More OHA News


Source: September 2009 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column


Despite the serious concerns voiced by our administrator regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Observatory Project, on July 2, 2009, the board of trustees voted in favor of an OHA resolution supporting the selection of Mauna Kea as the site for the proposed project.  Trustees Cataluna, Waihee, and I were excused from the meeting and did not vote for the measure.

On July 22, 2009, Advertiser Staff Writer Mary Vorsino reported that Mauna Kea was selected for the TMT project despite the strong opposition from Native Hawaiian and environmental groups.  While Mauna Kea is considered sacred to us, the environmentalists are concerned about how the project will impact rare native plant and insect species at the top of the mountain.

The planning and permitting stage will begin in 2010.  Construction is scheduled to begin in 2011 and completed in 2018.  While this may seem like a done deal, the opposition posed by potential lawsuits could delay work on the new telescope. 


According to a July 16, 2009 Honolulu Advertiser article, the Kahana Valley living cultural park was established 30 years ago to preserve one of the few surviving ahupua’a.  Residents who were living there at the time received 50-year leases in exchange for 25 hours of work a month on cultural activities.  Last year, the state attorney general discovered that the leases had expired and six families without leases were told to leave.

During this past legislative session, Rep. Jessica Wooley introduced HB 1552 which authorizes the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to issue long-term residential leases to qualified persons in state living parks. The bill also establishes living park planning councils to develop state living park master plans to ensure the living park achieves its purpose and goals.  Mostly importantly the bill establishes a 2-year moratorium on evictions of residents of Kahana valley state park.

On July 8, 2009, Governor Linda Lingle said she intended to veto the bill and this forced residents to schedule a protest rally the very same day.  After the bill was vetoed on July 15, 2009 by the Governor, the veto was quickly overridden and passed into law by the legislature, much to the relief of Kahana Valley residents.  Those residents who faced eviction last October will be allowed to remain in their homes and the way is now paved for more leases.


According to a July 17, 2009 Advertiser article by Rick Daysog, a lawsuit was filed in state Circuit Court on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 by Princess Abigail Kawananakoa against the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the Department of Health, the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) and Kawaiaha’o Church.

Princess Kawananakoa believes that Kawaiaha’o church officials and construction workers dug up and disturbed the burial plot of her ancestor Queen Kapi’olani and those of other Hawaiian families.  She also alleged that the church skirted state burial laws, with the help of state officials, to fast-track the construction of the project.  “This project is about greed, not God,” Princess Kawananakoa said in an e-mail to The Advertiser. “I must take this to court because I cannot allow the desecration of Hawaiian graves to continue.”

In April, church officials denied that the Kapi’olani plot had been impacted.  However, a month later, they said they were unsure whether construction work had dug into the Kapi’olani plot.

George Van Buren, an attorney for Princess Kawananakoa, wrote in the lawsuit that the church and DLNR officials should have known it would find human remains because the property used to be part of the cemetery.  Van Buren also stated that church officials and the DLNR disregarded the advice of the church’s archaeological consultants, who recommended a “subsurface archaeological study for iwi, or bones, and other cultural artifacts” before beginning construction.  “Kawaiaha’o Church was concerned that any archaeological inventory survey would discover a concentration of human burial remains in the graveyard that could hinder and/or perhaps halt construction of the multipurpose center,” Van Buren said.

DLNR officials would not comment, saying they have not yet reviewed Kawananakoa’s lawsuit. 


The Advertiser also reported that Dana Naone Hall, former chairwoman of the Maui-Lana’i Island Burial Council, also plans to sue DLNR and church officials over their handling of the matter.  Naone Hall, who has relatives buried within the church’s cemetery ground, said that state law requires Kawaiaha’o officials to do an environmental assessment of the property since the church is a “designated historic site.” 

In her July 2, 2009 letter to DLNR, the Department of Health, and the Oahu Island Burial Council, Naone Hall has brought up the following serious concerns:

(1) The necessity to be clear about burial sites and cemeteries on Kawaiaha’o Church properties;

(2) The history of repeated disinterment of Native Hawaiian burials should not continue without any standards;

(3) DLNR has not conducted the Historic Preservation Review required by its own rules;

(4) Kawaiaha’o is not a cemetery as defined in HRS Chapter 441 and HRS 6E-41;

(5) The burials that were identified during construction were known about beforehand not “inadvertent discoveries.”

