Hana Hou, One More Time

TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

March 2003 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

Most of the Trustees traveled to Washington D.C. in the last week of February to appear before the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs where the new “Akaka Bill” (S.344) was heard.  This time, however, we had the support of Governor Linda Lingle.  Having the Governor’s support is a refreshing change after the last eight years of hostility experienced by Hawaiians during the previous state administration.  The Governor gave testimony supporting the intent of the Akaka Bill, but not necessarily supporting all of its content or language.  It is important to note that Governor Lingle has kept her promise to Hawaiians by supporting our efforts for federal recognition, and has done everything that she possibly could, within the limits of the law, to restore OHA’s revenue stream.

In 2000, the very first Akaka Bill, S.81, received many hearings across the State and this allowed for a great deal of community input.  This first bill was passed by the House but was not voted on by the Senate.  An amended version introduced in 2001 also passed the committee, but no floor vote was taken. 

The 2002 version of the Akaka Bill, S.746, received no hearings, although there was an effort in the Senate to get the bill to the floor for a vote.  Unfortunately, the effort was not successful.  The Bill was very controversial because it looked nothing like the original Akaka Bill, S.81.  Most critical is that Section 7 of the original Bill, which allows for a fair process for ALL Hawaiians to be included in the recognition effort, was left out.  Other sections of equal importance which addressed land, etc., were also absent in S.746. 

The new 2003 Akaka Bill was introduced as S.344, however it is identical to S.746.  Our Congressional Delegation has promised that there will be a time for community input before the “mark up” (a process that allows for amendments to be made).  Our Congressional Delegation must understand that the Hawaiian community has made it very clear that they want to be included in the “mark up” of the new Akaka Bill.  This is a promise that must be kept. 

I believe that the new Akaka Bill has a better chance of passage in Congress this year than in years past.  Our challenge is to convince not just the Congress but also the Federal Administration that recognizing the Native people of Hawaii is the right thing to do.  All 50 states have federally recognized Native Americans.  Hawaii is the last State to ask Congress to recognize its Native people.

The passage of this year’s Akaka Bill is dependent upon all of our support.  I will keep you posted on any and all information regarding this very important measure.  A hui hou!

Farewell To A Legend: Gladys Kamakakuokalani ‘Ainoa Brandt

TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

February 2003 Ka Wai Ola Article

I dedicate this month’s column to pay tribute to a great lady, Gladys Kamakakuokalani ‘Ainoa Brandt.  To everyone who knew her she was “Aunty Gladys.”  I was one of those fortunate enough to know her and be a part of her life for a brief moment in time.  Her thoughts, her wit, and her great sense of humor made an important difference in my life.

In her lifetime, Aunty Gladys was raised with the children of the royal family and witnessed the end of the monarch era and Queen Lili’uokalani’s funeral.  Aunty Gladys was one of the precious few of our Kupuna who witnessed these events and lived to see the new millennium.  Most people will write about Aunty Gladys’ many achievements as an educator, but her contributions go beyond education and into the arts and public service.  She served on the boards of countless community organizations and was active in the cancer society until she passed away.  Most of all, Aunty Gladys should be noted for her inspiration, energy and tireless commitment to Hawaiian causes.

[In 1997,] at the age of 91, Aunty Gladys was appointed by Governor Ben Cayetano to finish out the term of OHA Trustee Billie Beamer.  Not only did she keep up with us, but she had the energy and productivity of board members half her age.  Her presence on our board table was felt by board members and administrative staff alike.  Aunty Gladys’ contributions to OHA included her leadership on OHA’s Education Foundation and the Kupuna Health Task Force.   She also served as OHA’s policy chair.  In 2000, she was appointed to the board once again by the Cayetano Administration as an interim Trustee and served for two months until the November elections.

Aunty Gladys was always there to do her part when called upon, especially when it came to Hawaiian issues.  I will always cherish the wonderful hours I spent with her as she shared her famous stories.  In October of 2002, I asked, “Aunty Gladys, why haven’t you ever written a book about all of your experiences?”  There was a pause, and then she said, “Others have tried to get me to do that but, if I did, I would have to tell the whole truth and name names for the book to be truthful and I think even though much time has passed, it would open old wounds and I feel it is best to let the past be the past.”  There was a sense of sadness in her voice.

