookstore, U.H. parking, etc.  State Representative Ezra Kanoho asked if those sources were included in the $15.1 million and the answer was “yes.”  This was confusing since those revenues have been in dispute with the state since the Heely case.  This begged the question – Was the state now settling a part of the Heely case with this settlement?

By the time I found out that the negotiating team and the Governor’s office had come up with a deal, it was too late for me to express my other concerns.  For example:

  1. By what method was the past due amounts determined to be $17-$30 Million?
  2. Was inflation factored into the equation?
  3. Did they consider the fact that the state has been re-negotiating leases every year and, consequently, the revenue stream is now much higher? The $15.1 million figure goes way back to 1995.
  4. What about the interest that is owed to OHA on the unpaid amounts?

I have always felt that our negotiating team was too secretive about how they came up with the final $15.1 million figure.  I also haven’t heard a convincing argument that justifies the amount.  It is critical that we revisit this issue and finally convince the state to give OHA and its beneficiaries a fair share of the ceded land revenue.  As the past OHA Chair I did ask Governor Ige to reconvene the taskforce of 2016 to resolve the unpaid debt to OHA but as of this date I’ve had no response.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Charter Schools are shortchanged by the State

`Ano`ai kakou…  Since 2005, the OHA has been a supporter of the charter school movement, and has collaborated in partnership with the Kamehameha Schools’ Hoꞌolako Like program, ꞌAha Pūnana Leo, Hoꞌokākoꞌo Corporation and other non-profit organizations supporting 15+ Hawaiian-focused charter schools statewide, where Native Hawaiians make up a high portion of the student population.

Most of Hawai’i’s start-up and conversion public charter schools are Hawaiian-focused charter schools and more than 3,000 Native Hawaiian children are enrolled in these schools.  These schools lack sufficient funds for facilities and infrastructure, capital improvements and repair and maintenance costs.  Difficulties in securing adequate long-term and affordable facilities that are academically appropriate are resulting in a financial crisis for some Hawaiian-focused charters.  This threatens the long-term viability of Hawai’i’s public charter school system and the well-being of our Hawaiian children and families.

In spite of the challenges and severe under-funding, Hawaiian-focused charter schools have demonstrated their effectiveness in serving our Hawaiian children, who are more engaged and attain greater gains in the educational process as compared to their peers in conventional public schools.  Our children are succeeding in the Hawaiian-focused charter schools because they are grounded in Hawaiian language, culture and values.  The well-being of our Hawaiian families and communities are also enhanced by the positive gains made in our Hawaiian-focused charter schools.

The Trustees, the Administration and the staff of OHA are committed to fulfill its education mission to facilitate culturally sound educational opportunities for Native Hawaiians by promoting academic success and life-long learning.  The Trustees have authorized and allocated millions of dollars over the years leveraging other potential resources to fund Hawaiian-focused public charter schools.  The State is the largest stakeholder and is charged with the greatest responsibility or “kuleana” to make this possible.

Section 5(f) of the 1959 Hawaii Admission Act established that the State holds lands as a public trust be used for: (1) The support of public schools and other public institutions; (2) For the betterment of conditions of native Hawaiians; (3) The development of farm and home ownership; (4) Public improvements; and (5) The establishment of lands for public use.

Hawaiian-focused public charter schools are getting shortchanged by the State.

Hawaiian-focused public charter schools should be getting a much greater share of the ceded land revenues than they do now.  They should be drawing from a pool of 40% of the ceded land revenues (support of public schools at 20% and public use of lands at 20%).  The State’s share of the ceded land revenues is 80% (minus the 20% for the betterment of native Hawaiians that goes to OHA) and yet they give nothing (0%) to the Charter Schools for infrastructure.  This causes a huge disparity between Charter Schools and the Department of Education.  Paying for their facilities is a huge burden for charter schools and the State needs to start paying up.  Things are so bad that many charter schools would be in dire straits if it weren’t for OHA’s yearly $1.5 million in grants.

It is not enough to make possible the opportunity for our children to attend charter schools.  It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the learning environments we create for our children, and indeed for all children, must be reflective of the promising future that we envision for them and for our society.  I urge all of my readers to support the ongoing success of Hawaiian-focused charter schools.  Write and email your OHA Trustee, State Representative, and State Senator to do something about this disparity.  Aloha Ke Akua.

The Time Has Come Again For Solidarity

Let us make room for all voices and respect each other’s views no matter how different they are from our own.

