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.

Saying a final farewell to former OHA Trustee Moanikeꞌala Akaka

`Ano`ai kakou…  It is with sadness I say aloha to former OHA Trustee Moanikeʻala Akaka who passed away in Hilo on Saturday, April 15, 2017, at the age of 72.  I had the distinct honor of serving with Moani on the OHA Board from 1990 to 1996.

Trustee Akaka was a prominent figure in the early days of the Hawaiian Renaissance, and her outspoken and passionate activism on behalf of Native Hawaiians and the disenfranchised continued throughout her entire life.  Trustee Akaka strongly opposed the militarization of Hawaiʻi and the use of Kahaoʻolawe and Pōhakuloa as bombing and munitions training areas and she was also a passionate advocate for the protection of Mauna Kea.

In February, 2004, Trustee Akaka came to ask OHA if she qualified for state retirement for her past service as an OHA Trustee from November 28, 1984 to November 15, 1996.  The administration let her know that she did not qualify for state retirement under the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS).

From November 26, 1980 through 1993, OHA Trustees served without a salary.  Trustees received a stipend of $50.00 per day for each meeting they attended and travel expenses.  So back then, Trustees were considered part-time workers but we worked full-time.

In 1993, the OHA Trustee Salary Commission was established and Trustees started to receive an annual salary of $32,000, but we were not included in the ERS so we didn’t qualify for state retirement benefits.

In 2002, the law was changed to allow OHA Trustees, in service on or after July 1, 2002, to participate in the ERS.  Although we tried to grandfather in the past Trustees, the new law ended up excluding past Trustees that served before July 1, 2002.  The law only gave retirement benefits to Trustees elected after July 1, 2002.

In February of 2015, Trustee Akaka renewed her request for retirement benefits from OHA.  As Chair of the Budget Committee, I asked the Administration to draft an action item proposing to make a single, lump sum payment to former Trustee Akaka, which would equal a Trustees’ one year’s salary in 2015, excluding fringe benefits.  Although some Trustees had some concerns, this proposal passed with no objections on May 14, 2015.

For too many years, OHA Trustees were treated as “step children” of the State.  Yet we are elected statewide and serve all year long.  We are also fiduciaries which no other elected officials are.  Our responsibilities are much greater than a state legislator.  Yet it took 13 years to get a salary, which comes from Trust Funds, and 22 years to be allowed retirement benefits.  The legislature can give itself raises while OHA has to wait for the Governor to appoint a salary commission every four years to see if we deserve a raise.  It’s been eight years and two Commissions who have said no to raises.  What is wrong with this picture?  We are still being treated as second class citizens.

On May 25, 2017, the Trustees adopted a resolution honoring the life and contributions of Trustee Akaka and extended its deepest condolences to her ʻohana.  If you are interested in making a donation to the ‘ohana, checks can be made payable to Trustee Akaka’s daughter.  Here is her contact information:  Ho‘oululahui Erika Perry, 80 Alahelenui Street, Hilo, HI 96720.

Mahalo nui and Godspeed Moani.

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.

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.

Wrapping-up 2016

Congratulations to all of the candidates who were elected to office in 2016.  Campaigning is a grueling process but the real work is about to begin.  I look forward to working with all of you in the 2017 Legislative Session to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians.

The Constitution of the Native Hawaiian Nation

On February 26, 2016, the majority of the Na‘i Aupuni ‘aha participants voted to adopt The Constitution of the Native Hawaiian Nation.  As one of 154 individuals that participated in the ‘aha, it is very difficult to put into words what an awesome experience this was for me.  Not only was this an important historical turning point in our history, but it was moving to see people who were often on opposite sides of an issue come together for the good of the whole and finally draft the governing documents needed to restore our nation.

Forced Land Sales Bills

During the 2016 legislative session, Kamehameha Schools led the charge against legislation that would have forced Hawai‘i’s landowners to sell leasehold lands to their lessees.  If HB 1635 or HB 2173 had become law, private land developers could have moved in to condemn and redevelop historical lands that were passed down from generation to generation of Hawaiians.

Thankfully, on February 8th, KS announced that the House cancelled the hearing for HB 1635 and HB 2173, which effectively killed the bills.  However, 2017 brings a new legislative session with new legislators who are unfamiliar with the issue.  Let us all be makaꞌala (watchful).

