Preserve Kuleana Land property tax exemptions

February 2012 KA WAI OLA COLUMN

`Ano`ai kakou… 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.

Native Hawaiian families who had been caring for their Kuleana lands for generations are now protected from sky-rocketing property taxes because of luxury resorts and shopping malls being built around them. If the exemption didn’t pass when it did, more Kuleana lands would have fallen out of Hawaiian hands.

Since most of the Kuleana lands were carved up, taken away or abandoned, the impact on tax revenues was predicted to be extremely minimal so OHA argued that there should be no reason why the ordinance shouldn’t pass. This has in fact been proven to be the case.

According to the Star-Advertiser (Nov. 14, 2011) there were 37 Kuleana Land parcels on Oahu receiving a property tax exemption for Fiscal Year 2011-2012, which cost the city $91,000 in taxes. Given its tragic history, I believe this is a very small price for the City to pay in order to preserve the last of Oahu’s Kuleana Lands.

Establishing the property tax exemption for Kuleana Lands on all islands has been the most important accomplishments for us in 10-years. We must do everything that we can to protect against taking away this right that should have been grandfathered into the law in 1898 and again in 1959.

The City & County of Honolulu also sent a strong message to the Native Hawaiian community that it was knowledgeable of Hawaiian history and was sympathetic and supportive of Hawaiian causes. The City helped to put an end to the injustices done to the caretakers of Oahu Kuleana lands over the past 150-years.

This truly momentous piece of legislation eventually paved the way for the three neighbor island counties to establish similar property tax exemptions for their Kuleana Lands. It was a relief to finally know that the very last of the Kuleana Lands that were able to survive would be protected and kept in Hawaiian hands. Or so I thought…

On November 22, 2011, the Star-Advertiser reported that the Real Property Tax Advisory Commission (created by the City Council and headed by Lowell Kalapa – the only person to testify against the property tax exemptions for Kuleana Lands) is recommending that the City & County of Honolulu eliminate property tax exemptions for about 150,000 Oahu homeowners, including the blind, elderly and disabled. It is also proposing that the exemptions for charitable organizations, credit unions, schools, churches and other groups be abolished or significantly reduced. Their goal is to provide tax relief that is more connected to a landowner’s ability to pay rather than giving exemptions based on a particular category.

The biggest danger is that only three of the current City Councilmembers were in office in 2007 (Ann Kobayashi, Nestor Garcia, and Romy Cachola). Most of the City Council is unaware of the history of Kuleana Lands and will have to be briefed all over again. By the time this article is published, I will have testified before the City Council on behalf of Kuleana Land owners. It should be noted that while the State negotiates with OHA for unpaid ceded revenues, the City, which is in possession of ceded lands as well, has NOT paid a dime to Hawaiians for the lands that they have in their inventory.

Thankfully, the Star-Advertiser (November 14, 2011) also reported that since five of the nine Council seats are up for election this year, there is only a slim chance that the Real Property Tax Advisory Commission’s controversial proposals will pass.

Let us make absolutely sure that this is the case.  Please contact your City Councilmember and let them know that property tax exemptions for Kuleana Lands must be preserved.

2011 Wrap-up

January 2012 KA WAI OLA COLUMN

`Ano`ai kakou…  I started off 2011 with a continued hope that there will be positive changes at OHA.  While not always positive, the year was definitely one of major transition for OHA as we: (1) Approved a monumental law which will establish State Recognition for Native Hawaiians; and (2) Received an offer from the Governor to finally resolve the claims relating to OHA’s portion of income from the public land trust between 11/7/1978 and 7/1/2009.

STATE RECOGNITION

After being one of two Trustees appointed as a “Legislative Liaison” representing OHA for the 2011 session, I focused my many years of lobbying experience and strong relationships with legislators on two important issues: (1) Establishing state recognition for Native Hawaiians; and (2) Resolving the past due ceded land payments from the state.

