Moving a Mountain: The Real Problem

`Ano`ai kakou…  For the past several months, there has been a tremendous focus on Mauna Kea.  OHA, as a Hawaiian agency created to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians, is tasked with administering ceded land revenues to address this mandate.

Because of this responsibility, OHA is frequently asked by the state agencies such as the University of Hawaii (UH), nonprofits, and even private entities to comment, help, or, in some cases, take legal action on issues important to Native Hawaiians.

Hawaiians are not against science

Today, Mauna Kea is an issue that has gone global with Hollywood celebrities joining the protest to stop the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at the summit.  The Star Advertiser says OHA lacks leadership because we are not telling Hawaiians to stand down because the state needs revenue and everyone benefits from science.  They also feel we need to stand by our previous decision.  The newspaper needs to do their homework before making blanket statements.

Six years ago, the majority of the Board of Trustees accepted Mauna Kea as the sight for the TMT.  OHA also weighed in on a contested case hearing asking UH and the Mauna Kea Management planners to force them to do an Environmental Impact Statement and ensure they do what was necessary to culturally protect the site for future generations.

OHA lost the lawsuit and, when approached again last year, the Board took no action for many reasons.  The most critical being we no longer had standing to sue since we lost the first case and two Native Hawaiian workers on the Big Island testified that they needed the jobs the telescope construction would provide.

The real problem

The bigger issue here is UH and the state legislature.  The state has been a poor trustee of our ceded lands.  They are leasing our lands for only a $1 per year and it allows UH to sublease the lands for millions, perhaps billions of dollars.  Why isn’t UH making the builders of the telescope give something back to our community for the desecration of our sacred mountain?  Why isn’t UH requiring the builders to clean-up their mess and take down their telescopes that aren’t operational?

Where is all of this money going?  Is it really going to science?  Has the state ever conducted an audit of the University to verify where all of the millions generated on Mauna Kea each year are truly going?  UH is frequently complaining they are broke.  Where is the accountability?  Revenues generated on Mauna Kea are both Hawaiian and taxpayer monies and yet who really knows how the dollars are being spent?

The state and the legislature needs to revisit the autonomy that they have given to the UH and pull back that power.  UH should not have the power, in the name of science, to do anything they want with our aina.

Hawaiians are concerned about access to worship afforded to them by the PASH Law.

UH does not own the mountain and the state should make them return it to the people of Hawaii in the same pristine condition it was in when they took it from us.

An untapped market for authentic Hawaiian travel experiences

`Ano`ai kakou… I would like to thank the Trustees who voted to support OHA’s partnership with the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) to participate in the 2014 ITB Berlin Travel Trade Show.

Each March, AIANTA travels to ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel trade show with more than 170,000 visitors, including 110,000 trade visitors and over 10,086 exhibitors from 180 countries. The event attracts hundreds of international travel agents. For the first time, Native Hawaiians were represented at this very prestigious event.

The purpose for this trip was to give an opportunity to our Native Hawaiian businesses, which have not been able to reach international travel markets, to promote their businesses. After distributing hundreds of Native Hawaiian business brochures from all of the islands to international travel agents, I am positive that we made a significant impact. The European market was very receptive.

For many, many years, Hawaiians have wanted to see our local tourism industry focus on authentic Native Hawaiian experiences, but this has not occurred. I believe that OHA can assist our Native Hawaiian businesses by helping them reach international markets that they previously could not afford to reach on their own. Travelling to ITB Berlin allows OHA to further develop a potentially lucrative market for our people and improve their economic self-sufficiency.

If we don’t tell our story, who will?

After speaking first hand with ITB Berlin attendees, I discovered an untapped market of wealthy European travelers eager for authentic cultural and historical travel experiences. These travelers were hungry for experiences that someone on a tour would never be able to experience. These travelers want to stay at a location far longer than the average stay. They want to stay for weeks and immerse themselves in a new culture so that they can make their long distance travel more worthwhile. OHA is in a perfect position to use its expertise in Native Hawaiian culture and history to develop strategies to assist our beneficiaries to tap this potentially lucrative international niche market.

I also made personal connections with nearly 50 travel agents and forwarded their contact information to the appropriate staff members within OHA, including Waimea Valley, which OHA manages through the Hi’ipaka LLC.

I believe OHA can increase its presence at next year’s ITB Berlin Trade Show by sponsoring our own booth within the Native American and Alaska Natives’ section. By focusing on our unique culture and history, we can bring about a stronger, more authentic Native Hawaiian identity in the minds of travelers around the world.

