Hawaiian cultural and natural resources exploited


Source: July 2006 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  On March 2, 2006, I wrote University of Hawai’i President David McClain to request that UH abandon its patents on three varieties of Hawaiian taro.  I was disappointed that the University ignored Hawaiian cultural sensitivities by patenting a variety of taro that was developed through centuries of selective breeding by our native Hawaiians ancestors.  To make matters worse, the three patented Hawaiian taro are now exclusively licensed by the University, which forces farmers to pay a 2% royalty on gross sales of taro and prevents them from breeding or conducting research on the plants.  I urged President McClain to develop a strong policy that will ensure that our unique Hawaiian cultural and natural resources are not exploited. 

According to media reports, the University is currently researching ways to gain an exemption to its policy of automatically patenting new strains of taro.  UH’s vice chancellor for research and graduate education, Gary Ostrander, said the university “has come to both recognize and appreciate the unique place that taro occupies in the lives and culture of indigenous peoples and in particular our Native Hawaiian community.”  Ostrander said that while the institution has not determined how it will do so, “we can unequivocally state the intention of Manoa to make an exception to the process relating to patenting and licensing surrounding taro.” (Advertiser, May 17, 2006)

According to Ostrander, the issue is not a simple one for UH to resolve.  The three patented taro have been bred to be resistant to a fungal leaf blight and under UH union contracts, it must be protected through a patent.  He also said that if the university doesn’t obtain a patent, a commercial entity could easily obtain one and control the release of the hybrid.  “Manoa now must find a way to simultaneously be responsive to our faculty, their union, potential predatory commercial patents, and of no less importance, our greater Native Hawaiian community,” he said. (Advertiser, May 17, 2006)

While I understand that this issue will not be easy for the University to resolve, they must realize that time is critical and we can’t let this drag-on endlessly.  We must not allow Hawaiian intellectual properties to be left unprotected for even another day. 

One effective way to make this issue a priority within UH is to keep it in the public eye through protests.  Respected Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte has taken the lead by helping to build a stone memorial on the UH-Manoa lawn as a reminder of the connection between taro and Hawaiian culture.  He also helped to chain and lock the main entrances to the University’s School of Medicine in Kaka’ako, 15 minutes before the monthly UH Board of Regents meeting was scheduled to begin.  He stationed men dressed in white and yellow malos at the entrances to symbolically place a kapu on the building.

The protests shouldn’t be limited to just UH.  I sent letters to Senate President Robert Bunda and House Speaker Calvin Say in the last legislative session about this issue but, in the end, nothing happened.  Proposals were introduced to limit laboratory research and growth of genetically modified taro and coffee until mid-2011, and ban all work on genetically modified Hawaiian varieties of taro.  Unfortunately, these proposals went no-where.

It is important to note that the University has consistently taken license to capture Hawaiian resources without compensation to Hawaiians.  For example, the telescopes on Mauna Kea and the giving contracts to research companies to explore Hawaiian waters.  We need to seek legislation next year to make it illegal for the University to continue doing this without regulation.

With the election season coming up in the next few months, we need to make the protection of Hawaiian intellectual property rights an important campaign issue.  Our legislators need to know that we’re not going to sit idly by as the last of our valuable resources are stolen and controlled by a selfish few.  Imua e Hawai’i nei…

Akaka Bill Update…


Source: February 2006 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  On January 11th, I was invited to speak about the merits of the Akaka Bill at the Small Business Hawaii’s annual conference.  Also speaking was Akaka Bill detractor Sandra Burgess, who is one of the plaintiffs in the Arakaki lawsuit and wife of William Burgess, the owner of the anti-Akaka bill website Aloha For All.  I was grateful for the opportunity to address this auspicious group because if I hadn’t, they probably would have only heard Burgess’ false, fear mongering, and downright racist remarks.

It was clear that the SBH audience had very little knowledge of Hawai`i’s annexation or the reasons for the passage of the Apology Bill that President Clinton signed into law in 1993.  With less than ten minutes to speak, I briefly covered how the Apology Bill set into motion a process for reconciliation between the Native Hawaiians and the United States, which is the whole purpose of the Akaka Bill. 

