By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: September 2007 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
`Ano`ai kakou… Honolulu attorney Walter Schoettle must like beating a dead horse. The Day v. Apoliona lawsuit against OHA is just another chapter in his long legal battle with OHA over the Hawaiian blood quantum percentage of beneficiaries. This war in the courts goes back 20 years. For example: Price v. Akaka (1993); Price v. Hawaii (1991); Price v. Akaka (1991); Price v. Hawaii (1990); and Price v. Hawaii (1985). (http://lp.findlaw.com/).
When I was first elected to OHA 17 years ago, Walter Schoettle was the attorney for The Hou Hawaiians (Nui Loa Price and Kamuela Price). They sued several federal and state officials, including OHA trustees. The district court denied the Hou’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed their complaint against all defendants. But that didn’t stop Schoettle.
Now Schoettle has a new strategy with Virgil Day, Mel Ho’omanawanui, Josiah Ho’ohuli, Patrick Kahawaiola’a and Samuel Kealoha (all of whom are 50 percent Hawaiian or more), to revisit blood quantum again. Their lawsuit argues that OHA’s $28 million annual budget should go to those with at least 50 percent Hawaiian blood. In essence, they don’t want to “share the wealth.” Let us not forget that blood quantum was never an issue with the Hawaiian Kingdom. It was the United States Congress who created the blood quantum percentage in the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Act. It was created to limit the number of Hawaiians who qualified for homelands, not to preserve our race. It is sad that even after 100 years, some Hawaiians don’t recognize when they are being used.
They also challenge OHA’s right to partially fund the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC), which provides Hawaiian families with affordable legal representation. Thousands of people who might not otherwise have been able to obtain legal advocacy have held on to valuable lands or received fair compensation for their lands. NHLC also helped others to obtain Hawaiian Homestead leases, water for taro farming, and access to shoreline areas for fishing. NHLC is the only non-profit, public interest law firm specializing in Hawaiian land and traditional rights.
Other groups that are threatened by the lawsuit include Alu Like, a non profit that funds Kupuna programs and assists Hawaiians with job training, and Na Pua No’eau, a Hawaiian language and culture program established at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. It is important to point out that all of these programs are also funded through matching funds by the legislature.
The lawsuit also objects to OHA’s use of trust funds to lobby the Akaka Bill in Congress. They seem to miss the point that without the Akaka bill, we may lose all of our Hawaiian Trusts and programs to lawsuits.
Walter Schoettle may be misleading his clients by telling them that unless they stop OHA, they will have to share their benefits, if the Akaka bill passes, with those with less than 50% Hawaiian blood. I say, “What benefits?” The only thing people with 50% or more Hawaiian blood are entitled to now are Hawaiian Home Lands.
On the other hand, all 1.4 million acres of Ceded Lands belong to all Hawaiians, regardless of their blood quantum. The Native Hawaiian Trust Fund is much bigger than the acreage under the control of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL). There is no need to be selfish. Their self-serving attitude will only end up dividing Hawaiians.
Another reason that some homesteaders listed in the lawsuit probably don’t want the Akaka bill to pass is that they only want sovereignty on DHHL Lands. How small-minded can these people be? Do they honestly believe that hundreds of thousands of Native Hawaiians are going to go along with such a terrible idea?
We all need to realize that if we fight over the entitlements we receive then we all end up losers. The only ones who end up winning are the Twigg-Smiths of the world. Virgil Day and the other 50% Hawaiians need to wake up and realize that they are only being used to divide us. Who wins if the Schoettles and the Burgess’ succeed? Certainly not the Hawaiians.
“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