Divide and conquer is mission of the “Grassroot” folk

`Ano`ai kakou… After reading Andrew Walden’s article in his Hawaii Free Press (HFP) blog, accusing OHA of investing in a geothermal “scheme,” I feel it is very important to point out that Walden can easily be grouped with the following anti-Hawaiian of conservative groups that do everything they can to divide the Hawaiian Community.


The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a conservative think tank, states that their mission is to “promote individual liberty, the free market and limited accountable government,” but what they have actually done is write anti-Hawaiian letters to Congress and the Civil Rights Commission.  They have testified vigorously before Congressional hearings against the Akaka bill.  Richard O. Rowland serves as Chairman of the Board and President and co-founded the Institute with Malia Zimmerman.


Malia Zimmerman is the secretary of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii’s board of directors and has authored of many articles that helped to polarize the Hawaiian community.  Zimmerman was fired from Pacific Business News for “unspecified reasons” and then went on to co-found the “Hawaii Reporter.”  (Source: Sourcewatch.org)


Sam Slom is Hawaii’s only Republican State Senator and is the executive director of Small Business Hawaii.  Slom has been vocal opponent of the Akaka bill and OHA’s sovereignty efforts locally and in Washington, D.C.

Small Business Hawaii, where Senator Sam Slom (R-HI) and Richard O. Rowland are on the board of directors, has given reporting awards to the Hawaii Reporter.  (Source: Sourcewatch.org)


Attorney H. William Burgess, who has sued OHA on multiple occasions, has been working to cripple OHA for over a decade.  He is married to Sandra Puanani Burgess, who is also a strong opponent of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and of government programs that benefit Native Hawaiians preferentially.  Burgess led the efforts to bring two frivolous lawsuits seeking to have such programs declared unconstitutional. (Source: Wikipedia)


In 1999, H. William Burgess and his wife created the Aloha for All website, www.Aloha4all.org to spread their disingenuous message that “Aloha is for everyone” and that “every citizen of Hawaii is entitled to the equal protection of the laws whatever his or her ancestry.”  In 2003, former Honolulu Advertiser publisher Thurston Twigg-Smith, who funded the lawsuits against OHA, founded a company called “Aloha for All.” (Wikipedia)

An August 14, 2005 Honolulu Advertiser article reported that H. William Burgess was both lead attorney for Aloha for All and legal counsel for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.  Grassroot later responded that Burgess is a member but has never been their legal counsel.


Their group also includes Kenneth R. Conklin, a retired schoolteacher who moved to Hawaii from Boston in 1992 and currently lives in Kāneʻohe.  (SOURCE: Wikipedia)  He is a vocal opponent of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and has sued OHA in the past.


Again, let me reiterate, the negative articles being written about OHA in the newspapers and online should be taken with a grain of salt.  We must also remember to consider the source from which it comes.

Hawaiians cannot allow these Right-Wing, Ultra-Conservative Extremists to divide us.  Please let us be “Makaala” (alert, aware, vigilant, watchful, and wide awake) and know who our true enemies are.

OHA beneficiaries demand accountability


Source: May 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  Here are a few recent developments at the legislature and at OHA:


On March 27th, the Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homeland Assembly (or SCHHA, formerly the State Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations) called on the legislature to audit OHA.  They argued that OHA did not provide them with the basic information they needed to review OHA’s settlement agreement with the Lingle Administration for back-payments of ceded land revenues due from 1978-2008. 

The SCHHA specifically asked: (1) How the $200 million dollar amount was determined, including whether the revenues considered included disputed and undisputed income sources; (2) How $187 million of the total $200 million was determined to be provided in lieu of cash; (3) How the annual minimum payment of $15.1 million a year to OHA was determined; and (4) What native rights are being waived.  The SCHHA also said the State and OHA need to conduct a meaningful consultation with them as required by law since they are native Hawaiian beneficiaries. 