`Ano`ai kakou…  Many of us still mark August 20, 2003 as a black day in Hawaiian history when a federal court judge forced Kamehameha Schools to enroll a non-Hawaiian student.  This act was so egregious that on September 7, 2003, the Trustees and staff of OHA marched side-by-side down Kalakaua Avenue with more than 5,000 supporters of Native Hawaiian rights in a powerful show of unity.

The marchers included representatives from Kamehameha Schools, Hawaiian Ali’i Trusts, Royal Benevolent Society members, and sovereignty advocates.  Also showing their support were many non-Hawaiians.  The march was organized by the ‘Ilio’ulaokalani Coalition and ended in a rally at the Kapi’olani Park Bandstand.  It was encouraging to see that people who often found themselves on opposite sides regarding nationhood could come together to support justice for all Native Hawaiians.

THE ‘AHA

On February 26, 2016, the majority of the Na‘i Aupuni ‘aha participants voted to adopt The Constitution of the Native Hawaiian Nation.  Again, it was moving to see people who were often on opposite sides of an issue come together for the good of the whole.  There were several participants that frequently came to OHA to protest our positions on nationhood and yet we were all able to put those differences aside and finally draft the governing documents needed to restore our nation.

The governing documents drafted during the ‘aha must be voted on and approved by the Hawaiian people before they can be implemented.  The Hawaiian people currently have the opportunity to examine the documents before deciding whether to accept them.  Once the provisions of the governing documents are ratified, they can finally be implemented and the officers and legislative arm of the nation will be selected.

MOVING FORWARD

What we face today as Hawaiians, the indigenous people of our lands, is no different than what occurred over 100 years ago. We are still fighting to protect our culture, rights to our lands, and our entitlements.  Times may have changed but people are still the same.  Greed is still the motivation behind efforts to relieve us of whatever entitlements we have left.  The fight is even more difficult now that our enemies have become more sophisticated in ways to manipulate us and the law.

We are one people. We cannot afford to be divided, not when so much work remains to be done. The struggle to regain our sovereign rights requires unity and the strength of numbers.

As the federal court decision regarding Kamehameha schools proved, the future of OHA and other Hawaiian Trusts are certainly at risk.  Hawaiian leaders will have to work together and use whatever resources that are necessary to protect that last remaining Hawaiian Trusts.

Let us work together for the cause of nationhood.  Let us agree on the things that we can agree to and set aside the things we differ on and move forward together for the future generations of Hawaiians yet to come.

We cannot continue to let others decide our future.  We will be one nation and one people.

“I appeal to you….that there be no division among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”  I Corinthians 1:10

Let us embrace each other’s views no matter how different they are from our own.  Only then can we be as our Queen wished… ONIPA’A, steadfast in what is good!  Aloha Ke Akua.

Protect iwi kūpuna: Sand mining in central Maui must stop!

`Ano`ai kakou…  On June 14-15, 2017, the Trustees held community and Board meetings on Maui.  Several community members who attended the meetings shared their deep concerns about iwi kūpuna being disturbed by sand dune mining in central Maui.

According the OHA’s administration, the sand dunes have “immense cultural value” and are known to contain iwi of kūpuna from numerous historic battles and from ancient burials.  The State Historic Preservation Office within the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Maui and Lāna’i Island Burial Council has primary jurisdiction over the discovery of ancestral remains and their disposition.  However, in 2009, the Maui Lanai Islands Burial Council reportedly asked for an accounting of burials affected by the sand mining, but nothing came from it.

The testifiers informed us that the recent movement of the sand for grading and mining has exposed even more burials.  In her testimony, Clare Apana asked the Trustees to support a moratorium on sand mining and to formally recognize the entire sand dune as a protected area and a known burial site.  Apana said that more than 1,000 iwi kūpuna have been disturbed in the sand dunes and more will be disturbed with every day that sand mining is allowed to go on.

A recent Star-Advertiser article by Timothy Hurley (dated July 2, 2017) reported that “sand has been mined on Maui since before World War II, but the activity increased in the 1970s as Maui’s inland dunes became the source of sand for concrete used to fuel a construction boom.  By 1985, Maui sand started being barged to Honolulu, and over a couple of decades 5.5 million tons were shipped to Oahu for use in construction, according to a 2006 report compiled for the county Department of Public Works and Environmental Management.  The report had estimated the sand could be depleted in less than 10 years.”

Even more disturbingly, the same Star-Advertiser article also stated that the sand mining on Maui has reportedly been a source of sand for the concrete used to build the pillars and guide ways of the Honolulu rail project now under construction.  My suggestion to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is that they better look into it because I’m sure it will affect ridership.  Who wants to ride a cursed train?

