Coming together to support the Akaka Legislation


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:  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


`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.


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.

Don’t rule out the Akaka Bill passing next year

January 2011 Ka Wai Ola Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  On Nov 15, 2010, Senator Daniel Akaka introduced a compromise version of Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2010 (S.3945).

While there has been much talk in the media that the Akaka Bill has little chance of passing in the next two years, I
wouldn’t rule it out for the following reasons:

  • Hawaii-born President Barack Obama is still in the White House and remains a strong supporter of the bill.
  • Senator Daniel Inouye, the most senior member of the U.S. Senate, remains the chairman of the powerful
    Senate Committee on Appropriations.  After 51 years in Washington, I’m certain Senator Inouye can find a
    way to twist the arms of the Republican Senators who are holding up the bill.
  • Governor Neil Abercrombie can lobby the Senate with the help of his close friend, Republican House Speaker
    John Boehner. (Star-Advertiser, Nov 21, 2010)

Yes, it won’t be easy, but there is certainly still reason to hope.


It is disappointing that critics of the bill continue to call it “race-based.”  Jere Krischel of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which opposes the Akaka bill, even said that it would “racially segregate families and communities into groups with different rights based on whether or not they have Hawaiian blood.” (AP, 11-9-10)  This is so ridiculous that anyone with half a brain knows this is crazy.  The Grassroot Institute, with a hand-full of members from the lower 48 states, has no real roots in Hawaii.  They know darn well the bill doesn’t do any of the things they claim it does.  Their propaganda is based on lies and it’s
time for all of us to call them out.

We must investigate who really makes up their membership and what is their real agenda.  Who is Jere Krischel and where does he come from?  How long has he lived in Hawaii.   Why do he and his contacts hate Native peoples and what are they afraid of?

Ever since Americans landed here on our shores, they have tried to control our people and our lands.  Krischel needs to be reminded over and over – Hawaiians aren’t immigrants, nor are we foreigners looking for handouts.  Krischel and his ilk are the foreigners and they are the racists!  They need to go back to where they came from and take with them their racist attitude.  We don’t need them to spoil our Hawaii.  Hawaiians for centuries have always been generous and kind to our malahini and visitors.
We certainly don’t want outsiders giving us a bad wrap!

Establishing a political relationship between Native Hawaiians and the federal government will hopefully silence these
racists and put a stop to their continuing legal challenges to Hawaiian programs.  It will also prevent the loss of millions of
dollars the state currently receives from the federal government for programs that perpetuate the Native Hawaiian culture, language and traditions.

The Akaka Bill is only meant to begin the reconciliation process between the federal government and the over 400,000
Native Hawaiians living in the U.S.  Passing the Akaka Bill is simply the right thing to do.  It doesn’t have anything to do with being a Democrat or a Republican and should not be such a politically divisive issue.

I look forward to working with the Obama Administration, our Congressional Delegation, and Governor Abercrombie as
we take our next crucial steps toward Native Hawaiian sovereignty.

Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

Mahalo nui to all (December 2010)

`Ano`ai kakou… Let me begin by expressing my warmest Mahalo to all those who supported me in the General Election. Your kokua has allowed me to return to OHA to serve you for another four-year term. A very special Mahalo nui to Ke Akua for his divine guidance and love that he has bestowed upon me and my family.


Now that the election is over, the time has come for all us to come together in spirit and give the Akaka bill the final push it needs to become law. The bill will provide powerful protection from the constant threat of lawsuits to all of our Hawaiian trust assets. This is the reason why I have always supported the bill. What we face today as Hawaiians is no different than what 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.


This was an unusually difficult race with so many people running for the three at-large seats. As I traveled around the state, I listened to many questions that people had about Nationhood that I could only conclude that OHA was not doing enough to educate the people in our home state about sovereignty. What would sovereignty mean to Hawaiians and, just as importantly, how or will it affect the non-Hawaiians. This situation has got to change. Trustees are going to have to speak up and make this happen.

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 governing entity, 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, complacency occurs and the abuse of power is inevitable.