On December 20, 2002, I called Aunty Gladys to wish her a happy holiday season and told her that I would be spending the holidays on the mainland.  She said, “Great, have a good time, but let me share this with you:  Recently I had dinner at a good friend’s home and they were all Republicans who proceeded to chide me about the commercial I had done for the Democratic candidate for Governor.  Well I said with a straight face to them, ‘Did you hear that there will be no nativity scene in Washington DC this year?’  And they responded, ‘Really?’  ‘Is it because of 9-11?’  No, I replied, ‘it’s because they have a whole stable of Jackasses but they can’t find three wise men!’”

This is the wonderful Gladys Brandt I will remember.  Someone who could laugh at herself.  Someone who had a wit that could match the best scholars.  Someone who loved her Hawaiian people and gave of herself without complaint or reward.  I will miss you Aunty Gladys.  I wish you God speed.

Know Your Elected Officials, Demand Accountability

By Trustee Rowena Akana
January 2003

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

DEMANDING ACCOUNTABILITY FROM YOUR ELECTED LEADERS

Last month’s article focused on the hope that we would see significant changes on the OHA Board that would be beneficial to our beneficiaries. Well… all I can say is we all have to pray hard, very hard.

First of all, there were no changes in terms of the Chairmanship of the Board or the Financial Chairman. Let me re-cap what occurred with regard to our financial management under this present budget chair. We lost almost $100 million of trust dollars by not paying attention to business. If that was not devastating enough, in July and August of 2002, the Committee on Land accepted an offer from a developer to receive 200 acres of free land in Maili worth $2, 881,500.00. This action item was then forwarded to the Budget & Finance Committee in September where it sat with no activity for three months. As a result of this negligence, the Developer sold the land in December 2002. These kinds of mis-opportunities are beginning to be common place under this leadership team. Can we as Hawaiians in this time of crises afford to miss opportunities such as these.

In January the Board must concern itself with choosing a new Money Management Team. The Budget Chairman is pushing one candidate with great zeal. What is disconcerting is that he wants to close the door to other possible applicants. What’s up with that???  How can beneficiaries expect accountability from those who they elect?

May I offer some suggestions:

*Know the candidates, find out as much as you can about them, who they are aligned with, etc.
* What has been their contribution to the community?
* Do they work in non-profit organizations for profit?
* Are they friendly with or in business with any of the present Board members?
* Do they have any other connections to seated Board members which would constitute a conflict and cause their block voting to be NOT in the best interest of the people, or the Trust.

While this process may appear to be a lengthy one, it is important when selecting candidates for any public office. The good thing about electing officials is that the voters can remove them in the next election. What you don’t want is a process that excludes the people, such as appointing trustees rather than electing. Although the election process is not perfect it still remains the most fair and just way to select our leaders. The solution to elect responsible leadership is to be educated as best as we can be about the candidates, what they stand for and their past experience in working with the community that they hope to represent. As a voter you too have a responsibility to get involved and to demand accountability of those whom you have elected.

In 2003 our goal must be to work with the new administration on settling ceded land claims and to also pursue a recognition process. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming year.  HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE NEW YEAR!

The Most Critical Issues Facing OHA Today

By Rowena Akana
November 22, 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

As the most senior member of the Board of Trustees serving three consecutive terms, I believe I have the historical knowledge necessary to deal with some of the most critical issues facing OHA today.

1. Loss of ceded land revenues
2. Legal challenges to our Trust
3. Federal recognition
4. Negotiations with the State on a ceded land settlement.

While there are other challenges that we must address at OHA, those listed above are the most critical. As Hawaiians, the indigenous people of our lands, what we face today is no different than what occurred over 100 years ago. We are still fighting off assaults on our culture, rights to our lands and racism. Only now, we are being called racists because we want to protect our entitlements. Times have not changed much, people are still the same and greed is still the motivation behind the move to relieve us of whatever entitlements we have left. The only thing that has changed is the sophistication used to manipulate us and the law.

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 existing Hawaiian Trusts.

It is my opinion that in these critical times for OHA and all Hawaiian trusts, it is very important to have experienced leadership to help steer our canoe.

The unresolved issues of a permanent revenue stream for OHA and the failure of the Legislature to address the Supreme Court of Hawaii’s direction to them to “fix” Act 304 by defining what ceded land revenues constitute revenue for OHA was devastating to our Public Land Trust. For the first time in OHA’s 22 year history we have had to use our principal investments to fund programs and operations.

In 1991, OHA’s trust assets totaled $11 million. In 1993, our negotiating team settled with the State, on a partial settlement of approximately $129 million for back due payments owed to OHA from ceded land revenues. In 1999, as chair of the OHA Board, our investments had grown to nearly $400 million. In today’s market OHA’s assets are worth considerably less.

