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.

Setting priorities and developing a plan should be our goal for 2006

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, January 2006

‘Ano’ai kakou… In her State of OHA speech this past December, Trustee Apoliona highlighted what OHA has done for our beneficiaries in 2005. She proudly stated that OHA handed out millions of dollars in grant money, defended itself against lawsuits, and worked vigorously to pass the Hawaiian Federal Recognition (Akaka) bill. While she may feel that this is all well and good, I would like to offer my views.

OHA has completely changed from just a few years ago. Instead of a proactive agency with a variety of programs to help our beneficiaries, OHA now operates more like a charitable foundation that just hands out grants. While the grants that were awarded last year did go to worthwhile causes, I can’t help but feel that OHA is just passing the buck. I’m not saying that OHA should or could do everything, but I do believe that OHA can do much more for our beneficiaries in terms of programs and services. We have nine trustees and over a hundred staff members who are eager to make a difference. The problem is that OHA doesn’t seem to promote initiative.

Currently, we just wait for problems to come to us and then throw money at it. Just look at the words that Apoliona used to describe what OHA has done in the past year: We “awarded” grants, we “maintained” programs, we “distributed” funds, we “responded” to requests, and we “defended” against lawsuits. When is OHA going to start building or creating something?

Many of our people are forced to live on the beach because of the lack of affordable houses and rentals. OHA should be setting up programs to help our homeless beneficiaries get into shelters and transitional housing. What’s happened to OHA’s housing division? Apoliona’s speech mentions the OHA 103 Home Loan program administered by First Hawaiian Bank and Bank of Hawaii but OHA has done nothing to improve the program after both banks told us a year-and-a-half ago that only a few people have taken advantage of the program. I should also mention that you can’t just distribute a bunch of business loans and call it “economic development.”

The biggest problem with handing out grants to deal with long-term problems is that grant monies eventually run out and services get cut. That’s why we need on-going programs that are properly funded and monitored by the trustees. So why isn’t OHA developing any new programs? It should be obvious to anyone who was listening to Trustee Apoliona’s speech – that OHA focused more on lobbying Congress than on anything else.

One issue shouldn’t be allowed to overshadow everything else we do. Perhaps it is time for OHA to start seriously rethink its priorities, vision, and strategy for the future. I supported the previous versions of the Akaka bill, warts and all, because I believed that it would help us form a strong Hawaiian nation. I still think that federal recognition is crucial for us to begin the process of nationhood.

However, over the past year, Republican Senators and members of the administration have managed to change our bill significantly and we haven’t gotten anywhere with the White House. All of this happened despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we have paid to a powerful and well-connected Washington D.C. lobbying firm to get the bill passed. My personal opinion is that we may need to wait for a friendlier administration to take office before the bill goes anywhere.

Handing out millions of dollars in grants is just a band-aid solution to the many problems that we need to address in a serious manner. Developing good programs won’t be quick or easy, but they will do much more to serve the needs of our beneficiaries over the long haul. Setting priorities and developing a plan to meet those priorities is desperately needed at OHA. This should be our goal for 2006.

Imua e Hawai’i nei…

Apoliona uses staff to publicly attack a fellow Trustee


Source: November 2004 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Article

`Ano`ai kakou…  In late September, I received an advance copy of a letter from Chairman Haunani Apoliona’s administrative aide that is supposed to appear in this month’s newsletter.  The letter attacks my October 2004 article in which I brought up questionable expenditures and decisions made by her supervisor.

For the record, as an OHA Trustee, I am required to call attention to Apoliona’s questionable actions as Chairman.  According to Hawaii Revised Statues 554A-5:

“…a dissenting trustee is not liable for the consequences of an act in which the trustee joins at the direction of the majority of the trustees, if the trustee expressed a dissent in writing to any of the cotrustees…”

In my opinion, Apoliona has abused her position as Chairman.  Unfortunately, Apoliona is either self-delusional or suffering from self-denial.  No one is perfect, yet she continues to portray her leadership as flawless.  I’ve heard about accentuating the positive, but give me a break.  How many new OHA programs can she point to that has occurred in the last two years?  Our existing programs are in shambles from neglect.

One really has to ask what we are doing for our beneficiaries besides lobbying for Federal Recognition.  While it is important for Hawaiians to be officially recognized by the federal government, our people have other, more pressing needs in health care, housing, and education.

I made every effort to get answers to my questions and concerns through the proper channels.  I have many memos to OHA’s administration and staff asking for answers on how our beneficiaries’ money is being spent.  If you read the budget today, you could swear that all OHA is paying for are lawyers’ fees.  The frustrating part is that Apoliona only uses double-speak and rarely gives any clear answers.