As we close out the year of 2010, 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 2011. Have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. Aloha Ke Akua.

Supporting the Passage of H.R. 2314, Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act Of 2010


Source: May 2010 Ka Wai Ola Column

More than 50 years after statehood, the long-awaited reconciliation between the Native Hawaiian people and the United States Federal Government took a major step closer to reality as the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved H.R. 2314 on February 23, 2010.

This was the third time that former-United States Representative Neil Abercrombie has passed such a bill out of the U.S. House of Representatives since he was first elected to Congress on November 6, 1990.

H.R.2314 makes it clear that Native Hawaiians will have the inherent powers and privileges of a native government, including self-determination, with the exception of the right to conduct gaming.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation has strongly supported negotiating at the federal level for a resolution on Hawaiian issues which remain after the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani.

Since the year 2000, United States Senator Daniel K. Akaka has introduced legislation, now popularly known as the “Akaka bill,” to provide a structured process for all Hawai’i residents to come together and begin the process of bringing about meaningful reconciliation and healing within the Native Hawaiian community.

On February 22, 2010, the Hawaii Congressional Delegation released the final text H.R.2314, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2010, which was fine-tuned in consultation between the Hawaii’s congressional delegation and the White House, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Interior, the State of Hawaii and stakeholders in the Native Hawaiian community.

The changes to H.R.2314 clarify the authority and powers of the Native Hawaiian Governing Entity prior to negotiations, while ensuring that the final bill is legally sound and consistent with U.S. policy toward indigenous people and their native governments.

These clarifications represent a genuine effort to address the State of Hawai’i’s concerns while maintaining the original purpose of the bill, which is to establish federal recognition for Native Hawaiians.

H.R.2314 provides Native Hawaiians with an opportunity for self determination and cultural preservation, while empowering them to be an equal partner with the state and federal government.

H.R.2314 does not alter the sovereign immunity of the United States or the State of Hawaii nor does it transfer any lands to the Native Hawaiian governing entity.

Hawaii’s entire Congressional Delegation, Senator Daniel Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka, former-Congressman Neil Abercrombie, and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, along with Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor James Duke Aiona, have all proclaimed their support for recognition of a Native Hawaiian governing entity, demonstrating the high priority of this issue for the people of Hawaii and its importance over and beyond any political party affiliations.

Failure to secure the passage of federal recognition for Native Hawaiians would result in continuing legal challenges to Hawaiian programs and the loss of millions of dollars the state currently receives from the federal government for programs that perpetuate the Native Hawaiian culture, language and traditions.

Until the next time.  Aloha pumehana.

Setting the record straight about the sale of ceded lands


Source: November 2009 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

On July 15, 2009, OHA, three individual Native Hawaiian Plaintiffs, and the State jointly filed a motion to dismiss the 14-year-old OHA v. HHFDC case, which involves a tract of former crown (ceded) land on Maui, now known as the “Leiali’i parcel.”  OHA sued the state to stop the state from selling the ceded land.  Fellow plaintiff Professor Jonathan Kamakawiwo’ole Osorio was the only plaintiff who did not join the motion to dismiss the case.

OHA only agreed to dismiss the 14-year-old case after Act 176 (2009) became law after this past legislative session.  The new law will make it extremely difficult for the state to sell ceded lands.  While Act 176 is not as all inclusive as a full moratorium, it nonetheless provides a high bar for the sale of any ceded lands.

There is now a process for the state to follow to get permission to sell ceded lands.  Act 176 assures that Native Hawaiians will have many opportunities to participate in that process, including community meetings.  There is also a higher standard of 2/3 legislative vote (of each house) for any ceded lands to be sold.

While OHA simply asked that the case be dismissed without prejudice, the State, represented by Attorney General (AG) Mark Bennett, filed a Motion to Dismiss that went much further. 