Thanks to the hard work of the Native Hawaiian Caucus, Senate Bill (SB) 1520 was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Neil Abercrombie.  SB1520 establishes a new law that recognizes Native Hawaiians as the only indigenous, aboriginal, Maoli people of Hawaii.  It also establishes a process for Native Hawaiians to organize themselves as a step in the continuing development of a reorganized Native Hawaiian governing entity and, ultimately, the federal recognition of Native Hawaiians.

A special Mahalo to Senators Malama Solomon, Clayton Hee, and Brickwood Galuteria, and Representative Faye Hanohano for their tireless effort to get SB 1520 passed into law.

PAST DUE CEDED LANDS SETTLEMENT

In the 2009, SB 995 (Introduced by Senator Colleen Hanabusa by request and supported by Senator Hee) sought to have the State resolve its long overdue debt to OHA resulting from public land trust revenues unpaid from 11/7/1978 to 7/1/2010 by offering OHA $251 million in cash and 20 percent of the 1.8 million acres of ceded lands.  The proposal died in the House and went nowhere in 2010.  In the 2011 Legislative Session, SB 984, part of the OHA Package of bills, died after it was deferred by the Senate Hawaiian Affairs and Judiciary committees.

However, on Nov. 16, 2011, Governor Neil Abercrombie offered OHA property in Kaka‘ako as payment to cover the settlement of past due amounts.  The Governor should be commended for his bold offer.  OHA has lobbied many Governors in the past with nothing to show for it.  Now, for the first time, Governor Abercrombie is making OHA an offer that could potentially generate all of the revenue OHA needs to operate indefinitely and would give our future nation the concrete assets it needs to serve the Hawaiian population.

Although there is a lot work ahead of us in the upcoming legislative session, I feel more confident than ever that OHA, on behalf of our beneficiaries, will finally prevail.  An important part of that will be educating our elected officials and the community about this opportunity.

OHA must also do everything in its power to successfully lobby the State Legislature and convince any naysayers to have a change of heart.  In this effort, we will need your support to effectively solidify the settlement.  OHA will be taking this proposal to community meetings around the state so that our beneficiaries will understand it.  I look forward to 2012 with great hope and anticipation that our efforts to resolve this long standing issue will finally be put to rest.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a most prosperous New Year.

Coming together to support the Akaka Legislation

May 2011 KA WAI OLA COLUMN

Senator Akaka responsible for the landmark Apology Resolution and establishing the “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander” category in the U.S. Census

`Ano`ai kakou…  I am so very grateful that Senator Daniel Akaka has chosen to chair the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.  The Senator’s announcement of retirement when his term expires in 2012 came as a shock to me.  However, his reason for choosing to lead the Indian Affairs Committee for his final two years in the Senate is obvious.

Senator Akaka’s dedication to all the people of Hawaii has been without question.  As a Native Hawaiian, he knows how important it is for our people to achieve native sovereignty.  This right, under the U.S. Constitution, exists for hundreds of Native American tribes and Alaska Natives.  Hawaiian Natives remain the only group yet to be acknowledged and recognized by the U.S. Native Hawaiians must have the same rights under the law and Constitution that Alaska Natives and Native Americans have.

To insure our sovereign rights, the U.S. must recognize us as the only Native people of Hawaii.  Our culture lives on in our language, history, dance, music, and historical sites.

The 2011 Akaka bill, S.675, can be downloaded through the Library of Congress website at: http://thomas.loc.gov.  The language within the bill is virtually identical to S. 1011 as it was passed out of the Indian Affairs Committee back in December 2009.  A “markup” of S.675 was scheduled for April 7th.

Loretta Tuell Named Chief Council, Indian Affairs Committee

On March 24th the trustees met with Loretta Tuell who was appointed by Senator Akaka to be the next Staff Director/Chief Council for the Indian Affairs Committee.  Ms. Tuell has previously served on the committee as Counsel to former Chairman Senator Daniel Inouye.  She grew up on the Nez Perce reservation and she is a former partner at Anderson Tuell LLP, an American Indian-owned law firm in Washington, D.C.