Wishing our dear Princess a very happy 90th birthday

It was with great admiration and respect that I dedicated this column to honoring Her Royal Highness Princess Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa who celebrated her 90th birthday on April 26th.  Age has not slowed her efforts to help the Hawaiian people and to preserve and protect in perpetuity the legacy passed down to the present generation.

One Voice, One Message

On August 24th, the BAE Committee and OHA’s CEO proposed a new policy called “One Voice, One Message,” which required that all external communications be submitted to the CEO for review and approval prior to execution or engagement.

If this policy were to be approved, Trustees will no longer be able to publically voice their opposition to any board decision without facing severe sanctions for speaking out against the majority.  Thankfully, the proposal was deferred due to concerns about it being unconstitutional.  I will continue to strongly oppose this undemocratic policy if it returns to the board table.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announces a pathway to nationhood

On September 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a “final rule to create a pathway for reestablishing a formal government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.”  It is now time for all of us to work together for the cause of recognition.  While the board has NOT voted to accept the rules as written, let us begin to 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.

Merry Christmas

May each of you have a joyful and merry Christmas surrounded by family and friends.  Stay safe out there.  Aloha Ke Akua.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announces a pathway to nationhood

`Ano`ai kakou…  Let me begin by expressing my warmest aloha to all the candidates who had the courage and commitment to participate in this year’s election.  Campaigning can be a blood sport, but now it is time to put aside our differences and get back to bettering the lives of our constituents.

On Friday, September 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a “final rule to create a pathway for reestablishing a formal government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.”  “The final rule sets out an administrative procedure and criteria that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior would use if the Native Hawaiian community forms a unified government that then seeks a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States.”

According the DOI, “The final rule builds on more than 150 Federal statutes that Congress enacted over the last century to recognize and implement the special political and trust relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community. It also considered and addressed extensive public comments during the rulemaking process, which included public meetings in Hawaii and the mainland United States.”

The time has come for all us to come together in spirit and put some meaningful effort into re-establishing the political relationship between Native Hawaiians and the Federal government to re-organize our Native Hawaiian Governing Entity.  Once done, we will be able to protect all of our Hawaiian trust assets from the constant threat of lawsuits.  This is why I have always supported state and federal recognition.

As I traveled around the state, I spoke to many people who were confused about the process towards nationhood.  I can only conclude that OHA has not done enough to educate the public.  This situation has to change.  Trustees are going to have to speak up about the many positive results that Hawaiian Nationhood would bring for both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians.  I assure all of you that, after listening to your mana’o, I will do everything that is humanly possible to address your concerns.

What is also needed is your participation.  You must challenge EACH Trustee to be accountable to you.  It is unfortunate that you cannot assume that Trustees will do this on their own.  Like any organization, from time to time, especially when one faction has been in power for too long like it has been at OHA, “the people” need to become actively involved.  Otherwise we will risk having to deal with complacency and the abuse of power.

What we face today as Hawaiians is no different than what has occurred over the past 100 years.  We are still fighting off assaults on our culture, the deterioration of our rights to our lands, and attacks from racist organizations.

Let us begin to work together for the cause of recognition.  Let us begin to 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.

As we approach the close of 2016, I would like to wish each of you a very safe and happy holiday season, and may the Lord in his grace bless each of you and your families and take you safely into 2017.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Aloha pumehana.

Gagging Dissenters

`Ano`ai kakou…  This could be the last time you read any hard truths about OHA in my columns.  On August 24th, the BAE Committee and OHA’s CEO proposed a new policy called “One Voice, One Message,” which requires that all external communications be submitted to the CEO for review and approval prior to execution or engagement.

If this policy is approved, Trustees will no longer be able to publically voice their opposition to any board decision without facing severe sanctions for speaking out against the majority.  So if five Trustees vote to approve a position, the remaining four Trustees will be forced to go along with the majority.