AG Bennett argued that Professor Osorio does not have standing because he is not a Native Hawaiian as defined by the term is used in § 5(f) of the Admission Act and Art. XII, § 4 of the Hawaii Constitution.  OHA does not agree with this and explained to the AG that this type of argument should not be made.  However, the AG did not change his position.  The danger with making this argument in this case is that even if the Hawaii Supreme Court does not dismiss Professor Osorio’s claim on standing grounds, other people may use these statements against OHA and the State in other cases.

OHA also does not agree with the assertions made by AG Bennett that the “Newlands Resolution” gave all of our lands to the United States.  AG Bennett wrote that:

  • “Pursuant to the Newlands Resolution, the Republic of Hawaii ‘cede[d] absolutely and without reserve to the United States of America all rights of sovereignty of whatsoever kind’ and further ‘cede[d] and transfer[red] to the United States the absolute fee and ownership of all public, Government, or Crown lands, public buildings or edifices, ports, harbors, military equipment, and all other public property of every kind and description belonging to the Government of the Hawaiian islands, together with every right and appurtenance thereunto appertaining’ (hereinafter ceded lands). Ibid. The Newlands Resolution further provided that all ‘property and rights in the ceded lands ‘are vested in the United States of America.’”
  • “The Organic Act reiterated the Newlands Resolution and made clear that the new Territory consisted of the land that the United States acquired in ‘absolute fee’ under that resolution.”
  • “The Newlands Resolution and subsequent federal enactments foreclose any theory that native Hawaiians may have legal title or claims to the ceded lands that must necessarily (or can) be protected by injunction.”
  • “In the Newlands Resolution, Congress extinguished any such title or claims as a matter of federal law, by accepting the Republic of Hawaii’s cession of these lands and by vesting absolute title to (and ownership of) these lands in the United States.”  (NOTE: They of course do not mention that the Republic of Hawaii was an illegal government that had no right to cede any lands.)
  • “The Newlands Resolution annexed Hawaii to the United States. It recognized the Republic of Hawaii, accepted the cession ‘and transfer to the United States [of] the absolute fee and ownership of all public, Government [and] Crown lands, and declared that all ‘property and rights’ in the ceded lands had become ‘vested in the United States of America.’”
  • “Congress thereafter confirmed that the United States had assumed perfect title to the ceded lands and could use or dispose of them as it deemed appropriate.”

On August 6, 2009, Professor Osorio submitted a Memorandum in Opposition to the motion to dismiss the case.  In it, Professor Osorio asserts that:

  • OHA “has breached its fiduciary duty to beneficiaries by abandoning the lawsuit.”
  • That “[u]ndisputedly, the ideologies of race and eugenics are the genesis of the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act’s division of the Native Hawaiian people into those of 50% blood or more Hawaiian blood, and those without… It would appear the State’s memorandum that those ideological constructs necessary to reduce the number of potential beneficiaries are alive and well.”
  • That during the many years of litigation, there has never been a distinction between Native Hawaiians and that is and should be the law of this case.
  • That the Akaka bill will pass and the State will use arguments similar to the ones in this case to contend that Native Hawaiians have no claims to the ceded lands and that a “dismissal in this case will undermine the legal and historical bases upon which Native Hawaiians will rely in those negotiations.”

My hope is that the above information will help to clarify all of the different positions regarding the OHA v. HHFDC case.  The State and Osorio have made very negative statements against each other in the media.  OHA has not been involved in the “name-calling” other than refuting Osorio’s accusation that OHA breached its fiduciary duty.  OHA’s continuing position is to dismiss the case without prejudice.

The danger in Professor Osorio continuing this case is the possibility that the Hawaii Supreme Court might rule that he has no standing to pursue this case because he does not have a 50% native Hawaiian blood quantum.  This would seriously damage all of the progress that has been made to establish that there is no difference in a 50% blood quantum Hawaiian and those of us with less that 50%.  Until the next time.  Aloha pumehana.

Looking forward to the New Year (2009)


Source: December 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

Congratulations to all of the public servants elected in 2008. Campaigning can be a grueling process. I look forward to working with all of you in what is certain to be a historic year for Native Hawaiians. During this holiday season we can finally look forward to the passage of the Akaka Bill in 2009.