As a trustee who has always believed that the needs of our people should come first, the following are some of the programs that I have initiated:

1. FANNIE MAE Loan commitment of $135 million for home loans for ALL Hawaiians. This is a partnership between the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, FANNIE MAE, Bank of Hawaii and First Hawaiian Bank to provide low interest loans to all Hawaiians for home ownership;

2. The purchase of Quality Homes/Prefabricated Housing. OHA recently bought half ownership in this manufacturing plant which can produce homes that are steel constructed for approximately $50,000 each. This home loan program now adds a new dimension to OHA’s Commitment to home ownership;

3. Hawaiian Registry Program. The Hawaiian registry will not only show proof of Hawaiian ancestry, but sports a new look as a photo I.D.;

4. $350,000 commitment to annual scholarships for higher education;

5. Kupuna Health Program identifying elderly who are not covered by existing programs.

In the next few years, because of the challenges we face, experienced leadership will play a key role in our ability to deal with these issues as they present themselves.

I am very grateful to the Hawaiian community for having believed in my devotion and ability to lead, and for their continued support throughout my years at OHA. I am asking for your support again on November 5th, Election Day.  Mahalo ia ‘oe.

How Can We Build A Nation When We Have Negative Leaders?

By Rowena Akana
November 22, 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

In the last issue of Ka Wai Ola o OHA, Trustees Apoliona and Machado combined their column to write a fictional piece on me to influence votes against me in the up-coming election. Judging from that article, I am certain you are clever enough to see through it. While I consider it to be petty and a waste of energy, I do believe you, the beneficiaries, are entitled to hear the truth. The truth is that from that article our readers should have a very good idea of what kind of trustees they have been while serving on this Board–full of negativity, criticizing the hard work and efforts of others while contributing nothing.

How can we build a nation with negative leadership?

The negotiating team that they spoke about worked very hard to try and resolve the Heely case. What we presented to the Board was an offer that we could begin serious negotiating with. Trustees Apoliona and Machado, along with three others no longer on this Board, voted to end all negotiations with the State leaving OHA’s fate to be decided by the Hawai’i Supreme court. On September 12, 2001, the Hawai’i Supreme Court ruled that Act 304 was flawed and referred the Act back to the legislature. The result of that decision has meant zero revenues for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs since July 2001.

For the first time in 22 years, OHA has no income from which to draw to provide funding for existing and new programs and operations. The trust corpus is now at a dismal $244 million with no guidance from the budget chair since February. We are now dipping into the trust to fund all programs and operations. With the stock market in a downward spiral since November 2000, and OHA losing much of the corpus in the market, it is amazing to me that just when you think things are terrible and they couldn’t get any worse, we find ourselves with a leadership that has taken absolutely no action to remedy either situation. Adding to this already grave problem is the fact that OHA along with other Hawaiian Trusts, continue to be challenged in our legal system.

I find it extremely sad and in very bad taste that Apoliona and Machado waste precious time writing negative things and tearing down the hard work of others instead of concentrating on critical issues facing OHA.

How can we build a nation with negative leadership?

I look forward to the elections in the hope that we will have new faces on the OHA Board that will bring new and positive energy to give us all hope for the future. OHA is the only Hawaiian public trust left that all Hawaiians are beneficiaries of. We must at all cost keep that in mind, and work together to overcome the ‘alamihi crab syndrome that is always present among us.

Let us keep our eyes on the prize and keep our focus. We must settle the ceded lands claims so that we will have a land base to build our nation upon. The 1.4 million acres of ceded lands that are inclusive of the DHHL, 250,000 acres, is what we must look at in totality. We must not settle only for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. To do this would mean the rest of the Hawaiian community would be left without a land base. Finally, we must have recognition for all Hawaiians, not just for a few.  Malama pono!

Legislative Session 2002 a vital “next step”

By Rowena Akana
December 2001

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

As chairman of the Legislative and Government Affairs Committee, my primary focus in the next legislative session will be to work with legislators to resolve the 20-year old dispute over the ceded land revenue due Hawaiians. We do not intend to address issues which will extinguish any future claims including fishing, gathering, or sea mining rights. The focus is to reassert Hawaiian rights and entitlements that were settled in previous negotiations.