None of this would have happened if Chairperson Apoliona properly informed our beneficiaries about what this kind of settlement would mean to our future.


Also in March, a recent former OHA employee testified to State senators that he had “witnessed a great many outrageous acts” at OHA.  He wrote that, “OHA staff morale has plummeted, programs implemented to benefit Native Hawaiians have been circumvented, and gross mismanagement has been apparent from the very top.”  He also said that, “Today, OHA is a self serving organization only interested in acquiring money and power for itself and is so hamstrung by politics that it has failed in its mission to help all Native Hawaiians…”

He explained that one reason for the low moral at OHA is that “…the employees who have either chosen to leave OHA or who have been fired are the most competent at what they do professionally… and have the passion and drive to create successful projects for the community.  Initiative is rewarded by reprimands and/or termination from OHA by its top Administrators.” 

He also supported my earlier statements in the December 2007 Ka Wai Ola that staff members are not allowed to speak directly with Trustees.  He said that, “OHA staff are forbidden to speak with any of the Trustees for fear that they will ‘complain’ to them about the Administrator and the Deputy Administrator.  If a request is granted to speak with a Trustee, a manager accompanies staff to monitor what is being discussed.” 

Like the SCHHA, he also called for a financial and management audit of OHA, but his reason was due to “gross mismanagement.” 


Here is an example of my experience, even as a Trustee, of how hard it is to get any information out of OHA.  On January 4, 2008, I put in a request for specific information regarding the money being spent on sponsorships by OHA in Washington D.C.

I sent a follow-up memo on February 28th asking what happened since I had not heard back from them. 

I sent another follow-up memo to the administration on March 10th asking why they had not responded. 

I was finally forced to ask the Office of Information Practices (OIP) for help on March 11th

On March 12th, my office received a memo from the administration apologizing for the delay and promising that the report will be completed by the end of the month and circulated to all Trustees.

On March 14th the OIP sent a letter to the Administration saying that they had ten days to provide the information I requested or provide a reason why they were denying my request.

On March 31st, I had my staff follow-up with the administration (17 days after the OIP letter) to see what was causing the delay.  The administrator assured me that the report will be coming shortly.

Finally, on April 2nd, almost four months later, I received the information I requested.

Clearly, there is a lack of wisdom and foresight in OHA’s leadership.  Mrs. Rubin, the senior aide for Chairperson Haunani Apoliona, has been way out of line with her attack ads against me.  The recent incidents that I’ve described above only prove what I’ve been saying all along.  Instead of addressing the problems to make things better at OHA, the Chairperson and her staff continue to deny that there are serious problems within the organization.  Our beneficiaries have made their voices heard at the legislature this year, asking legislators to make OHA more transparent by sharing information and by demanding an audit.


On April 3, 2008, attorney William H. Burgess, filed another lawsuit against OHA (Kuroiwa v. Lingle).  Burgess is representing six people with a history of filing lawsuits against Hawaiians, including James Kuroiwa, Earl Arakaki (from the previous lawsuit Arakaki v. Lingle), and former Advertiser publisher Thurston Twigg-Smith.  These people are still using the same tired arguments from Arakaki v. Lingle that have been thrown out by both Hawaii and Federal courts.

I have always said that what we need to do is follow the money and ask, “Who could be paying for this?”  What is Burgess’ motivation?  No one sues someone for nothing.  While some people may think that a lot of people are suing us, this is not the case.  All of these lawsuits are being filed by the same people and among them is Thurston Twigg-Smith, a man that has unlimited resources.  One has to be asking why?  What is Twigg-Smith’s real motivation?  At some point, the courts need to realize that these complaints need to be thrown out permanently.  There should be a limit to the nonsense.  Perhaps what we need to do is sue these people for harassment.  Maybe then common sense can prevail.