I have known Loretta for 12 years now and I am confident that her wealth of knowledge and experience in
Indian law and her familiarity with issues facing Native Hawaiians will give us the extra push we need to get the Akaka bill passed this time.

Ms. Tuell comes with impeccable credentials including:

  • Graduate of Washington State University;
  • Law degree from UCLA;
  • Senior Executive Program at Harvard University;
  • Extensive experience with the Department of the Interior, the Office of American Indian
    Trust, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
  • An appointee to the Federal Task Force for Native Hawaiians; and
  • The 2009 American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Award, a prestigious award for
    woman attorneys.

State Recognition Update

By the end of March, both competing State Recognition for Native Hawaiian bills — Senate Bill 1 (Senator Solomon) and SB 1520 (Senator Hee) — were passed out of the House Hawaiian Affairs and Judiciary Committees.  The bills have until an April 8th deadline to be approved by the House Finance Committee.

I urge everyone interested in helping to pass these bills to please send letters of support or e-mails to House Speaker Calvin Say, Finance Committee Chair Rep. Marcus Oshiro and Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Faye Hanohano.

Aloha Ke Akua.

Senator Akaka: Hawaii’s most beloved public servant

April 2011 KA WAI OLA COLUMN

`Ano`ai kakou…  I was saddened that after months of thinking about his political future, Senator Daniel Akaka decided not to run for re-election in 2012 after serving in the U.S. Senate from 1990 to the present and 13 years previously in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Over the years, I have worked closely with Senator Akaka on important issues such as fighting for proper medical care of our Hawaii National Guardsmen while he was the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and I look forward to working with him over the next two years on Federal Recognition for Native Hawaiians now that he is the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Senator Akaka serves as the best example of how a lawmaker can get the job done with kindness and humility without having to resort to any political shenanigans or negativity.  He will certainly be sorely missed in a Congress that is now more and more focused on being combative and polarizing.

Senator Akaka has been our strongest advocate in Congress and in 1993, working with Senator Daniel Inouye, he passed the Apology Resolution, where the United States officially apologized for its part in the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.  I believe no one can represent the Hawaiian community as thoughtfully as Senator Akaka has and whoever prevails in 2012
will have some very big shoes to fill.

Senator Akaka deserves a great big MAHALO for his life long service to Hawaii.  There is still much work to be accomplished over the next two years and I look forward to working closely with Senator Akaka to get them done.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE:

Here is an update on important Native Hawaiian bills that are working their way through the legislature.

State Recognition

Senate Bill 1 (SB1), introduced by Senator Malama Solomon, was passed out of its final Senate Committees and will be crossing over to the House for consideration.  This bill will address a long overdue formal recognition by the State of Hawaii of its indigenous people.

SB1520, introduced by Senator Clayton Hee, also passed out of its final Senate Committee and will be crossing over to the House.  SB 1520 would establish procedures for state recognition of a first nation government similar to what is described in the
Akaka bill, but at the state level.

Past Due Ceded Lands Settlement

SB 984 & HB399, part of the OHA Package of bills, seeks to have the State resolve its long overdue debt to OHA resulting from public land trust revenues unpaid from 11/7/1978 to 7/1/2010.  Both bills failed to make it out of its final committee before the crossover deadline and are now considered “dead” for this session.  However, as anyone who has lobbied the legislature knows, there are ways to resurrect bills from the dead.  The language of either SB984 or HB399 could be inserted into another bill that is still alive, resurrecting it.  So there is still hope of a settlement in this legislative session.  Another alternative is a concurrent resolution which is being considered as I write this column.

Aloha Ke Akua.