So now, it seems, the only means I have to get to the bottom of Apoliona’s shenanigans is to openly call her on it.  Instead of responding to my concerns, Apoliona chooses to ignore them and, through her administrative aide, attempts to indirectly bully me into silence.  But this is nothing new.  Just look at a small sampling of Apoliona’s past involvement in misdeeds:

  • Sending an e-mail to all OHA staff to evaluate the previous administrator in an effort to discredit and humiliate him and force him to resign;
  • Forwarding confidential memos to the media to discredit fellow trustees. 
  • Leaking a confidential and uncertified recording of a former trustee’s conversation at a community meeting to the media in order to ruin her reputation;
  • Slandering a former state department head; and
  • Harassing competent and capable administrative staff until they were finally forced to leave.

As far as I’m concerned, as long as Apoliona endorses a policy that allows OHA staff members to publicly discredit any Trustee or administrative staff who disagrees with her, OHA will be plagued with internal strife that will continue to cause morale problems and dissention for both staff and trustees.  Behavior such as this cannot be consider constructive or pono.

As for the issues I brought up in my last article, I am ready, willing, and able to publicly debate Apoliona anywhere and at anytime.  Imua e Hawai’i nei…

Apoliona’s ‘Campaign Slogan?’


Source: July 2004 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  For about a year now, Board Chairman Haunani Apoliona has been heavily promoting a particular chant, the Na Oiwi Olino, to start off our Board meetings. 

Could there be an ulterior motive behind her vigorous efforts to push this chant?  Has it conveniently become her campaign slogan?  Let’s look at the facts.

The chant was composed by OHA staff for the Na Wai Olino rally (sponsored by OHA) at Iolani Palace back on January 15, 2003.

In early spring of 2003, OHA produced a CD recording of the chant as an “instructional tool” for our beneficiaries and the community.

Flip the CD cover over and you will see that “Track 1” of the 4-track CD features an introduction by “OHA Chairperson Haunani Apoliona.”  “Track 3” of the CD features the chant performed by “Haunani Apoliona.”

OHA staff asked Apoliona to give the introduction in her capacity as Chairman of the Board.  While she was in the studio recording the introduction, she was also asked to help with the audio recording of the chant.

Hundreds of CD’s were then individually packaged and distributed at OHA sponsored halawai and other events.

So the bottom line is this:  (1) OHA produced a CD featuring Apoliona; (2) She was the only Trustee asked to participate; and (3) She is heavily promoting the chant to the point where it’s difficult to separate her from it.

So is the CD campaign-related?  I feel that Apoliona is skating on “thin ice” ethically and should have known better, especially since she is up for re-election this year.  Everyone knows that you cannot use state tax dollars or resources for campaign-related items.

It’s just too convenient that Apoliona has this wonderfully packaged CD to hand out to the public in the year leading up to her election.  It is definitely a huge and unfair advantage over the candidates who are running against her.  I’m sure her opponents would love to have a similar CD, paid for by OHA, to hand out when they campaign.

In any case, Apoliona should really consider ceasing all distribution of the CD until she can get an opinion from the state ethics commission that it is not campaign related.  She should also think about not using it to start off every official Board meeting.

Finally, OHA’s new Office of Board Services has recently compiled a list of all 2004 Board accomplishments.  If the past is any indication, I’m sure Apoliona will use the report as her laundry list of personal accomplishments, taking credit for everything OHA has done, even though she may have had nothing directly to do with them.

In the six years Apoliona has served on the Board, she can hardly lay claim to even one program that she has put into place for our people.  Instead of taking credit for how well OHA is doing, she should take some responsibility for the sorry state of OHA’s beneficiary programs.  During the last two years, OHA programs in education, health, and housing have suffered from gross neglect.  Even the Aha Kupuna Conference was cancelled last year.

For the last two years, Apoliona has only focused on Federal Recognition.  While Federal Recognition is very important, OHA cannot and must not forget the immediate needs of our people.  After all, how can you build a nation when a significant segment of our Hawaiian Community is unhealthy, uneducated, and unhappy?”  Let us build a nation for all our people.  I mua e Hawai’i nei…

This and that…


Source: May 2004 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

Goldman Sachs Reduces Fees: 

`Ano`ai kakou… Back in March I questioned why one of OHA’s two investment managers, Goldman Sachs, charged us $53,878 more for their services than our other investment manager, Frank Russell, despite the fact that as of December 31, 2003, Frank Russell Company made $500,000 more for OHA.

I’m pleased to report that on April 6, 2004, our new Chief Financial Officer reported that Goldman Sachs has “reviewed their fee schedule which provided annual savings of $50,000.”  I can’t say for certain whether my complaints had any impact on their decision, but it was more than a coincidence that they immediately matched Frank Russell’s fees within a three week time frame.  I’m glad that Goldman Sachs has provided OHA with some relief from their high fees.

