Aloha, Senators Inouye and Akaka

`Ano`ai kakou…  My family and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Senator Daniel K. Inouye.  There are no adequate words to express this loss.  Our hearts and thoughts are with Sen. Inouye’s family, his countless friends, and his dedicated staff members during this difficult time.  We will always be grateful and remember Senator Inouye for his 50 years of public service as a U.S. Senator.

I am also so very grateful for Senator Daniel Akaka’s 36-years of service in Congress.  Senator Akaka’s many years of service and dedication to all the people of Hawaii is an ideal example that all future leaders should strive toward.  Mahalo nui loa for all of your hard work over the past 12-years to establish a solid foundation for all Native Hawaiians to utilize as we finally restore our native sovereignty.

Legislative Leadership Changes

Congratulations to new House Speaker Joe Souki.  A change in the Speakership is long overdue and a welcome turn of events.  I wish him and his new leadership team well in this legislative session.

The sudden passing of Senator Inouye brought about many changes in local politics, especially in the leadership of the State Senate.  Senate Vice-President Donna Mercado Kim will replace former Senate President Shan Tsutsui, who became Lt. Governor.  Newly appointed Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran has filled the void left by Lt. Governor Tsutsui.

Kewalo Basin

A great concern for OHA this year are the proposed “finger piers” that will front our property at Kewalo Basin.  After OHA signed the agreement with the State to receive the Kakaako Makai lands at Kewalo, the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) informed OHA about the finger piers that had been promised to an earlier developer who had already spent a great deal of cash on the development of the harbor.

This poses a huge problem for OHA.  Placing piers in front of our Fisherman’s Wharf property and the adjacent waterways will seriously reduces the value of our land and takes away our rights to develop our own piers.  I will keep you posted on this issue.

Kuleana Lands

Recognizing Kuleana Lands as historical lands is one of my priorities for the 2013 legislative session.  Last year, the Senate passed out a resolution protecting Kuleana Lands, but the former House Speaker killed the House version.  Not sure why.

Public Land Development Corporation

The Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) is a state entity created by the Legislature in 2011 to develop state lands and generate revenues for the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The PLDC became a highly controversial issue in the past legislative session, but the good news is that all parties now agree the PLDC needs to be repealed or it has to be significantly amended to incorporate the changes that the public has been demanding.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Coming together to support the Akaka Legislation


Senator Akaka responsible for the landmark Apology Resolution and establishing the “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander” category in the U.S. Census

`Ano`ai kakou…  I am so very grateful that Senator Daniel Akaka has chosen to chair the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.  The Senator’s announcement of retirement when his term expires in 2012 came as a shock to me.  However, his reason for choosing to lead the Indian Affairs Committee for his final two years in the Senate is obvious.

Senator Akaka’s dedication to all the people of Hawaii has been without question.  As a Native Hawaiian, he knows how important it is for our people to achieve native sovereignty.  This right, under the U.S. Constitution, exists for hundreds of Native American tribes and Alaska Natives.  Hawaiian Natives remain the only group yet to be acknowledged and recognized by the U.S. Native Hawaiians must have the same rights under the law and Constitution that Alaska Natives and Native Americans have.

To insure our sovereign rights, the U.S. must recognize us as the only Native people of Hawaii.  Our culture lives on in our language, history, dance, music, and historical sites.

The 2011 Akaka bill, S.675, can be downloaded through the Library of Congress website at:  The language within the bill is virtually identical to S. 1011 as it was passed out of the Indian Affairs Committee back in December 2009.  A “markup” of S.675 was scheduled for April 7th.

Loretta Tuell Named Chief Council, Indian Affairs Committee

On March 24th the trustees met with Loretta Tuell who was appointed by Senator Akaka to be the next Staff Director/Chief Council for the Indian Affairs Committee.  Ms. Tuell has previously served on the committee as Counsel to former Chairman Senator Daniel Inouye.  She grew up on the Nez Perce reservation and she is a former partner at Anderson Tuell LLP, an American Indian-owned law firm in Washington, D.C.