While it should be forehead slapping obvious why this is a terrible idea, allow me to list some of the reasons why:

  • WE ARE A DEMOCRACY. The First Amendment guarantees we can express our opinions.  Beneficiaries and voters who put us in office demand it.  Only petty Dictators in third world countries gag dissent.  First world democracies allow full and free discussions to take place.  Just imagine if Democrats had tried to gag Republicans after Obama Care was passed.  They wouldn’t stand for it!
  • WHY IS A PR FIRM WRITING OHA POLICY? – The proposed “One Voice, One Message” policy was prepared by Neal Yokota, President and CEO of Stryker Wiener & Yokota Public Relations, Inc. OHA policy must always be written in-house with the input and review of OHA attorneys.
  • TRUSTEES ARE REQUIRED BY LAW TO VOICE THEIR DISSENT. According to The Uniform Custodial Trust Act (HRS §554A-6), if we don’t express our dissent in writing before a vote is taken, we will be liable for the illegal or negative actions taken by the majority.
  • THE POLICY IS SHORT SIGHTED. Future Trustees could use “One Voice, One Message” to stifle dissent while they funnel millions in Trust dollars (grants, contracts, high-paying positions, leases) to their family and friends.
  • WHISTLE BLOWERS.One Voice, One Message” conflicts with HRS 378-62, which protects employees who report violations of law by their employers.
  • THE MAJORITY IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT. If you had a vote on the mainland, I am sure that the majority would vote to outlaw interracial marriage.  Does that mean dissenters should just go along with the majority?  Hell no!  Wrong is wrong no matter what the majority says.
  • IT’S MISLEADING.One Voice, One Message” sounds like Orwellian doublethink.  It’s not about unity at all; it’s really about eliminating all dissenters, whether they are OHA Trustees or employees.

It’s clear this is all part of a greater scheme by the Board Chair and the CEO.  They recently passed another policy on sanctioning Trustees who go against any OHA policy.  Now it’s painfully obvious they did that to give serious teeth to this new policy gagging dissenters.  “One Voice, One Message” is the final piece they need to empower the CEO at the expense of the Board of Trustees.

Thankfully, due to controversy, the proposal was deferred to the next BAE meeting.  I will continue to strongly oppose it and I pray my fellow Trustees won’t go along with such foolishness.

The Road to Self-Governance is Rocky and Long

`Ano`ai kakou…  During the last of the President Bill Clinton’s years in the White House, I served as the Chair of the OHA Board of Trustees.  When Clinton first took office in 1993, many positive things happened for Hawaiians and Hawaii.  It was during Clinton’s his first term that he signed the Apology Resolution submitted by then-US Senator Dan Akaka in 1993.  There was also a great friendship that developed between President Clinton and then-Governor John Waihee III.

During those eight years, Hawaii’s Native people were treated as equals to the Native Americans and Native Alaskans.  We were included in the Native Education Act and Hawaiian health took on a new focus with lots of funding coming from Washington, D.C.  The Administration for Native Americans’ funding was also great for us and we still use money from that program today to fund our OHA loans.

Before President Clinton left office, his cabinet created the federal Office of Native Hawaiian Relations within the Department of the Interior so that Hawaiians did not have to go through the Bureau of Indian Affairs to seek monies or recognition the same way that American Indians do.

Also done was a study by the Departments of Interior and Justice on the overthrow and the taking of Hawaiian lands and how Hawaii became a territory and eventually a state.  Public hearings were held all over the 50th state and after all the information was gathered they came out with a book called “Mauka to Makai.”  Its final recommendation was for the federal government to begin a dialogue with Native Hawaiians to resolve Native claims and issues that were unresolved.

At the time, it was hoped that Democratic Vice-President Al Gore would succeed President Clinton and the work to resolve all of our issues would continue.  As we all know, this did not occur and for eight years during the Bush Administration all of our efforts were squashed.

During the Obama Administration, it has been very difficult as well with the Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate.  Before the current president leaves office, I believe he would like to see something done for our Native people.  That is why we are currently going through the federal “rules” process.

My point to all of this is that, as a Democrat, choosing the right candidate who I believe will help Native peoples the most is my highest priority.  To my knowledge, Bernie Sanders has no track record as a champion for Native people, let alone Native Hawaiians.  Throughout his campaign, he has not articulated a clear plan to help Native peoples nor has he received any strong endorsements from Native organizations that I am aware of.

Our road to sovereignty is very difficult.  I have been in this struggle since 1999.  Having people in Congress and certainly the White House that support our efforts is critical to our success.  Mahalo nui for your patience and for listening to my voice.  Aloha Ke Akua.