Federal Recognition: 

A substitute version of the Akaka bill has been drafted to clarify its language and to address concerns about the suggested process for recognition.  The administration has drafted a side-by-side comparison of the new and old versions of the bill and an electronic version is available at

OHA Legislative Package: 

One of the bills that I really pushed hard for at the legislature this session was Senate Bill 2759 – Relating to Real Property Taxes on Kuleana Land.  Many Hawaiian families living on kuleana lands face the loss of their legacy as well as the potential for homelessness because they cannot afford the property tax assessments based on the supposed “fair market value.”  For example, the heavy development of the Kona coastline is causing property values to sky-rocket and forcing families on kuleana lands to pay higher property taxes.  There has even been a case where a family has asked OHA to take custody of their Kuleana Lands until they were able to save up enough money to pay off their back taxes.  Further delays will only worsen their suffering.

The bill passed all of its Senate committees and looked set to cross over to the House for consideration when suddenly, without explanation, it was “recommitted” or sent back to its original Senate committee.  I have never heard of a bill being killed in this fashion.  I know that most people are frazzled and dazzled by the convoluted legislative process, but let me assure you that it can even happen to elected officials.

Through the grapevine, I heard that one of the neighbor island counties commissioners had some concerns about the bill’s impact on county property tax revenues and without any hearing to discuss their concerns, SENATOR HANABUSA recommitted the bill to her committee.  It has been estimated (though not yet confirmed) that kuleana lands make up less than 15,000 acres or less than 0.5% of the total state acreage.  The impact to county tax revenues would be miniscule at best.

Getting all four counties to agree to exempt Kuleana Lands from property taxes could take years to accomplish.  If anyone knows of a faster way to provide Hawaiian families on kuleana lands with immediate relief other than passing a bill, I’d like to hear it.

Report Card for Legislators: 

I’m not sure whether our state legislators are aware of this but, at the end of this session, OHA plans to grade each Senator and Representative based on how they voted on Hawaiian issues.  Their grades will be published here in the Ka Wai Ola before the election.  I encourage our regular readers to keep a look out for it and help our friends and crush our enemies.  We must collectively show all elected officials that Hawaiian votes will count in the next and future elections.  Our voices will be heard!  Imua Hawaii Nei…

OHA 2003: Missed Opportunities


Source: January 2004 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  OHA spent more in 2003 than any other year.  We spent a million on Federal Recognition and tens of thousands of dollars on preparations for ceded land negotiations, but what were the results?  What happened to our ongoing programs that were established to improve the lives of our Hawaiian people?


OHA’s Ceded Lands Negotiation Team currently consists of Trustees Mossman (Chair), Apoliona, Stender, and Carpenter.  Although the team met in 2003, no negotiations with Governor Lingle’s Administration ever took place.

The Negotiation Team hired a “technical support team” of four experts to assist in preparations.  So far, I have not seen any formal report of their plans nor have they made any recommendations on our general strategy to the Board.  These experts have already cost OHA approximately $100,000 (and counting) with no end in sight.


We missed our opportunity for Federal Recognition in 2003.  The Akaka-Stevens Bill (S.344) did not even make it to the floor of Congress for a vote.  Part of the problem is that OHA’s leadership waited too long to hire a reputable Washington D.C. lobbyist to advocate for the bill’s passage.  By the time a lobbyist was hired, it was already midway through the year.  Once they were onboard, the Trustees never knew what they were doing for us, despite the fact that they were in contact with the Chair’s office on a weekly basis.  This secrecy kept many of us out-of the-loop.


In December of 2002, the Chair consolidated our five committees into just two.  This left Trustee Stender to oversee all of OHA’s fiscal, policy, economic development, and administrative matters, while Trustee Machado was given responsibility over all federal and state legislation, on-going programs in health, housing, education, land, the revolving loan fund, and then some.  The Chair’s rationale was that this would foster efficiency. 

Anyone can see that two Trustees can’t possibly do the work that kept five Trustees busy all year.  One can argue that this was simply an attempt to consolidate power under just three Trustees and shut out the remaining six from making any meaningful contributions.

There are clear signs that the two committees are overwhelmed.  Last year, virtually no new programs were proposed and none of our long-standing programs showed any progress.  In fact, our Aha Kupuna program was dropped altogether for 2003.  Programs that were helping the everyday lives of Hawaiians fell by the wayside, apparently to make way for our nationhood efforts. 

A total of $1.2 million was spent on nationhood in 2003 and another $2.2 million has been committed for 2004.  With such large amounts of funds being expended, it is imperative that the Hawaiian Community be kept informed of our intentions, so that they can have faith in our leadership and feel certain that their trust funds are being spent wisely and prudently.

While building a nation is critical, OHA cannot afford to neglect the various long standing successful programs that have assisted many Hawaiian individuals and organizations.  A healthy and well-educated Hawaiian population is what we will depend upon for building a strong nation.

We have much to accomplish in 2004.  I will continue to work with Governor Lingle, the State Legislature, our Congressional Delegation, and my fellow Trustees to overcome the many challenges we face.   However, our efforts cannot succeed without the support and confidence of our people.

This is a critical time for our Hawaiian people.  I urge those of you who believe in open government, fostering teamwork, and empowering others through the sharing of power to consider becoming a candidate for OHA Trustee in the 2004 elections.  Imua Hawaii!  Hauoli Makahiki hou!