By Rowena Akana
November 22, 2002
Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA
As the most senior member of the Board of Trustees serving three consecutive terms, I believe I have the historical knowledge necessary to deal with some of the most critical issues facing OHA today.
1. Loss of ceded land revenues
2. Legal challenges to our Trust
3. Federal recognition
4. Negotiations with the State on a ceded land settlement.
While there are other challenges that we must address at OHA, those listed above are the most critical. As Hawaiians, the indigenous people of our lands, what we face today is no different than what occurred over 100 years ago. We are still fighting off assaults on our culture, rights to our lands and racism. Only now, we are being called racists because we want to protect our entitlements. Times have not changed much, people are still the same and greed is still the motivation behind the move to relieve us of whatever entitlements we have left. The only thing that has changed is the sophistication used to manipulate us and the law.
The future of OHA and other Hawaiian trusts are certainly at risk. Hawaiian leaders will have to work together and use whatever resources that are necessary to protect existing Hawaiian Trusts.
It is my opinion that in these critical times for OHA and all Hawaiian trusts, it is very important to have experienced leadership to help steer our canoe.
The unresolved issues of a permanent revenue stream for OHA and the failure of the Legislature to address the Supreme Court of Hawaii’s direction to them to “fix” Act 304 by defining what ceded land revenues constitute revenue for OHA was devastating to our Public Land Trust. For the first time in OHA’s 22 year history we have had to use our principal investments to fund programs and operations.
In 1991, OHA’s trust assets totaled $11 million. In 1993, our negotiating team settled with the State, on a partial settlement of approximately $129 million for back due payments owed to OHA from ceded land revenues. In 1999, as chair of the OHA Board, our investments had grown to nearly $400 million. In today’s market OHA’s assets are worth considerably less.
As a trustee who has always believed that the needs of our people should come first, the following are some of the programs that I have initiated:
1. FANNIE MAE Loan commitment of $135 million for home loans for ALL Hawaiians. This is a partnership between the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, FANNIE MAE, Bank of Hawaii and First Hawaiian Bank to provide low interest loans to all Hawaiians for home ownership;
2. The purchase of Quality Homes/Prefabricated Housing. OHA recently bought half ownership in this manufacturing plant which can produce homes that are steel constructed for approximately $50,000 each. This home loan program now adds a new dimension to OHA’s Commitment to home ownership;
3. Hawaiian Registry Program. The Hawaiian registry will not only show proof of Hawaiian ancestry, but sports a new look as a photo I.D.;
4. $350,000 commitment to annual scholarships for higher education;
5. Kupuna Health Program identifying elderly who are not covered by existing programs.
In the next few years, because of the challenges we face, experienced leadership will play a key role in our ability to deal with these issues as they present themselves.
I am very grateful to the Hawaiian community for having believed in my devotion and ability to lead, and for their continued support throughout my years at OHA. I am asking for your support again on November 5th, Election Day. Mahalo ia ‘oe.