OHA’s 2015 iwi kūpuna policy calls for the care, management and protection of iwi kūpuna.  Many of the Trustees feel passionately about this issue and some even suggested that OHA go to court.  The consensus was clear that we have to do something now and we can’t wait any longer.

On June 29, 2017, the Board approved the following motion — The Office of Hawaiian Affairs calls upon Maui Lani Partners to cease all sand and other resource extraction and grading to allow:

  •  The Maui Department of Planning to determine if sand extraction violates the Maui Zoning Code;
  •  The Maui Department of Public Works to determine if revocation or suspension of the Phase IX grading permit is appropriate; and
  • The State Historic Preservation Department and the Maui Lānaʻi Islands Burial Council to properly investigate the discovery of burials and whether historic preservation laws and conditions have been fully complied with and enforced.

If you care about our ancestral bones say something, do something.  Call the Maui County Council.  No more shipments of sand from Maui to build rail columns!  Aloha Ke Akua.

State Procurement Office investigates OHA over lucrative, non-bid contract

`Ano`ai kakou…  On May 8, 2017, Hawaii News Now reported that “a criminal probe is now underway on a lucrative, non-bid contract issued by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.”  They also reported that “the state Attorney General’s office has subpoenaed records relating to an OHA’s contract with [a] Hawaiian scholar…  Sources said the subpoena was issued to the State Procurement Office, which recently found that OHA improperly awarded the contract without competitive bidding.”

In early May, OHA received a copy of a letter from Sara Allen, the Administrator of the State Procurement Office (SPO), to Mililani Trask regarding OHA’s Contract No. 2879 with Kuauli ꞌĀina-Based Insights LLC.  It stated that a certain division of our staff had violated the State Procurement laws.

This news was not a revelation to me, as I had been informing the Trustees that this behavior had been going on for a very long time.  As the former Chair, I wanted this behavior stopped.

It was the main reason for my rescinding the procurement duties from the OHA CEO, which caused a furor by some management staff and some of the public.  However, the public was not aware of OHA’s internal problems and did not understand my reasoning for this removal of this power.  Needless to say, my detractors used this to say the Board was dysfunctional under my two-month watch and it was a reason to elect a new Chair.  As a result, the “old guard” was put back in power.

So here we go again, faced with the same problems, only in worse shape now because it isn’t just the State Procurement Office who is looking into OHA.  We didn’t do well at the legislature last year or this year, and our beneficiaries question the ability of some Trustees to manage our Trust assets.

Can OHA be fixed?  Yes, but it will take political will on the part of some Trustees to do what is necessary to make this organization into one that our beneficiaries can be proud of and our employees happy to work for.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Legislative Update (2017)

`Ano`ai kakou…  The legislature is about ready to wrap things up.  Here are two of the most harmful pieces of legislation that is currently threatening OHA and the Native Hawaiian Trust:

APPOINTING OHA TRUSTEES THREATENS THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

The House (HCR94/HR56) and Senate (SCR85/SR33) introduced resolutions that would ask OHA to convene a group of Hawaiian leaders, legal scholars, and Hawaiian community members to review whether it’d be better to appoint OHA Trustees rather than elect them.  The group would consider what the appropriate appointing authority would be and how to develop a list of the best qualified potential trustees.

OHA has always been an independent agency built on the goal of Native Hawaiian autonomy and self-determination.  Appointing Trustees would kill any hope of true self-determination and make OHA just another part of the state.

An appointed Trustee would only be loyal to whoever appointed them.  Elected Trustees are loyal to their constituents.  Would the people of Hawaii accept Senators and Representatives that were appointed by the Governor?  OHA should be no different.

Elected Trustees have built OHA into the impressive institution it is today.  We did it on our own, without someone above us second-guessing our every move.  An appointed Board of Trustees could never match our vision, determination, and drive to tackle the many challenges our beneficiaries face.

OHA COLLECTIVE BARGAINING?

HB865 threatens to undermine the autonomy of OHA Trustees as OHA’s independent decision makers and fiduciaries of the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund.  Amendment to HRS § 89-6 could result in the OHA Board of Trustees holding only 1 of 14 votes when negotiating a collective bargaining agreement involving OHA employees, whose salaries make up a significant portion of OHA’s operating budget.

Together with the requirements of the Civil Service Law, HRS Chapter 76, the Trustees’ ability to oversee and plan for personnel expenses would depend in large part to the decisions of the executive branch and Governor, who would hold 7 votes in collective bargaining negotiations involving OHA employees.

