By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: February 2007 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Article
`Ano`ai kakou… The State Capitol is buzzing with activity so it must be that time of the year again. As you know, last year’s elections brought significant changes to the state legislature. There are 15 new legislators and like most freshmen many of them don’t have a clue on what OHA is about. I attended OHA’s budget briefing for the House Finance committee on January 3rd and I was surprised at just how uninformed some of these new legislators were on why OHA exists and why we are funded by ceded land revenues. OHA has its work cut out for it if we want to bring these legislators up to speed. As a first step in our efforts to educate them, OHA hosted a legislative luncheon on January 18th. The freshman legislators were given a comprehensive overview of OHA and important Hawaiian issues from our capable administrative staff. The trustees were also able to mingle with many of the state legislators and do a little lobbying.
Hawaiian issues will now be considered by new committees in both the State House and State Senate. For the House, a new committee has been formed called Water, Land, Ocean Resources & Hawaiian Affairs (WLH) and is chaired by Representative Ken Ito and vice-chaired by Representative Pono Chong. On the Senate side, Hawaiian issues will fall under the purview of the Water, Land, Agriculture, and Hawaiian Affairs (WAH) Committee, chaired by Senator Russell S. Kokubun and vice-chaired by Senator Jill N. Tokuda.
I cannot stress enough the importance of all Hawaiians to participate in the legislative process. Whether it’s visiting your senator or representative personally and sharing your mana’o on the issues or simply e-mailing them your concerns, it is imperative that you be involved. Legislators are lobbied by many people and organizations and it is easy for those who do not voice their opinions to be ignored and forgotten. We must be vigilant and make sure the issues near and dear to us do not fall by the wayside. As they say, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.”
A good example of a Hawaiian organization that has consistently lobbied the legislature as both an advocate for Native Hawaiians and a “watch dog” against anti-Hawaiian bills is the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs. The Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs is a confederation of fifty-two (52) Hawaiian Civic Clubs. It is the oldest community based grass roots Hawaiian organization in Hawai`i, having been formed in 1918 by Prince Jonah Kühiö Kalaniana`ole.
The Civic Clubs have always taken an active interest in the civic, economic, health and social welfare of our community. They support programs that benefit Hawaiians and protect Native Hawaiian traditions and historic sites. They offer a wide range of activities, and their membership is open to anyone interested in joining. I encourage anyone who wants to get involved at the legislature to give your local Civic Club a call. They will be more than happy to help you.
We must always remember that for every enlightened legislator who strongly supports Hawaiian issues, there are still the uninformed ones who oppose a strong and unified Hawaiian community. Legislators like Senator Sam Slom, who says he supports Hawaiian issues but then turns around and stabs us in the back by trying to kill the Akaka bill. Actions speak louder than words and people like Senator Slom are clearly part of a negative force working against the Hawaiian community.
Don’t let the Sam Sloms of the world have their way at the legislature. What we face today as Hawaiians, the indigenous people of our lands, 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. 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.
I encourage all of you to call or write your legislators and let them know where you stand. Your personal testimony will be very much appreciated when our bills are up for consideration in committee hearings. I look forward to working with all of you during this session of the legislature.
If my office can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call. Imua e Hawai’i nei…