The time has come for all of us to come together in spirit and give the Akaka Bill the final push it needs to become law. The bill will provide powerful protection from the constant threat of lawsuits to all of our Hawaiian trust assets. This is the reason why I have always supported the bill.

The Akaka Bill has never been in a better position for passage, although it must be reintroduced in the 2009 Congress. The nation has elected Senator Barack Obama to be our next president and he is on record as supporting the Akaka Bill. The Democrats have also increased their majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate.  We nearly got the Akaka Bill passed in the Senate just a few years ago with significantly less Democrats in office. 

This time around it should be relatively easier – so much so that we could probably do without the “help” from our high-paid lobbyists. I believe we can get the bill passed on our own. Given the current state of the economy, we should seriously consider saving our beneficiary dollars wherever we can. Our congressional delegation certainly doesn’t need our current lobbyists just to count votes.

What we face today as Hawaiians is no different than what 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 many of you already know, the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to consider the State of Hawai‘i’s appeal of a lower-court injunction against the sale or transfer of ceded lands until our claims have been settled. This inexplicable action by the Lingle administration highlights the fact that the future of OHA, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and all of the Hawaiian Trusts continue to be perilously at risk.

The state’s appeal can be traced all the way back to 1994, when OHA and four Native Hawaiians sued the state to prevent it from selling or transferring any portions of ceded lands. We argued that the state must first settle Native Hawaiian claims to the ceded lands.  

In 2002, a circuit judge ruled in favor of the state, but a 2008 ruling by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, which cited the 1993 Apology Bill, ruled in our favor.  Now, with the latest appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the state is once again trying to sell ceded lands without resolving Native Hawaiian ceded land claims. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the state could lead to the transfer or sale of ceded lands without any oversight by Native Hawaiians.

Therefore, we must work together and combine our influence so that we can do what is necessary to finally pass the Akaka Bill. The fate of 1.2 million acres of ceded lands, the legacy of our once great kingdom, hangs in the balance.

May I wish each and every one of you a very blessed Christmas and a sincere wish of good health and best wishes for a wonderful New Year.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Lingle is wrong on ceded lands

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter to the Editor, Honolulu Advertiser. December 8, 2008

Governor Lingle’s assertion over the weekend that Hawaiians only have a “moral” claim to the ceded lands, and not a legal one, is preposterous.

The governor knows that the state has been financed on the backs of Hawaiians since its inception.  To take a position now that we do not have a legal claim to ceded lands is a slap in the face for all of us who have supported her for the past six years.

OHA has done nothing but open our hearts, and wallets, to her administration.  We’ve guaranteed loans for her Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to the tune of $33 million dollars which should have been part of her budget and spent countless millions subsidizing her Department of Education, which has done so poorly educating our children.  Where would her administration be without OHA money and Hawaiian land subsidies?

You would think that after six years of lobbying Congress to get the Akaka bill passed she would know better, or were her actions and words just a political ploy?  Can Hawaiians, or anyone, trust what she says in the future.

Fiscal Irresponsibility


Source: August 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  Here is an update on OHA’s recent spending:


On January 17, 2008, the BOT approved a realignment of the OHA budget appropriating $4,567,511 from OHA’s Fiscal Reserve Fund to be distributed over 3-years to the Hi’ilei Aloha LLC for the operation of its subsidiaries Hi’ipaka LLC and Hi’ipoi LLC.  The operating budget for all three businesses for the July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008 fiscal year was $2,276,882, of which we have already spent $614,809.70 as of March 31, 2008.


The OHA budget was realigned again at our board meeting on June 5th to accommodate the huge Board Initiative grants which were also approved at the same meeting.  The grants include:  (1) $1,000,000 to Kanu o Ka Aina Learning ‘Ohana; (2) $750,000 to the Lana’i Cultural Center; (3) $500,000 to Kaumakapili Church; (4) $500,000 to the Malama Learning Center; (5) $150,000 to Hawaii Maoli; (6) $300,000 to Na Maka Walu; (7) $300,000 to Papahana Kuaola; and (8) $150,000 to La’i’opua 2020.  The grand total for all of these grants is $3,650,000!