I have known Loretta for 12 years now and I am confident that her wealth of knowledge and experience in
Indian law and her familiarity with issues facing Native Hawaiians will give us the extra push we need to get the Akaka bill passed this time.

Ms. Tuell comes with impeccable credentials including:

  • Graduate of Washington State University;
  • Law degree from UCLA;
  • Senior Executive Program at Harvard University;
  • Extensive experience with the Department of the Interior, the Office of American Indian
    Trust, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
  • An appointee to the Federal Task Force for Native Hawaiians; and
  • The 2009 American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Award, a prestigious award for
    woman attorneys.

State Recognition Update

By the end of March, both competing State Recognition for Native Hawaiian bills — Senate Bill 1 (Senator Solomon) and SB 1520 (Senator Hee) — were passed out of the House Hawaiian Affairs and Judiciary Committees.  The bills have until an April 8th deadline to be approved by the House Finance Committee.

I urge everyone interested in helping to pass these bills to please send letters of support or e-mails to House Speaker Calvin Say, Finance Committee Chair Rep. Marcus Oshiro and Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Faye Hanohano.

Aloha Ke Akua.

Senator Akaka: Hawaii’s most beloved public servant


`Ano`ai kakou…  I was saddened that after months of thinking about his political future, Senator Daniel Akaka decided not to run for re-election in 2012 after serving in the U.S. Senate from 1990 to the present and 13 years previously in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Over the years, I have worked closely with Senator Akaka on important issues such as fighting for proper medical care of our Hawaii National Guardsmen while he was the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and I look forward to working with him over the next two years on Federal Recognition for Native Hawaiians now that he is the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Senator Akaka serves as the best example of how a lawmaker can get the job done with kindness and humility without having to resort to any political shenanigans or negativity.  He will certainly be sorely missed in a Congress that is now more and more focused on being combative and polarizing.

Senator Akaka has been our strongest advocate in Congress and in 1993, working with Senator Daniel Inouye, he passed the Apology Resolution, where the United States officially apologized for its part in the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.  I believe no one can represent the Hawaiian community as thoughtfully as Senator Akaka has and whoever prevails in 2012
will have some very big shoes to fill.

Senator Akaka deserves a great big MAHALO for his life long service to Hawaii.  There is still much work to be accomplished over the next two years and I look forward to working closely with Senator Akaka to get them done.


Here is an update on important Native Hawaiian bills that are working their way through the legislature.

State Recognition

Senate Bill 1 (SB1), introduced by Senator Malama Solomon, was passed out of its final Senate Committees and will be crossing over to the House for consideration.  This bill will address a long overdue formal recognition by the State of Hawaii of its indigenous people.

SB1520, introduced by Senator Clayton Hee, also passed out of its final Senate Committee and will be crossing over to the House.  SB 1520 would establish procedures for state recognition of a first nation government similar to what is described in the
Akaka bill, but at the state level.

Past Due Ceded Lands Settlement

SB 984 & HB399, part of the OHA Package of bills, seeks to have the State resolve its long overdue debt to OHA resulting from public land trust revenues unpaid from 11/7/1978 to 7/1/2010.  Both bills failed to make it out of its final committee before the crossover deadline and are now considered “dead” for this session.  However, as anyone who has lobbied the legislature knows, there are ways to resurrect bills from the dead.  The language of either SB984 or HB399 could be inserted into another bill that is still alive, resurrecting it.  So there is still hope of a settlement in this legislative session.  Another alternative is a concurrent resolution which is being considered as I write this column.

Aloha Ke Akua.

Supporting the Passage of H.R. 2314, Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act Of 2010


Source: May 2010 Ka Wai Ola Column

More than 50 years after statehood, the long-awaited reconciliation between the Native Hawaiian people and the United States Federal Government took a major step closer to reality as the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved H.R. 2314 on February 23, 2010.

This was the third time that former-United States Representative Neil Abercrombie has passed such a bill out of the U.S. House of Representatives since he was first elected to Congress on November 6, 1990.