Hawaiian rights have been whittled away by a series of court cases. The United States Supreme Court decision in RICE invalidated the Hawaiians-only vote for OHA. The Hawai’i Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Act 304 invalidates the basis for trust income. This puts OHA in a crisis situation. With the clarifying section of Act 304 invalidated, the court has no statutory guidance, and the income stream of OHA has been crippled. On the horizon is a possible damaging rule in the anticipated challenge to the constitutionality of entitlements for Native Hawaiians. Staying under the aegis of the state has and will run Hawaiian entitlements into the ground. The Hawai’i Supreme Court has emphasized that the state still has an obligation to the Hawaiians. Yet the income stream for OHA has trickled to a stop. The best thing for OHA would be to gain independence from the state and to run the affairs of Hawaiians for Hawaiians. This would remove the stain of unconstitutionality from Hawaiian programs and would allow us to economically develop the lands agreed upon in settlement to make Hawaiians once and for all self-sufficient. Further, it would be the beginning of the building of a nation.

If the state and OHA cannot come to a decision as to a settlement, OHA may have to revisit Act 304 and come up with a formula for payments due to the Hawaiian. However, it must be remembered that after the World Trade Center attacks, our state coffers have less monies and may not be able to offer Hawaiians enough. We must also remember that Act 304 only entitled Hawaiians to a 20 percent revenue share of land fees. This has been a source of great irritation towards the state for the past 20 years. OHA has tried to collect the 20 percent formula since 1980 which has also been the cause of the disputes resulting in several lawsuits. Resolving the land issue once and for all will be beneficial to all concerned. We must not call a settlement on land a global settlement. The term global is far-reaching and really has no meaning between OHA and the state on any kind of settlement.

Several years ago, OHA was in negotiations with the state for a land and cash settlement. Forces in OHA were against this, thus scuttling the negotiations. The misunderstanding of the term “settlement” in the negotiations was considered a settlement offer from the state as a global one. The term “global” was loosely bantered around so that it scared people into thinking it was forever on all issues. They failed to understand that a settlement with OHA over land issues would be beneficial to Hawaiians because we would be able to develop programs for Hawaiians without the worry of whether the state would continue to contest the 20 percent formula or disagree with OHA over what kinds of state income on leases should be exempt from the formula, such as the University of Hawai’i.

I look forward to working with the legislature and constituents as the legislative chair to try to resolve some of the critical issues that have beleaguered OHA for 20 years. I urge you to continue to lend your support towards this goal.

Accomplishments During Chairmanship of the OHA Board of Trustees

By: Trustee Rowena Akana, Chairman
October, 2000

Source: Kai Wai Ola o OHA

With all of the battles, sword crossing, and legal maneuvering this Hawaiian agency has experienced during the last few months, it is important that we not lose sight of the positives that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has accomplished.

Our office has been instrumental in reaching the Native Hawaiian community and serving the beneficiaries of this trust, despite the hardships that this office has had to endure.

Among the accomplishments achieved during my chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs:

* We created a half-time Community Affairs Coordinator position for Lanai.

* Gladys Brandt became director of OHA’s Education Foundation

* We rectified errors discovered in our investment profile, creating a new income formula

* We passed a policy that required a two-thirds vote for all unbudgeted items

* We established a policy for bonds by which our fixed-income managers would not be allowed to invest in below yield investments

* We approved ll grants totaling $425,428 for projects ranging from transportation to Hawaiian immersion schools to prenatal programs for hapai Hawaiians. Just six months ago, our grants department was nine months behind schedule. Now, it is almost a full year ahead of schedule

* We authorized OHA’s continued participation in the Kukui o Molokai, Inc. water case.

* We signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the state for improvements to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway in Kailua-Kona.

* We voted to appropriate more than $500,000 for the renovation of Ke Kula Niihau o Kekaha immersion school, which will provide classrooms and a cafeteria on Kauai.

* We approved a two-year extension of the administrator’s contract and clarified his responsibilities in order to streamline operations.

* We resolved four workers compensation claims that have been pending for more than a decade.

* We awarded $10,000 to OHA’s Education Foundation for operations.

* We hired a personnel manager to align OHA with accepted employment practices.

* We appropriated more than $500,000 for a legal “dream team” to represent our interests in Rice vs. Cayetano.

* During our trips to Washington DC, we learned of a presidential health directive for Pacific Islanders and Asians. We were instrumental in inserting language into the executive order that added our people to the list of ethnic groups eligible for funds and recognition. The order defines a Pacific Islander as “the aboriginal, indigenous native people of Hawaii and other Pacific Islands within the jurisdiction of the United States.”

* We implemented an investment policy with the purpose of reviewing our trust asset allocations.

* We developed an Individual Development Account Program (IDA).

* We approved a MOA for an H-3 Interpretative Center in collaboration with state and federal governments.

* We approved funds for the Saddle Road MOA improvement project on the Big Island.