Then it was Burgess’ turn to speak.  Here are just a few of the things she said:  (1) She asked whether it was fair to non-Hawaiian businesses if Hawaiian businesses paid no taxes; (2) She asked whether we are all Americans and why should Hawaiians be different; (3) She said that if the Akaka bill passes, non-Hawaiians will have to face the question of returning all of their lands; (4) She said that federal recognition will give Hawaiians more power and money to corrupt our State and Federal elected officials who already can’t say “no” to Hawaiians.  She even said our Governor is misguided for her support of the Akaka bill; and (5) She said that the Akaka Bill sets up a separate class of people.

I was appalled by Sandra Burgess’ ridiculous statements.  She gave no facts to support her position and basically told the audience that the world would end if the Akaka Bill passes.  I did my best to explain in my one-minute rebuttal that the Akaka Bill:  (1) Doesn’t allow Hawaiians to be exempt from state or federal taxes; (2) Doesn’t allow Hawaiian-owned businesses to have an unfair advantage over non-Hawaiian businesses; (3) Doesn’t allow Hawaiians to expel non-Hawaiians or the military from their lands; (4) Doesn’t set up a separate class of people; and (5) Whatever documents are created by the new government must be reviewed by the Department of the Interior and any settlements would have to be approved by the state and federal governments.  This allows for checks and balances.

Listening to Sandra Burgess opened my eyes to her and her group’s true motives.  They want to create an “US AGAINST THEM” mentality by scaring people into believing the Akaka Bill will hurt them.  Let me be absolutely clear that it is not Native Hawaiians who are creating this kind of fearful atmosphere. 

We must all find a way to come together, both Hawaiians and Kama’aina united in our common goal, to counter this divisive attitude and stop the noxious seeds of hate that the Burgess’ group is planting from taking permanent root in Hawai’i.  Imua e Hawai’i nei…

A non-Hawaiian who appreciates the Aloha of the host culture

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source Ka Wai Ola o OHA, October 2005

‘Ano’ai kakou… While the Arakaki plaintiffs may see the recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision regarding their lawsuit as a victory, we here at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs were pleased that the 9th Circuit actually denied them any standing regarding the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and ceded land revenues. That just leaves OHA’s matching funds from the state, which I feel is a pretty ridiculous argument since OHA is a state agency and uses those funds to operate — just like any other state agency.

I believe the Arakaki lawsuit is just another one of a long series of challenges that Hawaiians have had to overcome since 1893. As with those many hurdles in the past, so shall the Hawaiian community come together once again and work diligently to overcome it.

In these challenging times, I truly appreciate the non-Hawaiians who have had the courage to step forward and speak in support of their Hawaiian friends and neighbors. People like Robbie Alms, who thoroughly impressed me with his speech during the Kamehameha Schools’ Unity Rally on Saturday, August 6, 2005 at ‘Iolani Palace.

Alms spoke from the heart when he said that he has never felt deprived because he could not attend the Kamehameha Schools. He sincerely felt that his friends who were able to attend were blessed, but their blessing involved no loss on his part. He knew that there were plenty of other options available to him.

Alms talked about how he was taught by his parents that “we all receive gifts but not necessarily the same gifts, and that we should celebrate the gifts we receive, not covet the gifts of others.” I feel it is a real shame that none of the Arakaki plaintiffs seem to have learned this from their parents. Alms felt that the 9th Circuit Court decision forces Kamehameha Schools to give him a very special gift that he was not intended to receive. He emphatically said that he does not need or want it.

Alms stressed that he does not feel “trammeled” by the Kamehameha Schools admissions policy; but he does feel trammeled when such legalisms “take precedence over the health of our islands’ social fabric.”

Alms also showed great insight when he said that laws designed to “lift the yoke of slavery from black Americans” are now being used as weapons to harm Native Hawaiians. I absolutely agree with his point that the law is being used to condemn our special heritage with the harsh and ugly words of “civil rights violation.” Another excellent point he made is that the 9th Circuit seems to erroneously think that diminishing Native Hawaiians will somehow build a healthy and pono society.

Alms ended his speech by encouraging Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians to call upon our court system to live up to its highest purposes and values, and to call upon our community to stand up for Kamehameha Schools. He said that our very future depends upon honoring our unique history and the very special institutions that that heritage has given us. In his words, “We all need to honor the Princess’ gift just as she meant it to be honored.”