Portraits of Traitorous Overthrowers Must Go

By: OHA TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: February 2010 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

As difficult as it is to believe that in this day and age, and with all of the history that has been revealed regarding the unjust nature of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, large, framed portraits of Provisional Government officials are still being displayed in the rotunda of Ali’iolani, the headquarters of the State’s Judiciary.  Specifically, the portraits include Albert Francis Judd, who was Associate Justice from 1874-1881 and Chief Justice from 1881-1900, and Walter F. Frear, who was Associate Justice from 1893-1900 and Chief Justice from 1900-1907.

The display of such portraits is an affront to many Native Hawaiians and gives the appearance that the State of Hawaii approves of the overthrow.  The portraits also perversely give legitimacy to the Provisional Government which has clearly caused great harm to Native Hawaiian people, culture, and self-determination.

History has proven unequivocally that the Provisional Government of Hawaii was established illegally, immorally, and unjustly in 1893 following the treacherous overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

The Provisional Government ruled Hawaii during the period between the overthrow and when they declared themselves the Republic of Hawaii on July 4, 1894.  Anyone who accepted an official position within the illegal Provisional Government were traitors to the Kingdom and, by remaining in office, perpetuated the great harm brought upon Native Hawaiians by the overthrow.

Soon after the overthrow, President Cleveland appointed U.S. Commissioner James H. Blount to investigate the events surrounding the overthrow.  The “Blount Report,” as it is now commonly know, was part of the 1893 United States House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee Report provided the first official evidence that United States was complicit in the illegal overthrow.  The Blount Report concluded that the U.S. diplomatic and military representatives in Hawaii had abused their authority and were responsible for the change in government.

President Grover Cleveland himself described the acts leading up to the overthrow as an “act of war” and acknowledged that the government of the Kingdom of Hawaii, with its peaceful and friendly people, had been overthrown.  On December 18, 1893, President Cleveland sent a message to Congress calling for the restoration of the monarchy.

The Provisional Government protested President Cleveland’s efforts to restore the monarchy and continued to hold onto power and pursued annexation to the United States.  They even successfully lobbied the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to conduct a new investigation into the events leading to the overthrow in order to challenge the Blount Report’s findings.

The policies of the Provisional Government were far more restrictive than those of the Kingdom of Hawaii, including denying citizenship to Chinese immigrants.  They also restricted voting to only 4,000 people, which was down from the 14,000 people under the Bayonet Constitution.  This led to the Blount Report’s conclusion that if the question of annexation were put to a popular vote, it would be “defeated.”

I encourage everyone to support OHA’s Concurrent Resolution in this legislative session which urges the State to remove the portraits of any Provisional Government official which are being displayed in a position of honor in state buildings.

Aloha pumehana.

Looking Back at 2009 and Looking forward to 2010

By: OHA TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: January 2010 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

Last year started out with the whole world caught up or affected in some negative way by America’s recession.  Economists said it would probably last through to 2010 and they were right.

During the 2009 session, I found it embarrassing to sit through OHA’s budget briefing to the state legislature and listen to Senators and Representatives ask about OHA’s budget.  Questions included things like “Where are OHA’s priorities for spending?” and “How much was being spent on Kau Inoa registrations and OHA’s Washington D.C. office?”

They basically scolded us for not making any sacrifices and were reluctant to give us any more money.  At least that was my impression of their message to us.  However, it is important to note that the approximately $3 million that we receive annually from the state helps us to serve the less than 50% Hawaiian beneficiaries that we are also mandated to serve.

SETTLEMENT WITH THE STATE

I supported Senate Bill 995, introduced by Senator Clayton Hee, which attempted to resolve the claims and disputes relating to OHA’s portion of income from the public land trust between 11/7/1978 and 7/1/2009.

Senator Hee’s proposal offered OHA $251 million in cash and 20 percent of the 1.8 million acres of ceded lands to be determined in negotiations between the agency and the Lingle administration.  During the Cayetano administration, OHA was offered 20% of all ceded lands and $150 million in cash.  Five OHA board members refused the offer; two of which are still on the OHA board (Trustees Haunani Apoliona & Colette Machado).  In Governor Cayetano’s recent book, he speaks to the foolishness of those board members and refers to the events as a “missed opportunity” for OHA.  SB995 SD2 offers OHA another opportunity to redeem itself.