H.R.2314 makes it clear that Native Hawaiians will have the inherent powers and privileges of a native government, including self-determination, with the exception of the right to conduct gaming.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation has strongly supported negotiating at the federal level for a resolution on Hawaiian issues which remain after the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani.

Since the year 2000, United States Senator Daniel K. Akaka has introduced legislation, now popularly known as the “Akaka bill,” to provide a structured process for all Hawai’i residents to come together and begin the process of bringing about meaningful reconciliation and healing within the Native Hawaiian community.

On February 22, 2010, the Hawaii Congressional Delegation released the final text H.R.2314, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2010, which was fine-tuned in consultation between the Hawaii’s congressional delegation and the White House, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Interior, the State of Hawaii and stakeholders in the Native Hawaiian community.

The changes to H.R.2314 clarify the authority and powers of the Native Hawaiian Governing Entity prior to negotiations, while ensuring that the final bill is legally sound and consistent with U.S. policy toward indigenous people and their native governments.

These clarifications represent a genuine effort to address the State of Hawai’i’s concerns while maintaining the original purpose of the bill, which is to establish federal recognition for Native Hawaiians.

H.R.2314 provides Native Hawaiians with an opportunity for self determination and cultural preservation, while empowering them to be an equal partner with the state and federal government.

H.R.2314 does not alter the sovereign immunity of the United States or the State of Hawaii nor does it transfer any lands to the Native Hawaiian governing entity.

Hawaii’s entire Congressional Delegation, Senator Daniel Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka, former-Congressman Neil Abercrombie, and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, along with Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor James Duke Aiona, have all proclaimed their support for recognition of a Native Hawaiian governing entity, demonstrating the high priority of this issue for the people of Hawaii and its importance over and beyond any political party affiliations.

Failure to secure the passage of federal recognition for Native Hawaiians would result in continuing legal challenges to Hawaiian programs and 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.

Until the next time.  Aloha pumehana.

What happens to Injured Guardsmen Returning Home from Iraq?

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, June 2007

Last month, I met with several injured beneficiaries in the Hawaii Army National Guard who called my office about problems they were having with their medical care in the Army’s new Medical Retention Processing Unit (MRPU). After listening to the shocking treatment that they were receiving, I called the offices of Senator Daniel Akaka and Congressman Neil Abercrombie and together we coordinated a meeting between the Guardsmen and the Brigadier General of the Hawaii Army National Guard. During the meeting, a disturbing pattern emerged.


After a Hawaii Army National Guardsman gets injured in Iraq, he is sent to Tripler for treatment and assigned a case manager to help coordinate his care under the MRPU Plan. The problem is that the case managers are not following the plan’s guidelines. According to the soldiers, there is a huge disconnect between the medical personnel and their patients. Army doctors and case managers contradict each other and confuse soldiers over their treatment plan. Some soldiers are told they will be having corrective surgery, and then later told they will only be given medication.

Two Guardsmen who had the same case worker complained that she was condescending and culturally insensitive. When there was a misunderstanding, this case worker refused to make appointments or prolonged their wait for treatment. When they asked for a different case worker, they are denied and later harassed by hospital personnel for complaining. This is especially hard for local Guardsmen who feel that their communication skills may not be the best.

To make matters worse, the MRPU regularly loses or mixes-up the soldiers’ files and doesnít allow soldiers to make copies. They are also not given their medical records upon release to take to Veteran Affairs (VA).


The biggest problem with the MRPU seems to be an “unwritten” rule in the plan to rotate soldiers out after they have received 365 days of medical care. Some are rotated out without a doctor’s approval while they are still in need of operations and therapy. In several cases, a case worker’s signature appears where a doctor’s signature should be, which goes against MRPU regulations. Non-medical personnel should not be prescribing treatments.

Although an Army doctor may sign an extension for a soldier to continue his treatment beyond 12-months, this is rarely done. Soldiers are left with nowhere to go except the Veteran’s Hospital. Rotating National Guard soldiers out of the MRPU and sending them on to the VA appears to be an expedient way of getting rid of those wounded soldiers.