I would like to send out a warm mahalo nui loa to all of the non-Hawaiians out there, like Robbie Alms, who continue to speak out for the Hawaiian community in its time of need. As for the Arakaki lawsuit, make no mistake, none of the programs currently working to assist disadvantaged Native Hawaiians will ever fall victim to its terrorization by the likes of Thurston Twigg-Smith, H. William Burgess, and their ilk. Imua e Hawai’i nei…

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

Stop Harassing OHA

By Trustee Rowena Akana
March 2005

Source Submitted to various Letters to the Editor

Earl Arakaki should have disclosed his past conflicts with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in his March 10, 2005 letter to The Honolulu Advertiser.

It would have certainly made his negative spin on OHA’s efforts at the state legislature more understandable to your readers if they knew that Mr. Arakaki has repeatedly filed lawsuits (Arakaki v. Cayetano & Arakaki v. Lingle) challenging the constitutionality of both OHA and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.

Aside from this omission, Mr. Arakaki also failed to mention some other key facts in his attempt to confuse the public.

First, Mr. Arakaki questioned OHA’s request to the legislature for a more permanent office building. OHA is a state agency. Who else is more appropriate to fund a state building, for a state agency, than the state?

Second, Arakaki questioned the supposedly large amount of legislative requests for funds that OHA is supporting on behalf of its beneficiaries. He, of all people, should know that OHA has been constitutionally mandated to better the conditions of both Native Hawaiians and the Hawaiian community in general since 1978. OHA exists to advocate for Hawaiians in all levels of government, especially the state.

OHA lobbies the legislature on behalf of its constituents just like any other advocate organization. If Mr. Arakaki has a problem with the way state legislators are allocating state funds, he should take it up with them. Do not bad-mouth OHA just because it is better at lobbying the legislature than you and your cohorts.

Finally, I’d like to say to Mr. Arakaki that we get it already – you really, really don’t like OHA and you really, really wish that we would go away forever. But you and I both know that we’re not going anywhere. Even if OHA were to disappear tomorrow, each and every one of us, from Trustees to staff, would continue their efforts to assist the Hawaiian Community. Why not try and help us out instead of being a perpetual part of the problem?

The Time Has Come For Solidarity


October 2003 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  On Sunday, September 7, 2003, the Trustees and staff of OHA marched side-by-side down Kalakaua Avenue with more than 5,000 supporters of Native Hawaiian rights in a powerful show of unity.  The marchers included representatives from Kamehameha Schools, Hawaiian Ali’i Trusts, Royal Benevolent Society members, and sovereignty advocates.  Also showing their support were many non-Hawaiians, the most prominent being Governor Lingle.  The march was organized by the ‘Ilio’ulaokalani Coalition and ended in a rally at the Kapi’olani Park Bandstand where we were holding our Family Day celebration.

Many of us will mark August 20, 2003 a black day in Hawaiian history as a federal court judge forced Kamehameha Schools to enroll a non-Hawaiian student.  This act is so egregious that it may be the inciting incident that will finally galvanize Hawaiians to unite and fight for their rights.

It was encouraging to see that both supporters and opponents of the Hawaiian federal recognition were able to come together to march.  It showed that even though we may not agree on federal recognition, we can still come together to support justice for Native Hawaiians.

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. 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.

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 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.

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 cannot continue to let others decide our future.  We will be one nation and one people.

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

Racism Comes to Hawaii Vis-à-vis Freddy Rice

By: Trustee Rowena M.N. Akana
April 2000

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

Mr. Rice’s attorneys are riding high on the hog vis a vis their 15th amendment win in Rice vs. Cayetano. However, what the media has not reported is that Mr. Rice was the pawn used by the white, racist, and elitist group Campaign for A ColorBlind America (CCBA) to further its agenda to reverse any affirmative action initiatives and laws regarding the protection of native peoples’ rights.

The CCBA has written briefs that helped to overturn at least 10 Supreme Court cases about minorities and Native Americans. With the Rice case under his belt, CCBA executive Marc Levin announced that the organization would now pursue the elimination of other Hawaiian trusts and entitlements. CCBA is motivated by their belief that by the year 2020, minorities will control all of America, and whites will no longer be the controlling class. For this racist group, being a member of a minority group and being oppressed is unfathomable.

Echoing Mr. Levin’s sentiments is former attorney John Goemans, who plans to continue his fight to infiltrate the 50th state with overt racism and white supremacy. Although he is no longer licensed to practice law in Hawaii, Mr. Goemans has publicly stated that he intends to use the Rice victory as ammunition against programs that the Hawaiian people hold dear. Mr. Goemans says he is planning these attacks because “…all government programs, state and federal, for native Hawaiians are race based, presumptively unconstitutional, and up for challenge.”