SB995 would have given OHA the right to choose from the following properties, among many others: Kaka’ako Makai; Kahana Valley and Beach Park; La Mariana and Pier 60; Heeia meadowlands; Mauna Kea: Mauna Kea Scientific Reserve; Waikiki Yacht Club; Ala Wai Boat Harbor Complex; Kalaeloa Makai; and any and all other lands that the State may agree to convey to OHA.

Even a few of these properties could generate all of the revenue OHA needs to operate indefinitely and would have given our future nation the concrete assets it needs to serve the Hawaiian population.  SB995 would have made Native Hawaiians self-sufficient (the very essence of sovereignty) and relieved the State of Hawaii of a large burden on their budget.

Unfortunately, SB995 failed to pass during the last days of the legislature because according to Advertiser Staff Writer Gordon Y. K. Pang, “key House members,” no doubt let by Speaker Calvin Say, declined to support the bill.  Let us hope that we can convince them this year.

SAINT DAMIEN

It is fitting that we closed the year with the celebration of the sainthood of Father Damien, a non-Hawaiian who unselfishly gave his life to care for Hawaiians.

On October 1, 2009, I traveled along with a Hawaii delegation on a pilgrimage to Belgium and to Rome to honor Father Damien.  We visited Father Damien’s hometown of Tremelo where the people of the town embraced us.  I can now truly understand where the kindness and compassion that father Damien had for our Hawaiian people came from.

In a ceremony led by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City, Rome, we witnessed the canonization of Father Damien on October the 11, 2009.

To Father Damien, people were people, and his service to his God meant that he must serve all of God’s people.  We would undoubtedly have a more peaceful world if we could all embrace the compassion for others that was exemplified by Saint Damien.  Let us think of these good thoughts and deeds as we move forward into this New Year.

My best wishes to all for a happy and successful 2010.  Aloha pumehana.

HONORING SAINT DAMIEN

By: OHA TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: December 2009 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

On October the 11, 2009, Father Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City, Rome.  Saint Damien was born Joseph De Veuster on January 3, 1840 in Tremelo, Belgium into a large family.  His parents were farmers and merchants and it was expected that Joseph would take over the family business after his oldest brother decided to enter the congregation of the Scared Hearts of Jesus and Mary.  However, this was not to be.

In 1859, Joseph entered the novitiate in Louvain, Belgium, the same religious order that his brother had entered, where he took the name of Damien.  In 1863, his brother became ill and could not leave on a mission to the Hawaiian Islands.  Joseph obtained permission from the Superior General to take his brother’s place.

Joseph arrived in Honolulu on March 19, 1864 where he was ordained to the priesthood the following May 21st.  In learning about Saint Damien and the struggles he endured as a priest living in Kalawao, Molokai, or what is now known as Kalaupapa, I can truly say that no one in this lifetime could have survived the harsh and cruel conditions there with the same grace and compassion.

Damien’s arrived at a time when the Hawaiian Monarchy was struggling with the dilemma of what to do about the outbreak of Hansen’s Disease that was quickly spreading throughout the islands.  It was decided that all those who were infected be isolated on the island of Molokai in the remote area of Kalawao.

The entire Catholic Mission led by Bishop Louis Maigret was concerned about the abandonment of the “lepers.”  He asked for volunteers who would take turns administering aide to them and four priests volunteered.  Damien was first to leave on May 10, 1873.  After seeing the harsh conditions in Kalawao and how seriously ill the patients were, he asked the Bishop’s permission to remain indefinitely on Molokai.  Thus, Damien spared the other priests from exposure to the disease.