(6) DLNR and DOH do not possess the legal authority to disinter burials at Kawaiaha’o Church in the manner suggested in DLNR’s June 11, 2009 letter to Kawaiaha’o Church; and

(7) The agencies cannot permit any further construction on the Kawaiaha’o Church property until the Environmental Assessment is lawfully concluded.

Until the next time.  Aloha pumehana.

Thanks for trying, Senators Hanabusa & Hee


Source: July 2009 Ka Wai Ola Column

I want to send out a Big Mahalo to all of the state senators who tried to resolve the ceded land revenue issue once and for all, especially Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and Senator Clayton Hee. 

Senator Hee introduced Senate Bill 995, which attempted to resolve the claims and disputes relating to OHA’s portion of income from the public land trust between 11/7/1978 and 7/1/2009.  Senator Hee’s proposal offered OHA $251 million in cash and 20 percent of the 1.8 million acres of ceded lands to be determined in negotiations between the agency and the Lingle administration.

SB995 would have given OHA the right to choose from the following properties, among many others:

(1)  Kaka’ako Makai;

(2)  Kahana Valley and Beach Park;

(3)  La Mariana and Pier 60;

(4)  Heeia meadowlands;

(5)  Mauna Kea: Mauna Kea Scientific Reserve;

(6)  Waikiki Yacht Club;

(7)  Ala Wai Boat Harbor Complex;

(8)      Kalaeloa Makai; and

(9)      Any and all other lands, together with the State’s interest in any and all improvements thereon, that the State may agree to convey to OHA;

Even a few of these properties could generate all of the revenue OHA needs to operate indefinitely and would have given our future nation the concrete assets it needs to serve the Hawaiian population. 

OHA can never be a self-sufficient organization as long as our leadership is content with begging the legislature for a 20% share of ceded land revenues every year – funds which can be taken away from us at anytime.  SB995 would have made Native Hawaiians self-sufficient (the very essence of sovereignty) and relieved the State of Hawaii of a large burden on their budget.  Unfortunately, this opportunity has once again slipped away from OHA’s hands.  AUWE!

So why did SB995 fail to pass during the last days of the legislature?  According to an article written by Advertiser Staff Writer Gordon Y. K. Pang on May 2, 2009, “key House members” declined to support the bill, but everyone knows that all of these key members are directed by House Speaker Calvin Say.  It doesn’t surprise me that Speaker Say killed the bill since he has not supported many Hawaiian issues.  Rumor has it that he had help from certain Hawaiians who conducted some hard, backdoor lobbying.  Speaker Say has also told OHA’s administration that he doesn’t want to see another settlement bill next year.

Pang’s article also stated that the OHA trustees were “lukewarm” in their support of SB995.  I am baffled by this statement since the board voted unanimously to support the bill with a few technical changes by our attorney, Bill Meheula.  When I later spoke with Pang, he said that Trustee Stender told him that the board did not formally support the bill, which is funny, since I remember Stender voting for it.  The lack of any coherent vision offered by our current leadership has been a set-back for OHA for the last seven years.  The mixed signals that are given on the boards’ behalf have also been less than honest.

I believe that if SB995 passed, the Governor would have vetoed it.  For all the praises she sang about helping the Hawaiian Community, at best it appears the Governor and her Attorney General have done everything they could to limit their support for OHA and its beneficiaries.

The Attorney General’s latest betrayal to Native Hawaiians is to remove his support for the Akaka bill if the original version from the year 2000 is introduced.  According to him, it is unconstitutional.  This has forced our congressional delegation to pullback the 2000 version and re-introduce last year’s bill that Republicans in Congress bastardized.  I say why rush this bill through now?  The Lingle administration will be gone next year.  At the same time, the democratic controlled Congress and a President who has pledge to sign the bill when it reaches his desk should be a better fit for us.