These soldiers are suffering from serious injuries such as dislocated shoulders and blown-off kneecaps which haven’t received all of the medical care they need to fully recover. Fixing half-a-soldier and sending them on to the Veteran’s Hospital for the rest of their medical care is simply inhumane.


To add insult to injury, because of the tremendous strain on the Veterans’ hospitals due to the many soldiers and Army National Guardsmen returning from Iraq with serious injuries, there is an 18-month wait to be processed by the VA for treatment. This leaves the Guardsmen without medical treatment for almost two years and takes a huge physical and psychological toll for the Guardsmen and their families, many of whom cannot afford expensive surgeries on their own. All of these Guardsmen are also suffering from psychological problems such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and trouble sleeping from sleep apnea and are in desperate need of continued treatment.


The Guardsman assert, and rightly so, that they were wounded in combat and therefore should be treated by the Army until they can return to duty or are able to go back to some sense of a normal life. Guardsmen being rotated out with only a meager 10-20% disability pay cannot support their families when they go back to civilian life or expect to get a job that can. The Army should at least get them back into the best physical shape possible.

There is a huge disparity between the treatment of National Guardsman and a full-time Army soldier when there should be none. They both face the same dangers on the front lines and received the same horrific injuries. They deserve the same medical attention. In fact, we need to help them more since they need to re-enter the civilian workforce when they get back home.

The following needs to happen to improve their situation:

* Either disband the MRPU or treat National Guardsman the same as full-time Army soldiers if they have been injured or wounded as a result of being activated for combat duty.

* Launch an investigation of the MRPU, Tripler, and the procedures of the medical personnel and administrative staff as soon as possible.

* Establish, in Army regulations, that Army National Guardsmen can receive treatment from the MRPU until they are either ready to return to duty or ready to return to civilian life.

* Establish stricter oversight over the Army’s medical treatment system regarding wounded soldiers.

I am very happy to report that since my initial meeting with these Hawaii Army National Guardsmen, there have been some positive results. Both the offices of Senator Daniel Akaka and Congressman Neil Abercrombie have been diligent in addressing these issues with highest levels at Tripler Hospital. On the national level, Senator Akaka is looking at ways to address the Guardsmen’s concerns so that all Army National Guardsmen everywhere can be treated with parody equal to any member of the armed services who serves on active duty.

If you believe that our Hawaii Army National Guardsmen, when injured in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else while serving on active duty should be extended the same kind of medical treatment as our regular forces, I urge you to write to your local and federal elected officials to express your support for these soldiers.

NAPALC Supports Legislation Recognizing Native Hawaiians

By: Andrew Rice, 202-296-2300
September 9, 2003

Source: National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium Press Release

Washington, D.C.–The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium announces its support for legislation sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), granting federal recognition of Native Hawaiians.

Senate Bill 344, known as the “Akaka Bill,” would give federal recognition to Native Hawaiians as an indigenous group, qualifying them for health and welfare initiatives currently focused on Native American and Native Alaskan groups. This legislation also establishes a process for the formation of a sovereign entity representing Native Hawaiian interests in a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

“Passage of the Akaka Bill is vital to the preservation of the Hawaiian people and their culture and would continue the reconciliation process between the U.S. Government and the Native Hawaiian people, as authorized in the 1993 Apology Bill,” said Karen K. Narasaki, President and Executive Director of NAPALC

“This legislation extends the federal policy of self-determination and self-governance to Native Hawaiians. It authorizes a process of reorganization of a Native Hawaiian government for the purposes of a federally recognized government-to-government relationship with the United States,” said Sen. Akaka. “This measure establishes parity in federal policies toward American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. I commend NAPALC for joining the impressive coalition of organizations supporting this important legislation.”

Board of Trustees Finally Passes A Program For Kupuna Health!

By Rowena Akana
August 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

SAGE PLUS: A Beginning

On June 20, 2002, the OHA Board of Trustees passed a program to ensure that Kupuna will be counseled on signing up for medical benefits they may be eligible for.