On October 1, 2009, I traveled along with a Hawaii delegation on a pilgrimage to Belgium and to Rome to honor Father Damien.  We visited Father Damien’s hometown of Tremelo where the people of the town embraced us.  I can now truly understand where the kindness and compassion that father Damien had for our Hawaiian people came from.

“We are reminded through the life lessons exemplified by Father Damien that we are each given an opportunity while we are on God’s earth to try and make a difference in someone’s life no matter how big or how small.  It only matters that we try.”

To Father Damien, people were people, and his service to his God meant to serve all of God’s people.  We are reminded through the life lessons exemplified by Father Damien that we are each given an opportunity while we are on God’s earth to try and make a difference in someone’s life no matter how big or how small.  It only matters that we try.

We walked along the same streets that he walked and entered his boyhood home which is now a small museum.  Touring the century old town with its quaint streets and beautiful classical buildings was an unforgettable experience.  At the end of a Mass held in Tremelo, the Bishop of Belgium said, “Thank you Hawaii, we gave you a priest and you gave us back a Saint. We are forever linked together as one people.”

On October the 6th, our group arrived in Rome and our hotel was very near Saint Peters Square and the Vatican.  Upon arrival, I was acutely aware of the stark contrast between the smaller towns of Belgium and the hustle and bustle of Rome.  I also found it interesting how Rome’s ancient history and architecture deeply intertwined with the modern city.

It is fascinating how parts of ancient Rome continue to exist in modern times as they did centuries ago.  I walked upon the same cobblestone streets that Romans in ancient times traversed.  What is astonishing is that a large city like Rome has not widened its streets to accommodate automobiles.  Cars and motorcycles regularly zip in and out of narrow streets made for horses and foot traffic.  To add to the congestion, Romans regularly double and triple park their cars.

Almost every building in Rome has ornate architecture and statues.  The 600 churches within the city are decorated with beautiful paintings on both the walls and ceilings.  St. Peters Basilica is the most beautiful church I have ever seen.  St. Peter is buried underneath the Basilica.  Located nearby is the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo spent more than half of his life painting the magnificent ceiling.  Everything that you have ever read about in school is there before you.

Despite the many distractions, we did not forget the reason we all made our pilgrimage to Rome — the canonization of our beloved Father Damien.  On October 11th, we lined up at St. Peters square at 6:30 am to ensure we got seats before the program began.  The gates opened at 8:15 am and by that time there were 60,000 people waiting to get into the Square and many more coming in tour buses and walking in large groups.  Suddenly, they all rushed towards the gate with a determined look in their eyes.  There was much pushing, shoving, and shouting in different languages as everyone scrambled to get one of the limited number of seats available.  Thankfully, no one was trampled.

The Mass began at 8:30 am.  The King and Queen of Belgium, the Royals of Italy, Senator Daniel Akaka and Lt. Governor Duke Aiona were but a few of the many dignitaries  in the audience.  Participants included the Brothers and Fathers of the Scared Heart Order of Connecticut, Los Angeles, the Philippines, and the Northern Marianas, who were all led by Bishop Silva of Honolulu.  St. Peters Basilica was packed to its brim with visitors from everywhere in the world, with thousands more listening and watching on the jumbo screens in the square.  All told, there were as many as 100,000 people there.  Before we knew it, like a blink of an eye, the Mass was over and Father Damien had become Saint Damien.

Our next stop is the thriving community of Assisi, about three hours outside of Rome.  We traveled through farm country and lots of open spaces.  It was a sharp contrast to Rome.  Finally, high on the mountain top of Assisi, we witnessed the birth place of Saint Francis.  The view was breathtaking.  We then visited St. Francis’s Church and his tomb.  Beautiful, centuries old buildings were still being used as merchant shops and homes.  We stopped long enough to get some heavenly sweet gelatos.  There really is no such thing as a bad meal in Italy.  The smells, the deserts, the wines, the people, the excitement of the cities and its energy were invigorating.