I heard over and over again from everyone I spoke to at the trade show that they did not want to travel like a tourist in “Waikiki” watching “dancing hula girls.” They wanted to see authentic Native cultural and historical sites and have a unique Native Hawaiian experience. They pointed out the harsh truth that if they wanted to experience warm, tropical weather, they could just go to Mexico or Florida.

Finally, I would like to thank the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) for inviting OHA to participate in the ITB Berlin Travel Trade Show.

UH needs to pay their fair share

`Ano`ai kakou… Here are two important issues affecting Native Hawaiians that require special attention:


The 11,300 acres of land within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve are public land trust lands classified under section 5(b) of the Admissions Act. The revenues from public trust lands must be dedicated to specific purposes including the betterment of Native Hawaiians.

House Bill 1689 requires the University of Hawai’i to use the fair market value for the lease of lands when calculating the amount of funds that it must transfer to the public land trust fund.

OHA receives a portion of revenues generated from the use of these public land trust lands. HB 1689 will ensure that OHA and its beneficiaries receive adequate compensation for any future subleases.

Mauna Kea lands have long been mismanaged by UH. Sacred cultural lands have been industrially developed without any payment or clear benefit to Native Hawaiians.

At the same time, UH has been receiving a substantial benefit from its lessees in the form of telescope time, which has been valued in some cases at more than $100,000 a night. This benefit has mostly gone only to the astronomy program at UH; since none of this value is seen as sub-lessee rent. OHA beneficiaries and the State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) have not received a fair share of this substantial revenue.

To avoid possible fiscal impacts to the University of Hawai’i’s educational mission, any proposed general lease for Mauna Kea lands should require UH to charge more appropriate rent for the sublease or use of such lands. This would ensure that OHA beneficiaries and the State receive appropriate compensation for the use of these public land trust lands, and ensures that UH also receives adequate revenues to support its broader educational mission.

It should also be noted that the requirement for UH to conduct a financial review of all public land trust revenue will help to identify gaps in revenue from public land trust lands, as well as clarify what revenues may be generated from specific lands, such as Mauna Kea.

In the meantime, OHA should also propose a financial audit of all revenues UH derives from its use of public trust lands. This will allow OHA to ensure more appropriate level of benefits flow to public trust beneficiaries for the use of our sacred mountain. Finally, UH’s authority to manage public trust lands must be reevaluated because of its continual abuse and mismanagement of our precious lands.


Senate Bill 180 SD2 proposes to give one individual resident on Niihau the exclusive konohiki rights to regulate fishing around Niihau. The konohiki will be appointed by the Chairperson of BLNR, in consultation with the private owner of Niihau.

While I understand the arguments in support of this proposal, I believe that we must be very careful about setting a precedence of having only one person making all of the fishing rules for an entire island. Especially if that person may have vested interests to protect and could abuse their power as Konohiki to lock out any competition.

Tourism through a Native perspective

`Ano`ai kakou… On February 6, 2014, the Board of Trustees voted to support OHA’s partnership with the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) to participate in the 2014 ITB Berlin Travel Trade Show.

This action is part of an effort to provide Native Hawaiian beneficiaries with greater self-sufficiency by giving them greater control over marketing their history and culture internationally and bring about a stronger, more authentic Native Hawaiian identity in the minds of travelers around the world.

The knowledge brought back from ITB Berlin will also assist our beneficiaries to develop authentic Hawaiian cultural travel experiences to market in the future.

Partnering with AIANTA

I have served on the AIANTA board of directors since February 12, 2013. AIANTA is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit association formed in 1999 to help federally recognized tribes market their unique stories to visitors and to facilitate the ease to which travelers can explore Indian Country. The association is made up of member tribes from the following regions: Eastern, Plains, Midwest, Southwest, and Alaska. With my participation, the Pacific region can now be represented.

Each March, AIANTA sponsors an expansive Native American Indian booth located within the United States Pavilion at ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel trade show with more than 170,000 visitors, including 110,000 trade visitors and over 10,086 exhibitors from 180 countries. The Pavilion attracts large crowds of participants and hundreds of international travel agents.

AIANTA Invitation to ITB Berlin: March 5-9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany

Thanks to my close working relationship with AIANTA, OHA has been invited to share a portion of AIANTA’s booth space in their Pavilion at ITB Berlin. Until now, Native Hawaiians were the only Native people in America not participating in this prestigious event.