* We appropriated $120,000 for the Molokai Dialysis Treatment Center and $7,200 in transitional funds for home kidney dialysis machines.

* We also welcomed former Department of Hawaiian Homelands Director Kali Watson to our ‘ohana as a crucial player in the ceded lands negotiations.

* Preparations continue for the October Puwalu Conference. We want to educate everyone about self-determination. All Hawaiian groups will be invited. We have hired a specialist to assist with this historic event.

* OHA, the Bishop Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution are planning an exhibit in Washington highlighting the history of our people, scheduled for about the time the Supreme Court will hear Rice.

* Our steadfast commitment to our kupuna is the basis for a Native Hawaiian Health Task Force to be implemented by the end of this year.

* We launched a successful initiative in Washington DC, winning Hawaiians and the state the support of US Solicitor General Seth Waxman in Rice vs. Cayetano. He filed one of two dozen briefs urging the Supreme Court to consider constitutional OHA’s election.

* We approved amendments to S. 225, a federal bill extending the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act to Hawaiians.

* We awarded $116,996.00 in grants for Native Hawaiian projects.

* We appropriated $1.2 million to guarantee a loan supporting Hawaii County Department of Water Supply’s application for federal funds for road construction and clearing homestead lots in Kikala-Keokea.

* We approved funds for initiatives in alternative education.

* We voted to support the Dollars-to-Classroom Act.

* We amended the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act to widen its scope.

* We included in our money monitor’s contract a provision for a “wrapped” fee.
* We resolved our Ho’oulu Mea Kanu native plant project to the ANA for funding.

* We approved more than $574,000 to the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation to assist beneficiaries in bringing claims against the state for the breaches of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust.

It is my sincere hope that the Hawaiian community will unite during these
extraordinary times. It is important to keep focused on the positive, so that we can continue to strive forward together as a people.

Racism Comes to Hawaii Vis-à-vis Freddy Rice

By: Trustee Rowena M.N. Akana
April 2000

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

Mr. Rice’s attorneys are riding high on the hog vis a vis their 15th amendment win in Rice vs. Cayetano. However, what the media has not reported is that Mr. Rice was the pawn used by the white, racist, and elitist group Campaign for A ColorBlind America (CCBA) to further its agenda to reverse any affirmative action initiatives and laws regarding the protection of native peoples’ rights.

The CCBA has written briefs that helped to overturn at least 10 Supreme Court cases about minorities and Native Americans. With the Rice case under his belt, CCBA executive Marc Levin announced that the organization would now pursue the elimination of other Hawaiian trusts and entitlements. CCBA is motivated by their belief that by the year 2020, minorities will control all of America, and whites will no longer be the controlling class. For this racist group, being a member of a minority group and being oppressed is unfathomable.

Echoing Mr. Levin’s sentiments is former attorney John Goemans, who plans to continue his fight to infiltrate the 50th state with overt racism and white supremacy. Although he is no longer licensed to practice law in Hawaii, Mr. Goemans has publicly stated that he intends to use the Rice victory as ammunition against programs that the Hawaiian people hold dear. Mr. Goemans says he is planning these attacks because “…all government programs, state and federal, for native Hawaiians are race based, presumptively unconstitutional, and up for challenge.”

With that said, it should not come as a surprise that CCBA is aiding Mr. Goemans in his quest to strip our people of what is historically due to us. According to the CCBA’s website (http://www.equalrights.com), it “assisted Goemans with his appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court and filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court.”

Mr. Goemans, along with others who challenge Hawaiian entitlements, should refer to the U.S. brief filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of OHA and the state that declares that Hawaiians are equal to Native Americans and Native Alaskan peoples. Therefore, any entitlements that Hawaiians enjoy cannot be considered race-based, but rather, political status entitlements as the native people of this land.

The Rice ruling underscores the need to build consensus on the issue of self-determination so that OHA can move forward as an agency that is “quasi- sovereign” rather than an arm of the state. One of the methods by which self-determination can be accomplished for our people is through federal legislation that would afford native Hawaiians the same special status as Native Americans now enjoy. We Hawaiians are at a juncture where we are able to restructure a nation that takes into consideration what is best suited for us. We have progressed insofar as to possess the ability to hold jurisdiction and control over our resources and lands. We do not need the state to decide these things for us.

Our Hawaiian voices need to be heard at the state legislature, and in the U.S. Congress. We must get involved in the legislative process, or risk having this process decided for us. To have others decide for us, strips Hawaiians of autonomy and the ability to decide for ourselves what is best for us.