Next, our group attended a Hawaiian Mass at St. Paul’s church in Rome presided over by Bishop Silva and the Priests of the Scared Hearts Order including the Honorable Father Lane Akiona, Father Gomes, Father Jonathan, Father Preston, Father Bruce, and others. Special dances by our Halau and our choir made this Mass very special.  St. Paul’s church is one of the most visited churches in Rome and second in size only to St. Peters Basilica.

The next day, we say aloha to Rome and head back to Hawaii.

The final Aloha and Mahalo to St. Damien took place on the grounds of Iolani Palace on November 1st.  Belgium dignitaries and our own Princess Abigail Kawananakoa exchange their gratitude and love for St. Damien.  In this final farewell, the Princess shares some intimate letters that were written between Queen Kapiolani, King David Kalakaua and Princess Liliuokalani with St. Damien.

Princess Liliuokalani first visited Kalaupapa on September 15, 1881.  She witnessed the patients’ swollen, half-shut eyes, the black scabs and running sores, their mutilated members, and their gangrenous hands and feet.  Some of the sufferers hid their wounds under bloodstained bandages; others let their wounds show as though they no longer thought of them.  Princess Liliuokalani burst into tears when she recognized some of them.  She attempted to speak, but could not.  She wanted to see everything at the site including the housing, the hospital, the orphanages, the churches, the rectory and the stores.  She left with a broken heart.

Father Damien wrote to Queen Kapiolani about the plight of the Hawaiian people whom he cared for and appealed to her to send provisions.  In a June of 1884 letter, Queen Kapiolani wrote, “Dear father Damien, I am awaiting your approval of the allotment of clothes for the lepers and the number to be supplied.  The giving of the clothes for he lepers are being withheld until I hear from you.  With best wishes to you and our beloved lepers, Kapiolani.”

On July 30, 1884, Damien responded, “I was honored to receive your letter. To execute your loving orders I put myself right to work.  I have visited the homes and saw with my own eyes their needs, and inquired of their pain.  Here is a list of Kalawao.  The list for Kalaupapa I will mail next week.  My respectful greetings to the King.  Your humble servant.”

On August 6, 1884, Father Damien wrote, “To the Royal mother of the people in suffering Queen Kapiolani, greetings.  Your letter is in the hands of your obedient servant.  I have fulfilled your requests.  I have finished the catalogue of names of the sick people imploring the mercy of their mothers.  Through the Board of Health you will receive a list of all of the people who are living here with their date of birth.  A kind request for myself and my large family to you, O princess, when all of the freight is ready to be shipped, tell the head Sister, Sister Marianne, to board the ship with you in order to select a site for the establishment of the sisters at Kalawao.”

It is clear from these writings that Father Damien enlisted the aide of not only the Royal family but also the support of anyone who would listen.  He then used whatever materials he could find to build houses, churches and hospitals for the patients.  Against all odds he formed a sense of community and provided much needed services such as baptisms and marriages.  In one of his writings he wrote: “My greatest happiness is to serve the Lord in these poor sick children, rejected by others.”

Today, as it was then, the world now rejects the less fortunate of all kinds such as the victims of AIDS and other diseases, abandoned children, disoriented youth, abused women, neglected elderly, oppressed minorities and the homeless.  In Damien, we see the Good Samaritan, who stopped to give aide to the sick and to those who had been cast aside by society. Damien is and will remain for all of us a servant of the human spirit and person, a servant of humanity that needs to live but more importantly needs reason for living.

This is the Damien challenge to all of us today.  Can we find the Good Samaritan in us?

Leave Mauna Kea Alone

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter sent to newspaper editors, October 2008

I fully support Chile’s bid to be the site for the proposed $1 billion Thirty Meter Telescope being built by U.S. and Canadian Universities instead of Mauna Kea.

Both sites offer the same clarity of atmosphere that the telescopes need, but Mauna Kea is a sacred mountain and should not be further desecrated.

Mauna Kea has already been irreparable damaged by existing telescope facilities and it can never be restored to its original, pristine state.