With that said, it should not come as a surprise that CCBA is aiding Mr. Goemans in his quest to strip our people of what is historically due to us. According to the CCBA’s website (http://www.equalrights.com), it “assisted Goemans with his appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court and filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court.”

Mr. Goemans, along with others who challenge Hawaiian entitlements, should refer to the U.S. brief filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of OHA and the state that declares that Hawaiians are equal to Native Americans and Native Alaskan peoples. Therefore, any entitlements that Hawaiians enjoy cannot be considered race-based, but rather, political status entitlements as the native people of this land.

The Rice ruling underscores the need to build consensus on the issue of self-determination so that OHA can move forward as an agency that is “quasi- sovereign” rather than an arm of the state. One of the methods by which self-determination can be accomplished for our people is through federal legislation that would afford native Hawaiians the same special status as Native Americans now enjoy. We Hawaiians are at a juncture where we are able to restructure a nation that takes into consideration what is best suited for us. We have progressed insofar as to possess the ability to hold jurisdiction and control over our resources and lands. We do not need the state to decide these things for us.

Our Hawaiian voices need to be heard at the state legislature, and in the U.S. Congress. We must get involved in the legislative process, or risk having this process decided for us. To have others decide for us, strips Hawaiians of autonomy and the ability to decide for ourselves what is best for us.

This ruling should be a wake-up call for not just Hawaiians, but for the entire state. As a state, we need to stomp out any hint of racism. And as a Hawaiian community we need to tell our story and get the message out so that history will not be repeated for our future generations.

Hawaiians and Maoris Have Much in Common

By: Trustee Rowena Akana
Tuesday, April 1, 1997

Source: Honolulu Advertiser; Letter to Editor

Your March 22nd front-page article on unsettled Maori claims makes an interesting contrast with your March 24th editorial urging our Legislature to stand up to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs when we assert our own claims on behalf of native Hawaiians.

Substitute “Hawaiian” for “Maori” in the March 22nd story and you have written a pretty good account of the shameful way Polynesian people were treated here as well as in New Zealand.

The ceded-lands trust was intended by the U.S. government to somewhat redress this treatment. While I agree that the 20 percent share mandated to us by the Legislature is an arbitrary allocation not specified in the Admissions Act, it is too little, not too much, given the fact that these islands were once ours, just like New Zealand was the Maoris’ and was taken by force.

In this context, it was unfair of you to characterize Trustee Frenchy DeSoto’s proposed solution to the state’s pleading poor as being unreasonable or even as a demand.

Has it not occurred to you that we Hawaiians, like one of the Maoris quoted in the article, also are tired of being the “good nigger, master?”

Hawaiians Are Not the Enemy of the General Public

By Trustee Rowena Akana
February 8, 1997

A chaotic assault on Native Hawaiian entitlements got underway during the first week of the 1997 legislature. First, we heard the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs take a swat at OHA’s submission for general funds, our only source of assistance for Hawaiians who do not meet the legislatively imposed fifty-percent blood quantum. Then we saw the House judiciary committee Chair Terrence Tom bully out of committee a Constitutional Convention, structured to give our legislators summer jobs gutting Native Hawaiian entitlements in 1998. On top of that, there is a measure afoot to repeal the statute that allows us access to justice and lets us sue the State when it fails to comply with its trust obligation to Hawaiians.

Clearly, many of our lawmakers have bought into the Governor’s public relations blitz targeting Hawaiians as Public Enemy Number One. While the same old cronyism and mismanagement–woes he vowed to fix–continue, the Governor is trying to shift the blame for the State’s cloudy fiscal future to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Some very smart people are following his camera when they should be focusing elsewhere.

So that we are all on the same page, I’ll set out the numbers again. The State gets 80 percent of ceded land revenues, or the lion’s share of land leases and rents. Until OHA took the State to court and won a determination to the contrary, the State was assured of ALL of the “sovereign” income from the big-ticket tenants such as the airport, Duty Free Shops, the University of Hawaii, etc. In addition, it collects revenues via the highest income tax in the United States, the most inequitable and pervasive general excise tax and other sources of funding extracted from its citizens, including Hawaiians. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs gets 20 percent of the income from ceded land leases and rents. Period. While Circuit Court Judge Dan Heely determined that OHA should be getting a percentage of “sovereign” income too, OHA has never received any. In an attempt to make sure we never do, the State is appealing Judge Heely’s decision. Currently Cayetano & Co. are floating the rumor that a hired gun from the Mainland will replace their consistently losing team from the Attorney General’s Office. In case this suit is, once again, decided on the merits, there is a bill in the hopper, drafted last year and brought back from the dead by Representatives Calvin Say and Nathan Suzuki, the Governor’s bag men in the House, excluding “sovereign” income from the ceded lands formula.