This ruling should be a wake-up call for not just Hawaiians, but for the entire state. As a state, we need to stomp out any hint of racism. And as a Hawaiian community we need to tell our story and get the message out so that history will not be repeated for our future generations.

OHA Chair issues statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision

By: OHA Chair Rowena M.N. Akana
March 22, 1999

Source: Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Media Release

HONOLULU–As you all are surely aware, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal in the case of Rice vs. Cayetano. This comes as no surprise, however unpleasant. This case has been doggedly appealed to the highest court in the land, which I am hopeful will let stand the previous decisions by District Court Judge David Ezra and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals justices. It is especially worth noting that Senator Daniel K. Akaka has echoed this sentiment in an earlier statement today. As noted by our distinguished senator, The Ninth Circuit correctly determined that the OHA voting restriction “is not primarily racial, but legal and political.” I fully agree with Senator Akaka that the Supreme Court should without hesitation affirm that principle. Additionally, we share the view that this is a political question better left to Congress, the State of Hawai’i, and Native Hawaiians.

If there is a silver lining regarding the Supreme Court’s willingness to take this case to another level, it is that we once and for all will end the incessant challenges by Mr. Rice to the rights of the indigenous people of these lands. I am confident that our Attorney General will represent the interests of the Hawaiian people to the fullest extent. I will do what I can to assist our Attorney General to ensure that we never allow the clock to be turned back to a time when the rights of the minority, indigenous people, were trampled under foot of the majority.

Land and Sovereignty

By: Trustee Rowena Akana
February 3, 1999

No two words have so captured the attention of this archipelago’s residents as “land” and “sovereignty”. Despite developments since the 100-year anniversary of the 1893 illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, as well as the United States’ apology and admission of the illegality of the overthrow, many people do not grasp what either word means or will mean for their future.

The general goal of sovereignty advocates is the transfer of control of Hawaiian Home Lands and ceded lands directly to a native Hawaiian government. Currently, the state and federal government hold in trust about 1.2 million acres of land for the benefit of Hawaiians. Yet, the first people to these lands have seen very few benefits.

Hawaiian Home Lands are scattered tracts comprising about 197,075 acres, which Congress set aside in 1920 for native Hawaiian homesteaders. Ceded lands are the remains of an estimated 1.8 million acres of public, private and crown land illegally annexed by resolution from a provisional government to the United States in 1898.

Hawaiian land, once farmed communally, is now some of the most expensive real estate on Earth. Housing prices, driven up by mainland retirees and foreign speculators, are out of reach for Hawaiians living, working and raising families in the islands.

Hawaiian waters, once kept in ecological balance with humans through a complex kapu system, are now oversold to the highest bidder, or treated as a toilet for raw sewage.

Hawaiian culture, once a living history of genealogy, geography, and spirituality, was nearly obliterated by Calvinist missionaries and is usually obscured with tourist-pleasing luaus.

Today, 70-80,000 people (depending on the source) – of Hawaii’s more than one million residents are full-blooded Hawaiians. One fifth, or about 225,000 people claim some Hawaiian blood. Yet Hawaiians remain the poorest, sickest, least educated, worst housed, and most frequently imprisoned segment of Hawaii’s population.

Since Kamehameha the Great, foreigners have enjoyed some measure of control over Hawaiian land. The concept of land ownership was foreign to Hawaiians. How can you own what belongs to God? The king and his chief provided land grants to the people–some of them outsiders, who chose to grow large tracts of crops to be sold overseas, rather than to be eaten at home.

In 1825, when 12-year-old Kamehameha III ascended to the throne, the Council of Chiefs adopted the western practice of inheritance after the death of a king. However, foreigners, protective of their agricultural interest, sought more secure forms of land tenure. They and their governments applied considerable pressure on the young king.

In 1840, the year he drew up Hawaii’s first constitution, Kamehameha III granted the right to property by declaring that all land belonged to the chiefs and the people, with the king as trustee. In 1848, true ownership of land came to Hawaii, when the king accepted a land apportionment plan, called the Great Mahele, or division.

The Mahele completed the transition from a feudal redistribution land system to a fee simple land ownership system, by dividing the land among the king, government, chiefs and the people. The land was split into three parts: about 1 million acres of crown lands to which the king held title; 1.5 million acres of government lands for public use; and, the remaining 1.5 million of Konohiki lands set aside for individual ownership by the chiefs and the people.