I say, stop the devastation and let the Chileans have it.

Too Little, Too Late

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter sent to Star Bulletin Editor on February 8, 2008

I am writing to correct the errors that were made by the Chairperson of the Office of Hawaiian Affiars and other trustees in their Feb. 7th letter. 

First, the letter twists the facts by stating that I rejected former Governor Cayetano’s offer in 1999 while I was serving as the Chairperson of OHA. 

What really happened is that the full board voted to reject Cayetano’s first offer, which was much less than the $251 million he later offered, for the past due amounts owed to OHA from 1980.

OHA and the state were also discussing a prospective offer of 20% or 365,000 acres of ceded lands, if OHA would settle on all land claims against the state in the future.  This offer would not have included any ocean resources, or any other resource, that the Hawaiian people would be entitled to.

OHA was not able to consider Cayetano’s second offer because five trustees, who include currently serving trustees Haunani Apoliona and Colette Machado, voted to end all negotiations.  OHA’s attorney at the time, James E. Duffy, Jr., now a Hawaii Supreme Court Justice, repeatedly advised the trustees to continue the negotiations, but they rejected his advice.

The $251 million that Cayetano offered in 1999 would be worth more than double today if it were properly invested and the 365,000 acres of ceded lands would have meant economic self-sufficiency and a better negotiating position for the Akaka bill.

I believe that Apoliona and Machado wanted to end negotiations because they did not want any credit to go to our negotiating team, which was made up of myself and former trustees Clayton Hee and Mililani Trask.

Apoliona and Machado thought they could negotiate their own deal, one that would serve as their legacy, but nine years later all they could come up with is a watered-down version of our previous deal that we now see before the legislature.  Their short-sightedness caused OHA to pay dearly a year later when the U.S. Supreme Court came down with the Rice decision.

Later, the Hawaii Supreme Court threw out Act 304 and suggested that the remedy must now be sought at the legislature.  I believe this decision was made by the court because OHA walked away from the negotiating table after the Hawaii Supreme Court had asked OHA and the state to negotiate a settlement.

Also, in light of the Hawaii Supreme Court’s recent injunction preventing the state from any future sale or transfer of ceded lands until the claims of Native Hawaiians have been resolved, OHA should really consider whether a better settlement can be negotiated than the one we now have before the legislature.

I encourage anyone who would like to dispute my statements to speak directly to Governor Cayetano, his chief negotiator Sam Callejo, Senator Clayton Hee, or Hawaii Supreme Court Justice James Duffy.  I also have signed documents from the 1999 negotiations to back up what I have written.

Cayetano offered better ceded land deal

By: Trustee Rowena Akana
Monday, February 4, 2008

Source: Honolulu Star Bulletin

I am writing to confirm former Gov. Ben Cayetano’s statement in the Star-Bulletin’s Jan. 22 article that his ceded lands settlement offer to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, while he was in office, was a better deal for native Hawaiians than the proposal now before the Legislature. I was the chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 1999 when he offered OHA $251 million plus 20 percent of the ceded lands, which is estimated at 365,000 acres.

Following OHA’s victory in the Heely court case, the state of Hawaii appealed to the Hawaii Supreme Court, which then ordered the state and OHA to negotiate a settlement.

After only a few months, Haunani Apoliona, Colette Machado, Frenchy DeSoto, Louis Hao and Mililani Trask voted to halt the negotiations because they didn’t understand that the $251 million was for the past due revenues to OHA and the 20 percent of the ceded lands was to settle future claims.

While it would have been a final settlement, imagine how great that would have been for our people if we had received the 20 percent of all of the ceded lands back then. Not only that, Gov. Cayetano was willing to consider many of the lands that OHA wanted. Our intention was to take the offer out into the community for input, but we never had the chance because of the shortsightedness of those trustees. As a result of OHA walking away from the table, the Supreme Court ruled the Heely act void, and told OHA to go back to the Legislature for a remedy.