The Native Hawaiian Task Force was convened in 1999. The group was charged with developing health care options for OHA to pursue and originally focused on four underserved groups–keiki, ‘opio, kupuna,and underinsured makua. After reviewing many health care options, the task force decided that OHA should, in the least, provide a service to help kupuna sign up for any medical benefits they may be eligible for. OHA will partner with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the SAGE PLUS Program, operated by the State of Hawaii Executive Office on Aging, to develop an outreach program to ensure Native Hawaiian Kupuna are getting all of the Medicare and Medicaid benefits to which they are entitled.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that at least 50% of seniors who are eligible for Medicare Savings programs and/or Medicaid are not receiviing these benefits. It has been determined that over 16,000 Native Hawaiian kupuna are potentially eligible for program benefits. We would like to reach as many of this group as we can.

SAGE PLUS is a program which trains peer volunteers to provide information to senior citizens regarding available programs and eligibility requirements for Medicare and other benefits. The program also ensures that volunteers are linked into a network of providers who assist kupuna in a variety of areas. SAGE PLUS provides the initial training (two 8-hour sessions) and monthly follow-up to peer volunteers on each island. O’ahu volunteers receive weekly follow-up meetings. These follow-up meetings are necessary to keep the volunteers up to date. The volunteers will be trained to

* Explain Medicare, Medicare supplements, Medicare choices, and Medicaid;
* Explain benefits and coverage;
* Assist in completing and submitting claim forms, and
* Assist in contacting appropriate agencies to gather information and to make appropriate referrals.

At this time, my heartfelt thanks to the Native Hawaiian Task Force members and former members for all the time and effort they put in getting a health project passed to help our kupuna:

Current members: Dr. Thomas Au (Kauka Hui); Kim Birnie (Kauka Hui); Beth Geisting (Primary Care Assoc.); Claire Hughes (DOH, OHE); Richard Jackson (Queen’s Health Systems); Na’u Kamali’i (Papa Ola Lokahi); Kirk Lange (DOH OHP); Pi’ilani Pang (HMSA Uninsured Project); Mary Rydell (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services); Hardy Spoehr (Papa Ola Lokahi); and Paul Tom (HMA, Inc.). Past members have included Dr. Charmin Akina, Dr. Naleen Andrade, Gladys Brandt, Stephen Chong, Beadie Dawson, Sam Millington, Professor Noreen Mokuau, Charles Nakoa, Richard Paglinawan, Robert Oshiro, Sister Beatrice Tom, and Dr. Benjamin Young.

On another note:

“For the Love of Country: A Discussion About Native Americans Contribution to the U.S.” will be held on July 15 and 16, hosted by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the Alaska Federation of Natives, National Congress of American Indians, DHHL, OHA, and Senators Akaka and Inouye.

This effort is being planned to help garner support for the passage of Senate Bill 746, better known as the Akaka Bill. My next column will be devoted to this event–bringing you up close to all the events that took place in Washington, D.C. during this two-day event. Until then, a hui hou!

OHA Chair issues statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision

By: OHA Chair Rowena M.N. Akana
March 22, 1999

Source: Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Media Release

HONOLULU–As you all are surely aware, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal in the case of Rice vs. Cayetano. This comes as no surprise, however unpleasant. This case has been doggedly appealed to the highest court in the land, which I am hopeful will let stand the previous decisions by District Court Judge David Ezra and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals justices. It is especially worth noting that Senator Daniel K. Akaka has echoed this sentiment in an earlier statement today. As noted by our distinguished senator, The Ninth Circuit correctly determined that the OHA voting restriction “is not primarily racial, but legal and political.” I fully agree with Senator Akaka that the Supreme Court should without hesitation affirm that principle. Additionally, we share the view that this is a political question better left to Congress, the State of Hawai’i, and Native Hawaiians.

If there is a silver lining regarding the Supreme Court’s willingness to take this case to another level, it is that we once and for all will end the incessant challenges by Mr. Rice to the rights of the indigenous people of these lands. I am confident that our Attorney General will represent the interests of the Hawaiian people to the fullest extent. I will do what I can to assist our Attorney General to ensure that we never allow the clock to be turned back to a time when the rights of the minority, indigenous people, were trampled under foot of the majority.