Follow the money


Source: August 2007 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

On July 9, OHA received a letter written by H. William Burgess, a local attorney who over the years has filed two lawsuits attacking Hawaiian programs. His first suit resulted in the elimination of the requirement that candidates for the OHA Board of Trustees have Native Hawaiian ancestry. His second lawsuit unsuccessfully sought to dismantle OHA and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. The interesting thing about these two cases is that the majority of the plaintiffs are the same.

Mr. Burgess, in the past three years, has spent a lot of time and energy lobbying in Washington, D.C., against the Akaka Bill. He has lobbied both senators and congressmen against the bill, calling it racist. His zeal and enthusiasm to spread the wrong message about this bill has been unrelenting. No one works for free. The question should be: “Who is paying Mr. Burgess to lobby against the Akaka Bill and to file these lawsuits against Hawaiians?”

In his latest letter, which was sent to Hawai‘i Maoli, Mr. Burgess is requesting that Hawai‘i Maoli put five of his non-Hawaiian clients – Patricia Ann Carroll, Toby Michael Kravet, Garry Paul Smith, Earl F. Arakaki, and Thurston Twigg-Smith – on the Kau Inoa registration list. Of these people, Garry Paul Smith is the only one who is not named as a plaintiff in any of Burgess’s previous cases challenging Hawaiian programs.

The last name on the list should be viewed with great interest. Thurston Twigg-Smith’s ancestors played a prominent role in the overthrow of our Hawaiian government. This fact has been documented in our history. Now, more than 100 years later, we still see efforts to deny Hawaiians their sovereignty and their right to seek reparations for lands taken in 1893 without compensation. What could Mr. Twigg-Smith be so afraid of that he is willing to lend his name in lawsuits against OHA, DHHL and the State of Hawai‘i? My question to Mr. Twigg-Smith is this: Why hide behind these other plaintiffs? At least his ancestors were right up front about what they did to our kingdom.

Hawaiians, press on, no matter that it has been over 119 years that we have waited for the United States to rectify the injustice done to our nation by some of its citizens.

We have achieved, under the Clinton administration, the acknowledgment of the complicity of the United States with some of its citizens playing a role in the overthrow of our kingdom in the passage of the Apology Bill. This bill sets up the process for recognition and reparations from the federal government for the taking of lands without compensation. This bill – along with the report filed in 1999 in a joint effort by the Interior and Justice departments called “From Mauka to Makai: The River of Justice Must Flow Freely,” which calls for the federal government to address the unfair taking of the lands from the Hawaiian nation and also acknowledges the complicity of the federal government – gives us hope that the Akaka Bill will one day pass.

The passage of the Akaka Bill is the next step in beginning to address the wrongs committed by the United States against the Hawaiian people. We cannot and will not let Mr. Twigg-Smith and his attorney, Mr. Burgess, or anyone else defeat the Hawaiian people again. We have survived as a people over 119 years, and we will remain here on our ancestral lands until the end of time. We will prevail against all odds.

The need for compromise & unity


Source: September 2005 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Article

`Ano`ai kakou…  In late July, the trustees returned from another disappointing trip to lobby for the passage of the Akaka bill in Washington, D.C.  The bill has enough votes to pass the U.S. Senate, but unfortunately, several Republican Senators used last-minute political gamesmanship to prevent the bill from reaching the Senate floor for voting.  After witnessing these underhanded tactics, I am amazed that anything can get done in Washington.

The Senators that oppose the Akaka bill are obviously relying on false information being provided by Akaka bill opponents such as Thurston Twigg-Smith (who is part of the Arakaki lawsuit and whose ancestor helped orchestrate the overthrow), H. William Burgess (also with the Arakaki lawsuit and the anti-OHA organization Aloha for All), and Richard Rowland (Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i).  These people want us to believe that they are fighting for equality, but I believe they are actually motivated by racism.

To make matters worse, Washington has become so politically divided along party lines that neither side is willing to work together and hammer out a bill that all sides can live with.  It seems as if the Democrats and Republicans have lost the art of compromise. 

