By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana
Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, July 10, 1991
On July 1, 1991, OHA Trustee Rowena Akana, Vice Chairwoman of the OHA Board of Trustees testified against acquisition of Ka’iwi Shoreline Park by the federal government. Trustee Akana spoke at a hearing in Honolulu conducted by Senator Akaka before the U. S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Public Lands and National Parks and Forests. The official position of OHA and Trustee Akana was stated and included the following testimony:
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs recognizes that the Ka’iwi area has a unique and recreational value to the people of the State and should be preserved as open space. But, OHA believes the best interests of Hawaii and the Hawaiian people will not be served by allowing the federal government to acquire the property in question. OHA believes that preservation can best be handled at a local level where the concerns and considerations of both the Hawaiian community and the general community are better understood.
The basis of OHA’s opposition is two-fold: First, much of the property included in the park proposal is owned by the Bishop Estate. For those unfamiliar with Hawaii, the Bishop Estate is a private trust estate established by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the line of Kamehameha. The sole purpose of this trust is to educate native Hawaiian children. We cannot overemphasize the importance of Kamehameha Schools in their educational goals to the Hawaiian community. Bishop Trust is one of the remaining legacies of a proud Hawaiian nation. We are especially concerned with the involuntary taking of Bishop Estate land by any entity.
Secondly, Hawaii has a long and often bitter history with the federal government over Hawaiian land. With the active and illegal involvement of the United States, the Hawaiian nation was overthrown and more than 1.8 million acres of Hawaiian land were seized without the consent of, or compensation to, the native Hawaiian people. They continue to seek the return of the Hawaiian lands to the Hawaiian people, but their land claims against the federal government have not yet been addressed. Under such circumstances, the acquisition of more land by the federal government cannot be justified.
Immediately upon acquiring the public trust lands which were meant to be held for the benefit of the Hawaiian people, the federal government began manipulating their use. With the sugar industry in mind, the federal government created the Hawaiian Homes Trust in 1920 and set aside certain lands for native Hawaiian homesteads and agricultural purposes. This planned community was kept to the most marginal lands, while planters were allowed the most productive agricultural lands for sugar and pineapple. Subsequently, even the marginal lands were taken for federal non-trust purposes.
Lualualei Naval Ammunition Depot on Oahu is built on more than 1,000 acres of Hawaiian Homes Trust lands. The buffer zone around the Pacific Missile Range facility is Hawaiian Homes Trust land also. Large segments of private and public lands have been appropriated by the federal government with a promise of return when the stated need is over. Most often, that promise has been broken by the federal government. Kahoolawe, Waikane Valley and Bellows Field were taken in response to the urgencies of World War II. More than 50 years later, none of that land has been returned to its owners.
Although we are grateful to Senator Akaka in 1990 for establishing the Kahoolawe Conveyance Commission, we are hopeful that at least that part of our concerns will be resolved with the Commission’s work and with the Senator’s continued assistance, the days of a much more adequate and responsible federal response will be upon us soon. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for Waikane Valley and Bellows Field. Instead of returning Waianae, the federal government is condemning the privately owned land and suggesting the State buy back trust lands.
The Hawaiian people have spent a full century trying to overcome the consequences of the federal stewardship of our land and resources. Recently, there has been a growing understanding in our community of the Hawaiian history and its effect upon the lives of the Hawaiian people. There is little doubt that Senator Akaka, as a native Hawaiian, understands and shares our concerns and is just as eager to try to correct the injustices that have occurred.
OHA’s official position is that the Ka’iwi area should not be turned over to the federal government under the National Parks and Forests, and that it should remain under state control.
As Hawaiians continue to forge their plans for the future, they believe that it is best to manage their own resources. They can only truly be accountable for their future when they have control over that future.