Future AIANTA Partnership Opportunities

AIANTA President Sherry Rupert, who also serves as the Executive Director of the State of Nevada Indian Commission, was appointed this past June to the U.S. Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. Rupert’s appointment helps to further strengthen AIANTA’s working relationship with the U.S. Commerce Department. Rupert is also a Benton Paiute tribal member.

The Obama administration, through agencies such as the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the National Park Service, is working to promote Native American culture and arts and to demonstrate the contributions they have made to United States.

AIANTA recently worked with the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service (NPS) to develop a historical book on the 20,000 American Indians who fought in the Civil War. A similar historical project could be put together for Hawaii’s National Parks.

The advantages of developing partnerships with these federal agencies are enormous. Hawaii has National Parks that need more federal funding. Being able tell our story through our National Parks, like other Native peoples throughout the United States have done, is only one of the many potential advantages of participating in ITB Berlin with AIANTA.

Both the National Park Service and the Department of Interior have significant funding set aside for the promotion of Native American projects. Why should Native Hawaiians be left out?

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:


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:


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, 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.

Cultural sensitivity and the media

`Ano`ai kakou… My office has recently received several complaints from beneficiaries outraged about a commercial using our Hawaiian language and iconic Hawaii landmarks such as Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head to promote their alcoholic beverage.

The commercial portrays a “local” couple who have set up a cooler on Waikiki Beach (in view of Diamond Head) in the middle of the day to openly consume alcohol.  The commercial ends with the phrase “E ‘imi kou wahi kahaone/Find your beach” appearing across the screen.

It is my understanding that the company’s local distributor was looking for a “fun and effective way” to promote their beer and they were trying to maintain elements of their national advertising campaign (“Find Your Beach”) while including “strong geographical cues that would suggest this commercial was a local production that was focused on reaching local audiences.”

However, after viewing the commercial, I found it to be offensive, misleading and culturally insensitive for the following reasons:

(1) DRINKING ALCOHOL ON WAIKIKI BEACH IS ILLEGAL – Everyone knows you can’t set-up a cooler on Waikiki Beach and start drinking.  Not only is it blatantly illegal, it irresponsibly gives the mistaken impression that this type of behavior is tolerated by the local community.  Let’s hope that any tourist who saw the commercial doesn’t get the wrong idea.

(2) WAIKIKI BEACH IS FOR FAMILIES – The reason why alcohol is banned from Waikiki Beach is that Waikiki is primarily promoted as a family destination and attraction.  No parent wants their child to have to watch young adults dragging huge coolers through the sand and partying drunk while half naked.  Waikiki Beach is not a spring break party destination like Cancun (and we would never want it to be).

(3) NEGATIVE STEREOTYPE – Portraying locals drinking on the beach in the middle of the day also promotes and perpetuates the negative stereotype that all “local” people (Hawaiians) do all day is get drunk on a beach.

The beer commercial is reminiscent of the controversial 2006 ad in a magazine that depicting King Kamehameha’s statue holding a glass of champagne to promote cruises to Hawai’i.  While the beer commercial is nowhere near as offensive, it nonetheless shows that there is a lack of cultural sensitivity within the media, both here and on the mainland, and that OHA must be vigilant and vocal in speaking out against them.

I highly recommend that any ad agency or marketing firm thinking about using the Hawaiian language, culture, or historical figures in their advertisement to show some basic courtesy and take the time to consult a respected Native Hawaiian Cultural Practitioner first.  At the very least, they could call OHA and we will be happy to assist them.

I have sent a letter to the beer company’s local distributor asking that they please show some consideration and courtesy to the Hawaiian Community by immediately ceasing all future broadcasts of the beer commercial.  I also asked them to remove the commercials from video websites such as YouTube.

Let your voices be heard on this subject.  If you have comments to share, please write to our editor or call the local distributor.  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!

Portraits of Traitorous Overthrowers Must Go


Source: February 2010 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

As difficult as it is to believe that in this day and age, and with all of the history that has been revealed regarding the unjust nature of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, large, framed portraits of Provisional Government officials are still being displayed in the rotunda of Ali’iolani, the headquarters of the State’s Judiciary.  Specifically, the portraits include Albert Francis Judd, who was Associate Justice from 1874-1881 and Chief Justice from 1881-1900, and Walter F. Frear, who was Associate Justice from 1893-1900 and Chief Justice from 1900-1907.

The display of such portraits is an affront to many Native Hawaiians and gives the appearance that the State of Hawaii approves of the overthrow.  The portraits also perversely give legitimacy to the Provisional Government which has clearly caused great harm to Native Hawaiian people, culture, and self-determination.