Years ago, Washington used to be a different place.  As Jack Valenti (President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Administration) described it, members of Congress built relationships based on trust.  The party in power understood that the role of the opposition was to oppose and didn’t take their criticism personally.  The minority party knew that just because you opposed an issue didn’t mean you couldn’t compromise.  No party could ever get everything they wanted.  That’s not how politics works.  Politics depends on compromise.

Here at home, the time has come for Native Hawaiians who support and oppose the Akaka Bill to come together in the spirit of compromise.  Native Hawaiians who oppose the Akaka bill need to realize that if they want to form an independent Hawaiian nation, they can – even if the Akaka bill were passed into law.  The bill does not give any position on the ultimate form of Native Hawaiian governance.  It only requires the Federal Government to recognize a trust relationship with our people.  More importantly, it would give us the ability to protect our trust assets until our governing entity is formed.

All of us can agree that we cannot build a nation without assets.  Native Hawaiian opponents of the Akaka bill must understand that there can be no final judgment in the federal courts if Congress approves the Akaka bill.  The bill offers strong protection to all of our Hawaiian trusts from the constant threat of lawsuits.  That’s why I have always supported the bill.

What we face today as Hawaiians 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 racism 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.

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.

We are one people.  We cannot afford to be divided, not when so much work remains to be done.  The struggle to regain our sovereign rights requires unity and the strength of numbers.  As the recent federal court decision regarding Kamehameha schools proves, the future of OHA, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and all of the Hawaiian Trusts are certainly at risk.  We must work together and combine our influence so that we can do what is necessary to pass the Akaka bill.

Let us be as our Queen wished…  ONIPA’A, steadfast in what is good!

“I appeal to you… that there be no division among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”  I Corinthians 1:10

Which is it? Build the Trust for the New Nation or Spend it All?

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, June 2004

‘Ano’ai kakou… I hate to admit it, but the current leadership of OHA has me a bit confused. I’m sure you have heard Chairman Apoliona say on many occasions that OHA is a “temporary” organization that will someday be dissolved and its assets transferred over to the new Hawaiian Nation. So her position is clear – OHA is temporary and its money will go to fund the new Hawaiian nation.

Here’s where everything turns as clear as mud. In April Trustee Stender, the chair of her money committee, informed the Trustees that he has asked for a legal opinion that will allow OHA to spend more of the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund. OHA currently has a spending limit that prevents any group of Trustees from spending the Trust like drunken sailors.

I’m sure that handing out a check to every one of the hundreds of organizations that are asking for grants would certainly make OHA very popular, but what about the long-term health of the Trust? We have carefully rebuilt the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund to over $300 million. I would hate to see it evaporate again in a shortsighted spending spree.

And as for how the Trust funds are spent, let’s not forget that four years ago OHA conducted a survey that clearly stated the beneficiaries wanted the Trustees to focus on four priorities – (1) Return of the land; (2) Education; (3) Housing; and (4) Health. The Board has not taken any action to change our focus on these areas and Trustee Stender should keep that in mind before making any decisions on his own.

I also question why the present administration can’t just follow established procedures and take the matter up in an open Board meeting. Unilateral decisions made by the Chairman and the Budget Chair must stop! All that’s needed to change the spending limit is six votes. If OHA’s leadership is too afraid to take the matter up in public at an open Board meeting, maybe that should tell you something.

I wrote several letters to the law firm that is drafting the legal opinion for Stender and shared my strong concerns about breaking the Board’s spending limit. They responded that Trustee Stender has every right to request such an opinion. I wasn’t surprised by their reply since they want to get paid for it. What is shocking is that the spending policy is not the only thing they are looking at. Trustee Stender also wants to know whether it’s even appropriate to build the Trust at all!