Such a voting imbalance would effectively require the OHA Board of Trustees to hand over control over some of its key expenditures to the State.  The requirements of civil service and collective bargaining would force OHA to change the way it hires, compensates, and maintains its workforce.

Representative Kaniela Ing

So what do both of these measures infringing on OHA’s autonomy have in common?  They were introduced in the House by Representative Kaniela Ing.  This isn’t the first year he’s introduced them, but this has to stop.  This is the third year in a row he’s done this!

Whatever Rep. Ing’s intentions may be, it’s clear his proposals would end OHA’s autonomy and make us a part of the state.  Hawaiians have been struggling for many years to restore our sovereignty and self-determination, whether it’s through nation-within-a-nation model or full independence.  A state-controlled OHA would cripple those efforts and threaten the resources OHA is holding for the new nation.

The Board of Education is now appointed by the Governor.  Are things better with public schools?  The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has commissioners appointed by the Governor.  Are you satisfied with how it’s performing?  I pray that the young Representative from Maui would put more thought into his proposals; otherwise we need to convince his constituents to look for someone else to represent them.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Back to Normal: Ho Hum, Business as Usual

`Ano`ai kakou…  Nothing frustrates me more than issues falling through the cracks due to inaction by the Board.  While we are moving ahead with OHA’s Financial Audit and Management Review thanks to the leadership of Trustee Keliʻi Akina, other important issues have fallen off OHA’s radar.  For example:

  • REDUCING OHA’S SPENDING POLICY LIMIT: Reducing our spending policy limit to 4-½ percent of the Trust Fund would be a wise move in the current economy. It appears clear that the stock market will not be a place for OHA to look for great returns on our investment over the next few years.  The predictors are very gloomy; all the more reason to be cautious and prudent with spending.
  • ELIMINATING THE FISCAL RESERVE FUND: Two years ago, one of OHA’s money managers recommended that we get rid of the Fiscal Reserve slush fund. Trustees seemed supportive, but nothing has happened since.
  • PROTECTING KULEANA LANDS: OHA and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation need to form a partner as soon as possible to stop outsiders, or anyone, who try to “quiet title” Hawaiian lands. This problem is not going away.
  • PROTECTING MAUNA KEA: I believe that transferring responsibility over Mauna Kea lands to OHA would produce the best “win-win” situation for the State, the University of Hawaii and all of OHA’s Native Hawaiian beneficiaries. What better solution could there be than to put Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands?
  • SUNSHINE LAW: After two years of fruitless negotiations, the majority of Trustees want to go to trial rather than settle my legal complaint that the Board was not following Sunshine Law during closed-door executive sessions.
  • NATIVE HAWAIIAN CONSTITUTION: On February 26, 2016, the majority of the Na‘i Aupuni ‘Aha participants voted to adopt The Constitution of the Native Hawaiian Nation. The next step was to ratify the Constitution by taking it out to our people, but nothings has happened since.  OHA needs to follow-up on its current status.
  • OHA NEEDS TO REVISIT ITS POLICIES AND RULES: Many of our most recent rules were created to punish and control Trustees.  We just need to follow the law.  We have also tied our own hands with rules that hamper our efforts to help our beneficiaries.  We need to find a more efficient way to run our essential programs such as community grants.

The current Board leadership appears more concerned with keeping power in their hands rather than attacking tough issues.  If they don’t change their ways, all OHA will have to show in the next two years is a big, fat zero, because we are right back to where we were before I look the Chairmanship – Nowhere!  No progress with the University of Hawaii and the Thirty Meter Telescope, Kakaʻako, and other important issues.

Aloha till the next time.

Transition: Change doesn’t have to be painful

‘Ano‘ai kakou.  As you may have heard through the media, this has been a turbulent few months for OHA.  It is heartbreaking that OHA cannot be focused on what our beneficiaries are demanding – assistance with housing, education, and health.

Change is never easy, but I want to state for the record that all of the initiatives I fought for in the past two months were for one purpose only:  To protect the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund, now and into the future, for our beneficiaries.  If my first initiatives were passed by the Board, our beneficiaries would have seen immediate change for the better.  We were so close.

By a majority vote of the Board we wanted to negotiate a buyout of the CEO/Administrator/Ka Pouhana’s contract.  We felt that OHA could do so much more for our beneficiaries if we could change the course of where the Administration was headed.  A buyout would have been the least painful way to bring about that change.  The CEO would receive a negotiated sum of money and his reputation would be intact since we wouldn’t have to air any “dirty laundry” in the public.  But as everyone who read the newspaper or watched the evening news lately knows, it didn’t work out that way.