History has proven unequivocally that the Provisional Government of Hawaii was established illegally, immorally, and unjustly in 1893 following the treacherous overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

The Provisional Government ruled Hawaii during the period between the overthrow and when they declared themselves the Republic of Hawaii on July 4, 1894.  Anyone who accepted an official position within the illegal Provisional Government were traitors to the Kingdom and, by remaining in office, perpetuated the great harm brought upon Native Hawaiians by the overthrow.

Soon after the overthrow, President Cleveland appointed U.S. Commissioner James H. Blount to investigate the events surrounding the overthrow.  The “Blount Report,” as it is now commonly know, was part of the 1893 United States House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee Report provided the first official evidence that United States was complicit in the illegal overthrow.  The Blount Report concluded that the U.S. diplomatic and military representatives in Hawaii had abused their authority and were responsible for the change in government.

President Grover Cleveland himself described the acts leading up to the overthrow as an “act of war” and acknowledged that the government of the Kingdom of Hawaii, with its peaceful and friendly people, had been overthrown.  On December 18, 1893, President Cleveland sent a message to Congress calling for the restoration of the monarchy.

The Provisional Government protested President Cleveland’s efforts to restore the monarchy and continued to hold onto power and pursued annexation to the United States.  They even successfully lobbied the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to conduct a new investigation into the events leading to the overthrow in order to challenge the Blount Report’s findings.

The policies of the Provisional Government were far more restrictive than those of the Kingdom of Hawaii, including denying citizenship to Chinese immigrants.  They also restricted voting to only 4,000 people, which was down from the 14,000 people under the Bayonet Constitution.  This led to the Blount Report’s conclusion that if the question of annexation were put to a popular vote, it would be “defeated.”

I encourage everyone to support OHA’s Concurrent Resolution in this legislative session which urges the State to remove the portraits of any Provisional Government official which are being displayed in a position of honor in state buildings.

Aloha pumehana.

How the state ripped the heart out of Waikiki:

DLNR values the dollar over Hawaiian-owned business, despite the fact that tourism is dependent on our unique Hawaiian Culture and Aloha spirit


Source: September 2006 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  Barry Napoleon established Hawai’i’s first beach concession in 1952 on the sands of Waikiki Beach.  Although competitors moved in and the beach boys jockeyed for position, the tourists still saw the best O’ahu had to offer.  Surfing lessons, canoe rides, or just plain talking story, the Waikiki Beach Boys personified the spirit of aloha.  Then, Barry experienced first-hand how the state only gives lip service about our “aloha spirit.”

Barry said that from 1982 to 1984, he paid $400 a month to Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) for an 8 by 12-foot space in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  The DLNR took control of the beach concession stands after they saw the profits that could be made and began selling permits.

Problems for Barry began when he complained to the DLNR about alleged criminal activity out of his mainland competitor’s concession.  Three days later, the DLNR revoked his permit and confiscated his equipment, saying he had violated the conditions of his rental agreement by encroaching on several inches past his allotment of sand.

In 1985, he found a new home at the Waikiki Shores.  Barry was paying the owner $15,000 a month for ground-floor space fronting the beach.  The DLNR found out and evicted him.  Barry won a temporary restraining order so he could prove his permits were valid.  The DLNR ignored the court order and again confiscated his equipment.  Without his business, Barry could not earn enough money to press his case.  Earlier that same year, his two nephews tried to reopen a beach concession.  The state quickly tore it down.  Barry Napoleon was 65 years old at the time. He had spent the better part of his life on the beach at Waikiki and now the state took his livelihood in favor of mainlanders.

Eleven years later, it seems that DLNR is back at it again.  On July 26, 2006, Mary Vorsino of the Honolulu Advertiser wrote that after 29 years and thousands of students, Clyde Aikau closed his surfing school and concession stand at Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki and ended the only business he’s ever known.  Clyde, the brother of legendary surfer Eddie Aikau, was forced to let go of his 10 employees, which he hopes will find work as surf instructors with Hilton Hawaiian Village.  The Hilton is taking over the concession stand.  It is unbelievable to me that DLNR didn’t even give Aikau the courtesy of a break in the rent because of his expertise and tenure.

Vorsino quoted DLNR Chairman Peter Young as saying that Aikau has only himself to blame.  “We did not tell anybody what rent to suggest other than a minimum, and then it was competitive,” Young said. “We would hope they would evaluate their respective business plans and bid responsibly.”