All this leads to the conclusion that the State is following the federal example in reneging on its treaties with Native people. Sadly, it has successfully stirred up public resentment so that the betrayal appears justified. A recent Honolulu Star Bulletin article called for OHA’s revenue percentage to be reduced, and I would not be surprised to see a bill proposing such a reduction this session. The State has not told the public that the 20 percent figure represents a compromise by OHA, the legislature, and the Governor, ratified by the voters in 1978. What would prevent the State from claiming a new, lower figure is still too much? Clearly, Hawaiians cannot have any confidence in the State even when it commits its word to law.

And there is an even bigger shibai going on, one affecting Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike. Whether the legislature chews up Hawaiian entitlements piecemeal during this session or swallows them whole during a Constitutional Convention, the financial bottom line will not change. Considering the entire State budget, the annual sum owed OHA based on 20 percent is very small, hovering around one percent. Paying it in full and on time should not bankrupt a fiscally responsible State. On the other hand, eliminating the payment won’t be the solution to poor management. The real bottom line here is that no one should trust the State’s representations when it comes to Hawaiian entitlements. The non-Hawaiian public should realize that Hawaiians are sharing 80 percent of our trust with them. To take more from us than we are already giving would be unconscionable.

Does Blood Quantum Divide Us?

By Trustee Rowena Akana
October 3, 1994

The definition of “native Hawaiian” was not created by Hawaiians themselves. Indeed, the proviso was added to the language of the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act at the behest of powerful sugar planters who were anxious to preserve over 200,000 acres of choice, inexpensive leases.

Divide and rule. It was a classic tactic of colonial regimes throughout the world, including the Territorial Administration of Hawaii. The Territory used it all too well, filling the coffers of the sugar planters while maintaining Hawaiians in factionalized penury. Seventy years later, Hawaiians are still wondering whether or not we own our own land. And of course, in alienating Hawaiians from their land, Hawaiians were alienated from their spiritual and cultural selves as well.

Although OHA is mandated to serve all Hawaiians, its funding mechanism restricts benefits to native Hawaiians. This gulf between OHA’s mission and its means can be seen in the instruments that created it and in those that fund it. The 1978 Constitutional Amendment that created OHA clearly requires the Board of Trustees to “manage and administer” proceeds from ceded lands for “native Hawaiians and Hawaiians.” However, OHA’s sources of revenue make the agency unable to fulfill its purpose. HRS-10 refers back to the Admission Act, which in turn refers back to the HHCA, which dedicates funding exclusively for native Hawaiians. The Act defines native Hawaiian as “any descendent of not less than one-half part of the blood of the races inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands previous to 1778.”

In a place of such great multicultural diversity as our island home, many Hawaiians are already below the blood quantum. Even native Hawaiian families are often only a generation or two away from being in a similar predicament themselves. We are one people. We cannot afford to be divided by arguments about benefits or entitlements. Not when so much work remains to be done. The struggle to regain our sovereign rights requires unity and the strength of numbers.

The blood quantum must be scrapped and benefits extended to all Hawaiians with continued priority given to native Hawaiians. As the Hawaiian race continues to “thin out” over time, we must find new ways to redefine our ohana, and on our own terms. Previous definitions were motivated by greed and formulated by strangers. New definitions will be motivated by a sense of lokahi and aloha and formulated by Hawaiians.

There is a final irony to the question of blood quantum. In addition to the requirement’s egregious moral and political shortcomings, it suffers from a profound and extremely basic problem as well. That is the question of how “race” is defined on the state records that are used to confirm blood quantum. According to the State Department of Health, the race item on vital records is not an indication of genetic extraction but is the race claimed by the informant. Thus, the legal determination of an individual’s status as a trust beneficiary is not even made according to legal rules of evidence.

The blood quantum requirement must be amended, by State or Federal action, so that OHA can serve all of the people it was created to serve, now and in the future.