Hawaii Maoli is a permanent fixture in our budget as they are contracted by OHA to collect Kau Inoa registrations.  However, there is no accounting for all of the funds that are being spent through this organization, especially monies given to grantees that do not have a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax status.  How much more money is Hawaii Maoli getting through fees or charge-backs from these organizations?  The trustees have no idea.


On June 5th, the board authorized the Administrator to enter into an agreement with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to cover their debt service on a loan of $35 to $41 million for a period of 30 years starting on July 1, 2008 with an amount not to exceed $3 million annually.

DHHL is a government agency under the Governor’s budget.  The state has long neglected its obligations to house Hawaiians and it should, therefore, be the state’s responsibility to guarantee the DHHL loans – not OHA.  It is the only fair thing to do since the state receives 80% of ceded land revenues while OHA has to survive on only 20% of those revenues.  As advocates for Hawaiians, OHA should be holding the state accountable instead of funding their shortfalls.

Trustee Mossman asked whether the timing for this proposal had anything to do with the Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly’s (SCHHA) recent opposition to OHA’s negotiated settlement bill at the state legislature.  Trustee Heen assured the trustees that there was no “quid pro quo.”  However, I agree with Trustee Mossman that the timing is awfully suspicious.  Not to mention the fact that Haunani Apoliona is running for re-election this year.  Make no mistake, I am NOT against giving grant money away.  However, in order to stay within our budget, we must cut costs elsewhere.

At present, our budget is approximately $41 million.  Add to that all of the recent budget realignments and the budget will probably climb to well over $50 million a year.  This is a ridiculous figure.  Besides all this, OHA is too top heavy with “special assistants” who are getting contracts to work on “special projects” that are taking up a great deal of our inflated budget. 

The scariest thing of all is that Apoliona is supporting the increase in spending all the way through 2012.  In other words, these realigned budgets are being approved using money that we have yet to receive.  With the economy in the “drink,” our people struggling with high gas prices and unable to drive to work or losing their homes and being forced to live under freeway overpasses and beaches, OHA continues to spend money like “drunken sailors.”  The question is why?  At present, we are already $5 million overspent in our current budget.  Wouldn’t our people understand if we explained how important it is to tighten our belts at this time?  We should be leading by example.

“Making a lot of nonprofits happy now by offering them a lot of money into 2012 and then taking that money away after the November elections because we are not able to meet these commitments is cruel, irresponsible, and a terrible way to get votes.”


One of OHA’s attorneys for our failed ceded lands negotiated settlement with the state and the OHA v. State II case was paid a total of $414,533.84 in attorney’s fees.  A second attorney was paid a total of $423,840.16.  As you may recall, the ceded lands negotiated settlement was shot down by the state senate and OHA lost the OHA v. State II case.

OHA’s Washington D.C. law firm that was hired to lobby for the passage of the Akaka bill was paid over $2,000,000 (that we know of, a request for a monthly billing statement would be much more accurate – these numbers are conservative).  A special consultant for the Akaka bill was paid an additional total of up to $450,000.  That is a total of up to $2,450,000 (conservatively) which have been paid to lobbyists who have not been able to deliver the votes.  Make no mistake, I support the passage of the Akaka bill, but I have also suggested many times that we hire people who are able to deliver.


 The Native Hawaiian Trust Fund portfolio has lost 10% of its value (approximately $39 million) in these tough economic times, and probably more at the time of this printing.  National consumer and prognostic indicators say that investors should have at least 20% of their investments in cash that can be liquidated and moved quickly.  Unfortunately OHA currently has less than 10% or $25 million of its portfolio in cash

According to a June report from one of our money managers, global equity markets fell by more than 8%, with US and European equity markets returning -8.4% and -11.7% respectively.  As of July 9, 2008, the estimated preliminary return for their share of OHA’s portfolio in the month of June was –4.95% compared to benchmark performance of –4.48%.  They also stated that the growth outlook for the US economy remains weak, as increased unemployment, a weak dollar, and further pressure on the financial markets contribute to expectations of higher inflation over the next year, with expectations beyond that more restrained.  Given all of this bad news, it is now more important than ever to bring our spending under control.