To even question whether we should grow the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund is just ludicrous. People like Thurston Twigg-Smith would like nothing better than to see the Trust disappear. And it’s not just the anti-OHA people either. Even our “friends” in state government are trying to cut the money coming into OHA. Governor Cayetano already cut OHA’s airport revenues and if the current state legislature had its way, OHA would probably get a lot less than it does now.

So which path will OHA’s leadership take? Will it be Chairman Apoliona’s “temporary” OHA that will turn over its assets to a new Hawaiian Nation or Trustee Stender’s OHA, which spends freely and shrink the Trust? I hope they realize that it will be difficult to do both.

My prediction is that Chairman Apoliona will flip-flop on her position and go along with Trustee Stender, unless of course, she gets enough calls telling her to do otherwise. I encourage all of you who share my concerns to call her and ask where she’s leading us.

I will continue to fight, by every means necessary, any attempt to allow the shortsightedness of OHA’s current leadership to endanger the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund or shortchange the coming Hawaiian Nation.

Imua Hawaii Nei…

Who is behind the Latest Lawsuit Against the OHA and the DHHL

By Rowena Akana
May 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

In my last Ka Wai Ola article, I wrote about the latest case against OHA: Arakaki v. Cayetano. Our readers and beneficiaries should be aware of exactly who is behind this lawsuit and what their mission is.

The plaintiffs in the case are: Earl F. Arakaki, Evelyn C. Arakaki, Edward U. Bugarin, Sandra Puanani BURGESS, wife of attorney William Burgess who is one of the lawyers filing this suit, Patricia A. Carroll, Robert M. Chapman, Brian L. Clarke, Michael Y. Garcia, Roger Grantham, Toby M. Kravet, James I. Kuroiwa, Jr., Frances M. Nichols, Donna Malia Scaff, Jack H. Scaff, Allen H. Teshima, and Thurston Twigg-Smith.

The most infamous plaintiff is Mr. Twigg-Smith who is still trying to change his ancestral past. What is the motivation for this case and who is funding these cases? Look at the list of plaintiffs, who among them has the finances to continue this legal assault; who among them has continued as his ancestors did to try to make extinct the native people of our islands? At the core of this issue is the fight to control our lands. Mr. Twigg-Smith’s attorney sums it up clearly when he said “we want to sink these two ships” (OHA and DHHL)

In a letter to the editor on March 22, 2002 to the Honolulu Advertiser written by Professor Jonathan K. Osorio of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, he wrote:

“It’s ironic that one of the plaintiffs in this case is Thurston Twigg-Smith, former publisher and owner of your newspaper and the grandson of Lorrin Thurston, who, in 1887, drafted the first race-based constitution in the kingdom’s history, which immediately deprived hundreds of Chinese citizens of the right to vote and created special voting privileges for the wealthy.

“The plaintiffs want fairness right this moment and care nothing of the mockery made of democracy and fairness by the ancestors of Twigg-Smith and Freddy Rice, who led the illegal takeover of the kingdom. How odd that these two should now lead the fight to end Hawaiian ‘entitlements’.”

This latest case requests the court to find and declare that the provisions which create OHA and the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act are unconstitutional. It is important to note that some of the litigants in these cases have written frivolous articles in the newspapers using terms like “race-based” and “taxpayers’ dollars” to incite the community. these people have not done their homework. Ceded land revenues are NOT taxpayer dollars. And for the record, Hawaiians never heard of the word “racist” until foreigners came here and brought their prejudices with them. there is no word in the Hawaiian language that describes a “racist.” I also believe that in our fair state of Hawaii, we have shown the world that all nationalities can coexist and live harmoniously with each ogther. I am certain that William Burgess’ opinions are not shared by the general community. Hawaii is unique not just because of its climate, but most especially for its people.

Again, we must not grow weary of these lawsuits–we must continue to show up en masse and voice our opinions on our entitlements. We must continue our fight on the Federal level as well and support the Akaka bill, SB 2899, the first bill introduced in the Fall of 2000 by the Indian Affairs Committee. This bill continues to carry the support of the Hawaiian people and community leaders who had great impact on the language of the bill itself. I urge all of you who support Hawaiian sovereignty to write to the Hawaiian delegation and to ask them to support SB 2899, the Bill of the People.