On a positive note, Trustee Keli‘i Akina’s proposal to conduct a more comprehensive audit of OHA, which will look into things that the three mandated OHA audits don’t cover, looks like it will become a reality.  On February 8th, the Resource Management Committee formed an Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the Board on the scope of a proposed financial audit and management review.  Our beneficiaries should be proud because this is only coming about because you demanded it.  I look forward to the audit and finally answer the one question I’ve been asking nonstop for the last decade:  Where is all the money really going?

On February 9th, the Board elected Colette Machado as the new Chair of the Board of Trustees.  While she has been part of a faction that has no love for my demands for fiscal accountability, I know that she will do her best to be fair.  I will definitely to my part to help her move OHA in the right direction again so that the Board can make a real impact in the lives of our beneficiaries.

However, I was disappointed to see that Trustee Machado was able to let former Trustee Haunani Apoliona use her column space in the February Ka Wai Ola as her soapbox to attack me, while my original February article was banned by the CEO because he felt it was too critical of the Administration and the Trustees that support him.  I’ll let you, the readers, be the judge of whether that is favoritism or not.

Trustee Hulu Lindsey remains Chair of the Resource Management Committee, so we can expect the new leadership structure to honor our beneficiaries’ call more transparency at OHA.

OHA must be an agency that treats our beneficiaries equally and it’s now up to the new leadership to make sure there is an even playing field at OHA.  Most of the OHA Staff just want to do their jobs and I ask that the general public withhold their judgment during this time of change.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and we cannot change OHA in a few months.

Mahalo nui loa and God bless you all.

No more taking of Native Lands

`Ano`ai kakou…  One issue that has been near and dear to my heart over the past few years is passing a law that would exempt Kuleana lands from property taxes.  Hawaiian families, who have been caring for their Kuleana lands for generations, were facing sky-rocketing property taxes.  They could have ended up losing everything if something wasn’t done to offer them some sort of tax relief.

After four years of countless meetings with City officials and testifying before an endless parade of committees, Kuleana Lands finally became exempt from real property taxes on Oahu in 2007 and it is now known as Revised Ordinances of Honolulu Section 8-10.32 Exemption—Kuleana land.  All of the neighbor island counties established their own Kuleana property tax exemptions soon after Oahu.  If the exemptions didn’t pass when it did, more Kuleana lands would have fallen out of Hawaiian hands.

Now Kuleana lands are under threat from rich mainlanders who want to force Hawaiian families off their land, all for the sake of their privacy.

A brief history of Kuleana Lands:  In 1848, as a result of the Mahele, all land in the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was placed in one of three categories:  Crown Lands (for the occupant of the throne); Government Lands; and Konohiki Lands (Kuleana Act, 1850).  (www.kumupono.com)

After native Hawaiian commoners were granted the opportunity to acquire their own parcels of land through the Mahele, foreigners were also granted the right to own land in 1850, provided they had sworn an oath of loyalty to the Hawaiian Monarch.  In order to receive their awards from the Land Commission, the hoa‘aina (native tenants) were required to prove that they cultivated the land for a living.  They were not permitted to acquire “wastelands” (e.g. fishponds) or lands which they cultivated “with the seeming intention of enlarging their lots.”  Once a claim was confirmed, a survey was required before the Land Commission was authorized to issue any award.

The lands awarded to the hoa‘aina became known as “Kuleana Lands.” All of the claims and awards (the Land Commission Awards or L.C.A.) were numbered, and the L.C.A. numbers remain in use today to identify the original owners of lands in Hawai‘i.  By the time of its closure on March 31, 1855, the Land Commission issued only 8,421 kuleana claims, equaling only 28,658 acres of land to the native tenants (cf. Indices of Awards 1929).

According to the Overview of Hawaiian History by Diane Lee Rhodes, many of the kuleana lands were later lost.  The list of reasons include:  (1) Native tenants mostly received lands that lacked firewood or were too rocky and unsuitable for farming.  (2) A number of kuleana were sold by dishonest land agents before the farmers could get a survey.  (3) The land commissioners delayed getting notices to landholders.  (4) Prices were out of reach for commoners.  (5) Finally, foreigners evicted legitimate kuleana owners without due process.

We must put an end to the injustices done to the caretakers of Kuleana lands for the past 150-years once and for all.  If something is not done soon, the very last Kuleana lands that have survived will finally fall out of Hawaiian hands.  Protecting what’s left of Kuleana Lands will help preserve Hawai’i’s rich history and culture.

OHA and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation will partner to stop outsiders, or anyone, who try to “quiet title” Hawaiian lands.