The Mahele was an unmitigated disaster for the maka’ainana, the people of the land, or commoners. While the king intended to make available one-third of Hawaii’s lands to maka’ainana, they received much less than one percent of the total land. The maka’ainana’s land holdings and rights were further diluted in 1850, with the passage of additional legislation which authorized ownership and conveyance of the land, regardless of citizenship.

The stage was set for a massive land grab by Westerners. In the next half century, with a population no larger than 2,000, Westerners took control of most of Hawaii’s land, and manipulated the economy for their own profit.

Many Native Hawaiians pleaded with their last elected monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, to protect the sovereignty of Hawaii. At the urging of her people, the queen attempted to regain some of the monarchy’s power, which had been lost during the reign of her predecessor and brother, King Kalakaua through the Bayonet Constitution.

Her efforts to change Hawaii’s Constitution and cabinet unnerved a group of the wealthiest American merchants and sugar planters. These men wanted to be part of the United States to avoid high import tariffs. So, backed by a contingent of 162 U.S. Marines, the businessmen imprisoned the queen, and took over the islands, including the acreage that was supposed to be available to the maka’ainana.

Despite Lili’uokalani’s steadfast belief that the United States government would honor its treaties with the Kingdom and reject the provisional government, Hawaii went from a sovereign nation to an American colony in five years. In 1898, under President William McKinley, Hawaii was annexed to the United States constellation, along with Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.

President Grover Cleveland, who had opposed the coup, but failed to reverse it, wrote after leaving office: Hawaii is ours. But as look back upon the first steps in this miserable business, and as I contemplate the means to complete this outrage, I am ashamed of the whole affair.”

Meanwhile, the provisional government sold chunks of crown and Konohiki lands to fellow merchants and planters. When the islands were annexed illegally to the United States, Hawaii’s government acknowledged that this acreage (now 1.8 million acres) belonged to Native Hawaiians, and ceded it with the stipulation that it be held in trust for Native Hawaiians. The federal government summarily lopped off about 20 percent of the land for its own use, mostly for military bases and parks.

By 1920, the plight of the true inhabitants, Native Hawaiians, had become desperate. The population had dropped as much as 96 percent. Some scholars estimate that a one-time population of 1 million Hawaiians in pre-contact Hawaii had plummeted to 40,000.

However, a bill was being prepared that would allow Native Hawaiians to lease a small sliver of their former land. The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act began as a well meaning effort by Prince Jonah Kuhio, the Hawaiian territorial delegate to Congress, who saw urban slums and disease rapidly killing off Hawaiians, and hoped that returning Hawaiians to their aina, their agricultural land, could save them. In 1920, he said: “The Hawaiian race is passing, and if conditions continue to exist as they do today, this splendid race of people, my race, will pass from the face of this earth.”

No sooner did Prince Kuhio float his plan in Congress than it was co-opted by pineapple and sugar planters, who saw it as a way to secure their own uncertain futures. Their leases on 26,000 fertile acres were about to expire, and a general homestead law threatened to transfer their lucrative holdings to other hands.

So the planters struck a deal with territorial politicians: Get rid of general homesteading, allow us to keep our lands, and in exchange, you may allot 200,000 acres of “fourth class” lands to native Hawaiians for homestead. This land was arid, inaccessible, soilpoor, without infrastructure, and otherwise unfit for cultivation. Before long, Hawaiians abandoned agrarianism, and the bulk of homestead awards became simple house lots.
The sugar planters ensured that the Hawaiian Home Lands’ first executive was an ally. Its executive secretary was George Cooke, of Castle & Cooke, one of the Big Five plantation powers. The planters even pushed the 50 percent Hawaiian blood requirement, believing that interracial marriages would dilute the native population to extinction.

After statehood in 1959, responsibility for managing the homestead program was transferred from the federal government to the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL). Because the state failed to appropriate sufficient funding, until recently, the DHHL’s main source of revenue to manage and improve the land was income from general use leases granted non-Hawaiians on land “not immediately needed” for homestead. As a result, DHHL leased more land to non-Hawaiians than to Hawaiians.

For decades, the administration of the Hawaiian Home Lands trust went unquestioned. Subsequent investigations revealed mismanagement of the trust by both the federal and state governments. DHHL estimates that territorial and state governors issued between forty and sixty executive orders, which set aside Hawaiian Home Lands for military use. In 1978, a federal district court ruled that all governors’ executive orders were illegal.

In 1984, Governor Ariyoshi rescinded nearly thirty of these illegal acts, covering 30,000 acres. The Hawaii Attorney General also decreed that the U.S. Navy’s occupation of 1,400 acres of prime homelands near Honolulu was a “fundamental breach of trust”.