On another note, I was surprised to read OHA Trustee Walter Heen’s June 13th letter to the Star Bulletin where he wrote, “I do not recall Akana ever dissenting from any of the terms (of the ceded lands negotiated settlement) that were brought before the board, including the waiver provision that she now loudly decries.”

Heen was present at all of the executive session meetings where I expressed concerns regarding the waiver provision.  Further, all of the OHA trustees, along with the administrator, received a letter from me, in advance, which explained why I could not support the settlement bill and that I would be submitting testimony to the legislature in opposition to the bill.

I hope that Heen will make sure that OHA has lined up its “ducks” next time for the 2009 legislative session since he is now part of the negotiating team.  Further, I question why OHA’s negotiating team is still negotiating with the Governor’s office when she has publicly stated that she will not reconsider her proposal – a proposal that our beneficiaries have overwhelmingly rejected.  Why not just work with the legislature?

Recent Polls show people of Hawaii believe in fairness for Native Hawaiians

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source Ka Wai Ola o OHA, November 2007

‘Ano’ai kakou… According to a poll conducted by Ward Research for OHA, 70% of residents surveyed favored the Akaka Bill, while nearly two-thirds of those polled also believe that the issue of race should not be a reason to deny federal recognition to Hawaiians.

However, anti-Akaka bill groups like the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii (with a membership of a handful of people) and some of the members of the newly formed Hawaii Civil Rights Advisory Committee are trying to re-write our Hawaiian history. Like other racist groups who say the Holocaust never happened, the Grassroots Institute would not be happy until Native Hawaiians no longer exist or are driven out from our Aina. They keep hoping that, if they keep repeating the same non-truths over and over again, people will start believing their nonsense.

The poll was conducted by telephone from August 15-27, 2007 from a sampling of 380 residents statewide. The sample is representative of the Hawaii population by age, ethnicity, and island of residence and carries a maximum sampling error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Those surveyed were asked, “Do you think that Hawaiians should be recognized by the U.S. as a distinct indigenous group, similar to the recognition given to American Indians and Alaska Natives?” A solid seventy percent responded, “Yes,” while 18 percent said, “No” and 12 percent didn’t know.

I have always had faith that the people of Hawaii truly understand the issue of federal recognition for Hawaiians and could not be easily fooled by all the negative doomsday rhetoric of the anti-Akaka bill naysayers. The poll showed that 84% of those surveyed heard of the Akaka bill and 79% were aware of the lawsuits against OHA, DHHL and Kamehameha Schools.

Sixty-seven percent of those polled also said that Hawaiians have the right to make decisions about their land, education, health, cultural and traditional practices, and social policies. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed believe that over 100-federally funded programs for Hawaiians should continue.

The vast majority of Hawaii residents want organizations such as the Kamehameha Schools, DHHL and OHA, which are under the constant threat of lawsuits, to be protected through federal recognition. They believe in the fundamental question of fairness and that Hawaiians should be treated equally like other indigenous people, including American Indians and Native Alaskans.

So, to the naysayers, I say – Stop embarrassing yourself and wasting your time, energy, and money on fruitless efforts. You cannot change or re-write history. OHA only has to educate 18% of Hawaii residents on the merits of the Akaka bill, while opponents need to somehow mislead a whopping 64%. It takes so much more energy to confuse and mislead people, while it is much easier to just speak the truth.

All these years of spreading lies and misleading people haven’t gotten people like H. William Burgess anywhere. People of Hawaii know what is right, fair and just. After all, isn’t fairness and justice the American way?

Imua e Hawai’i nei…