Betrayal and the Grab for Power

By: Rowena Akana
March 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

For a brief moment in time I could imagine how 109 years ago our Queen must have felt, surrounded by members of her own cabinet who had betrayed her. Most painful must have been to see those Hawaiians in whom she placed her trust betray that trust. As I sat in a Hawiian Affairs hearing at the Legislature on February 5, listening to testimonies being given by Hawaiians for and against OHA, I saw before me the very reasons why it has taken us so long, as a people, to unite.

Some people testified with no real purpose except to be heard and noticed, while others had very selfish and personal reasons. Most disturbing were those Hawaiians who testified that the native Hawaiian Trust was only for them, the 50% or more blood who resided on Hawaiian homestead lands. A position taken by the SCHHA, a private organization created to represent the Hawaiian homesteaders. These people fail to recognize that there are more native Hawaiians living off of the homelands than there are who reside on the homesteads. This attitude is divisive and will only create a greater distance between all Hawaiians and those who feel that they have special rights to any entitlements because of their blood quantum. If these kinds of attitudes prevail, it will be impossible for all Hawaiians to come together to form a nation.

One only need look at history to know that a divided nation cannot stand. It is disheartening to see that within OHA, some of us are willing to work no matter who is in the leadership, while others who are not, have refused to work by serving on committees.

For the past four and a half months this has been the case at OHA. While some of us use our columns in the OHA newspaper to discuss positive programs and issues, we have at least two trustees who continue to focus on negative things. These same trustees now want to overturn the board leadership again after refusing to work for the past four and a half months while collecting a paycheck. These trustees are Haunani Apoliona, Colette Machado, and Oswald Stender. In early January the board of trustees passed OHA’s package of bills to be submitted to the legislature. In the February 5th hearing we had one trustee, Oswald Stender, support the Hemmings bill that would destroy the OHA public trust and create a private trust with OHA’s assets to be put in a trust account. This position was contrary to the positions taken by the full board in January 2002.

How can these actions be explained to our beneficiaries? Is the community right about the grab for power being more important than providing services for our beneficiaries? Are they right about some trustees trying to destroy the very fabric of OHA from within?

Somewhere in the middle of this very important legislative meeting, Trustee Apoliona is seen passing a note to the committee clerk and seconds later Senator Hemmings is heard to proclaim that according to a press release that he waves in the air which he just received, the OHA board will reorganize itself on February 13, 2002 and maybe the OHA bills being heard today need no further action. Amazingly, no one notices as Apoliona slips quietly out of the room Stunned by the announcement after sitting for almost five hours trying to explain and defend OHA’s position on various bills that were bing discussed, I am immediately descended upon by the media for comment based on Hemmings’ announcement. A sick feeling hovers over me as I try to appear composed to answer the questions being asked when all the while my mind is reeling thinking about how this folly will be perceived by the general public, our beneficiaries and the legislature. Does this move make our whole organization look foolish? Yes. Is the timing bad because of the legislative session ahead of us and the importance of unity is imperative? Yes. Is there a good reason for the change in leadership, and if so, what is that reason? Did these five members of the board think about the public reaction to this action and the possible repercussions of their actions? It is obvious to me that these questions are of no importance to them.

We need not worry about the Twigg-Smiths, Conklins, Baretts, and Burgesses. We need only to look among ourselves to see the traitorous dogs who lay in wait for just the right moment to deliver us up to our enemies.

And so it is that I wonder what is to be the fate of our people with this kind of leadership, and will it take another hundred years before any nation is formalized and, in the meantime, what will become of Hawaiian entitlements as we know them, but more importantly, will there be anything left of the spoils in a hundred years after the Hawaiians have picked each other’s bones clean.