Rather than evicting the offending land users, which included state and federal agencies, the DHHL opted for monetary settlements totaling less than $10 million.

As of June 30,1997, only 6,428 homestead leases were awarded statewide, representing a mere 20.5 percent of the total Hawaiian Home Lands property. Meanwhile there are an estimated 29,162 qualified applicants on the Hawaiian Homes waiting list, many of whom have been waiting for forty years or more. Many have died waiting.

In 1959, when the Admissions Act turned responsibility for the remaining 1.5 million acres of ceded lands over to the new State of Hawaii, the federal government “retained” several hundred thousand acres for its national parks and military installations. Today, more than 100 facilities crowd the eight Hawaiian Islands, a land area approximately the size of Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. All the military bases occupy some ceded lands, and at least six occupy Hawaiian Home Lands, without consent or compensation.

Responsibility for these ceded lands rests with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). For the state’s first twenty years, DLNR managed ceded lands without scrutiny. Among other abuses, it allowed use of ceded lands by other state departments without compensation. It also executed a slew of summary land swaps.

State and federal laws already mandate that Hawaiians receive priority for water, to support development, traditional agriculture, and gathering rights over subdivisions, hotels and golf courses — promises seemingly forgotten. The state’s Commission on Water Resources has ignored the “Hawaiian Rights” clause of the water code, the clause that guarantees adequate reserves of water for current and foreseeable development of Hawaiian Home Lands.

At the 1978 Constitutional Convention, the state admitted that it was derelict in its duty to provide for the Hawaiian community. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) was created to receive 20 percent of all revenue generated by ceded lands for use for the benefit of Hawaiians.

Between 1980 and 1990, instead of 20 percent, OHA only received about $12.5 million in such proceeds. In 1993, OHA received $129 million from the state in settlement of those claims, including interest for back payment of monies owed by the state from 1980 – 1990, during the Waihee Administration.

In 1994, OHA initiated litigation to require the state to pay OHA past due amounts owed to Hawaiians that were not included in the $129 million settlement. In October 1996, Judge Heely granted OHA’s motion for partial summary judgment. The State filed an appeal. In December 1998, the Hawaii Supreme Court directed the parties to try to resolve the matter expeditiously. Negotiations continue.

As indigenous and first people to these islands, Hawaiians have essentially been under siege since foreign contact. In November 1993, President Clinton signed a Joint Resolution, which recognized the illegal procedure by which Hawaii was annexed to the United States, and apologized to Native Hawaiians on Behalf of the United States for the Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. This legal recognition has offered Hawaiians a unique opportunity to lead a renewed battle for the resurrection of the powerful principle of sovereignty. Sovereignty is not a foreign concept to Hawaiians, to Native Americans, or to states in general.

To the great nineteenth century orator, Stephen Douglas, states incorporated legally into the Union were co-equal and sovereign unto themselves. In his celebrated debates with Lincoln (echoing the Declaration of Independence, which states that “these United States are, and of right ought to be Free and Independent States”), Douglas said:

“THIS GOVERNMENT WAS MADE UPON THE GREAT BASIS OF THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE STATES, THE RIGHT OF EACH STATE TO REGULATE ITS OWN DOMESTIC INSTITUTIONS TO SUIT ITSELF, AND THAT RIGHT WAS CONFERRED WITH THE UNDERSTANDING AND EXPECTATION THAT INASMUCH AS EACH LOCALITY HAD SEPARATE INTERESTS, EACH LOCALITY MUST HAVE DIFFERENT AND DISTINCT LOCAL DOMESTIC INSTITUTIONS, CORRESPONDING TO ITS WANTS AND INTERESTS.”

Native governments have formed under the federal government through the Department of the Interior. There are hundreds of recognized nations within the territorial United States, in which the United States is but one. The others consist of American Indians. If it is OK for American Indians to form sovereign nations, why not Hawaiians? Failure to do so would, in fact, be discrimination against Hawaiians.

As indigenous people, Hawaiians are seeking recognition from the federal government of their right to sovereignty and self determination. Hawaiians have no desire to be dependent on the state or federal government. If Hawaiians had control of their lands, they could take care of their own people. They would not be a drain on the economy. There would be no homeless Hawaiians.

Fundamental to any sovereignty concept is control over land. Hawaiians have never prospered on land held on their behalf, but outside their reach. Lands at issue consist of the 1.2 million acres currently under the control of the state and federal government, as well as lands set aside as Hawaiian Home Lands. Hawaiians are not talking about privately owned land.