I was shocked at the callousness and insensitivity of Young’s comments.  Where is his sympathy for struggling Hawaiian-owned businesses?  Like the tragedy with Barry Napoleon, DLNR seems to be once again putting the almighty dollar ahead of protecting the real reason people come to Hawaii – our unique Hawaiian culture and the Spirit of Aloha.  Marketing campaigns can’t sell what doesn’t exist.

I believe that OHA needs to investigate whether we should take control over the beach boy concessions at Waikiki Beach.  OHA could then ensure that the beach boys are culturally sensitive and that preferences are given to Hawaiian owned businesses.  After all, the beaches are considered submerged lands and are, therefore, ceded lands.

Tourists from around the world remembered Barry and other beach boys like him for one simple reason: they were genuine.  They were Hawaiian.  Let’s bring that authenticity back to Waikiki Beach.  Imua e Hawai’i nei…

The Hawaiians’ Phantom Menace

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, August 2006

In early June, the trustees traveled to Washington D.C. to witness the long awaited vote on S. 147, also known as the Akaka Bill, in the U.S. Senate. What should have been a historic event quickly turned into a frustrating experience. Listening to Senators from the South speak against the bill, calling it “racist legislation,” made me want to jump out of the gallery and scream, “HYPOCRITES!” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) shockingly said that granting federal recognition for Native Hawaiians could lead to Mormons, the Amish, and Hasidic Jews seeking their own federal recognition! It was clear that his goal was to lump all Hawaiians together with other minorities so he could argue that we all need to be treated equally. The problem with this argument is the undisputed fact that Hawaiians are indigenous people, similar to Native Americans and Native Alaskans who are already recognized. Senator Alexander is clearly discriminating against Hawaiians. So who’s the real racist?

When the vote was finally taken, we were shy by four votes. Two Democratic Senators were out sick and thanks to arm-twisting by Senate Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) at least three Republicans switched their vote at the last minute. Senator Frist told them that their leadership positions would be in jeopardy if they supported the Akaka bill and they choose to protect their political careers rather than keep their promises to Senators Akaka and Inouye.

At the end of that sad day, I was assured of two things: First, racism and ignorance is alive and well in the U.S. Senate. Second, partisan politics has ruined Congress. The trustees later learned that the Republicans were bitter with the Democrats for voting against their Estate Tax bill the day before. Killing the Akaka bill was just payback. I left Washington with a feeling of disgust and disdain for our so-called leaders of America.

With so many important issues that need to be dealt with in the world and at home, these career politicians proved they are only preoccupied with keeping the status quo and furthering their political careers. They use inflammatory issues like gay rights, flag burning, and immigration to detract us from the real issues of importance like New Orleans, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Is it any wonder why Americans are losing respect for their leaders and canít believe a word they say?

As bad as the Southern Senators were, nothing was worse than seeing Clarence Ching, a former OHA Trustee, sitting next to William Burgess, the lawyer who has consistently sued OHA, the State, and Hawaiian Homelands to break up all Hawaiian entitlements. The same William Burgess who has lobbied Congress to kill the Akaka bill and has called Hawaiians who favor federal recognition “racists.” And let’s not forget about State Senator Sam Slom, the only member of the State Legislature to vote “no” on the Akaka Resolution (HCR 56, SD1) of 2005. He was also there with Burgess. It is just bizarre that a Republican state senator would so vigorously oppose a bill that the Republican Governor so strongly supports. Not to mention the fact that all of Hawai’i’s other elected officials including the Mayors from all counties and the state legislature also supported federal recognition in a non-partisan effort. It is egregious that one elected official felt his opinion was more important than all of the state’s other elected officials. Since when does a single opinion become more important than the will of the people?

Where and when did this opposition to Hawaiian sovereignty begin? Some rumors have been circulating that it was started years ago by a prominent Kama’aina who called a meeting of other like-minded people to his home to discuss how they could band together and prevent the Bishop Estate, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and OHA from becoming too powerful. After all, with control over vast tracts of land and revenues from ceded lands, Hawaiians could one day dominate the State, and this is a frightening thought for some. While I have no evidence that this long standing rumor is true, I have been thinking very seriously about it lately, especially after what I witnessed in Washington.

After the fall of the Bishop Estate Trustees, all of their cases were later thrown out of court, but it was too late to save most of their reputations. Now we find ourselves embroiled in more lawsuits to take out OHA and Hawaiian Homes. So, could the rumor be true? I think the question to ask is who is paying for all of the lawsuits that Mr. Burgess has filed? Perhaps then we may have the clues to who is behind the movement to ensure Hawaiians never regain sovereignty and that all Hawaiian entitlements are erased.