The Kawaiaha’o Church Multi-Purpose Center Construction Project

In early May of 2006, OHA contributed $1 million to help rebuild Likeke Hall at Kawaiaha’o Church.  However, reconstructing Likeke Hall has now turned into a “Multi-Purpose Center,” which will house offices, a nursery, archives, meeting space and a kitchen.

As many of you have certainly heard in the media, construction of the Multi-Purpose Center was put on hold in April after 69 sets of human remains were discovered by workers.  On May 27, 2009, OHA sent a letter to the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) regarding our serious concerns about the ongoing discovery of remains and the treatment of unmarked burial sites on the Kawaiaha’o Church property. (NOTE: At the time of this writing, we have not heard from SHPD).

State law requires that any discovered skeletal remains that appear to be over 50-years-old cannot be moved without the state Department of Health’s (DOH) approval.  However, since the church didn’t have names for the deceased, which DOH requires, the issue fell under the jurisdiction of SHPD.

OHA feels that a “good faith interpretation of the law” would require inventory level testing of any area proposed for construction.  OHA also stresses that if any remains are identified, that they be treated in accordance with the law as in previously identified burial sites.  The Oahu Island Burial Council also needs to be allowed to determine the ultimate disposition of the remains in consultation with identified lineal and cultural descendants; and this time, be given AN ACCURATE MAP of where the graves are located.

Since the area of Kawaiaha’o Cemetery and the surrounding area headed makai hold hundreds of unmarked ancestral Native Hawaiian burial sites, OHA strongly advised against removing or redesignating portions of Kawaiaha’o Church Cemetery just to make the Multi-Purpose Center easier to build.

OHA also reminded SHPD that construction workers need to remember that the surrounding soil contains fragments of our iwi kupuna that are too small to be noticed or properly recovered.  Given the powerful reverence for iwi kupuna within our Native Hawaiian community, the soil should also be treated with the utmost respect.  There should also be no utility lines, sewer lines or grease trap within the vicinity of human burial sites.

I strongly believe that construction should have been halted as soon as the first group of iwi was unearthed.  A REPUTABLE archeologist should have immediately contacted the Oahu Island Burial Council.  Instead, what seems to have occurred is that many of the iwi kupuna were placed in lauhala baskets and stored under the church.  The workers then destroyed all of the caskets, making the iwi almost impossible to identify.  This is a flagrant act of desecration no matter what culture a person comes from and it is unbelievable that it was allowed to occur at Kawaiaha’o Church.  The people responsible for this egregious act should be called upon to explain how this could have happened.

It is also unfathomable to me that a construction firm could possibly get a permit to desecrate such a sacred burial site in this manner without proper authorization.  One has to question if they even had all of the proper permits to proceed.  It is my understanding that the graves were unearthed with only a grading permit!  I believe that all of this could have been prevented if they had simply taken the time to do things right before construction started.  Now they are forced to work backwards to fix their mistakes after the damage has been done.

This project must not be allowed to continue until a plan can be agreed upon by all parties, including lineal descendants.  Let us pray that all sides can work together to care for the iwi kupuna in a pono way.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Privatization: Good Deal or Sellout?

By: Trustee Rowena Akana
March 6, 1998

Another Opportunity for the People…. To Lose!!

Governor Ben Cayetano is calling for privatization of the State Historic Preservation Division. His suggestion calls for the firing of Historic Preservation Division staff, and reassigning their work to archaeologists who would be hired by developers to review their work. What a sweetheart deal this is…for the developers and consultants. It will save the State money primarily because the State is removing itself from most of the process, but it sells out their responsibility to monitor and prevent actions that are culturally and environmentally insensitive. These suggestions to “pass the buck” by the Governor, Legislators, and Joe Souki have once again placed the general public and the Hawaiian people in the loser column.

Allowing developers to hire their own hand-picked archeologists is tantamount to saying that all developers are not only honest and honorable, but culturally sensitive to the historic importance of our Aina. Does H-3 ring any alarm bells for you? We have a history of developers trying to brush aside any considerations for the history and culture of these islands.

“Letting developers hire archaeologists to review their projects is like ‘letting the Mafia police the Mafia,'” said Patrick Kirch of the University of California, Berkeley, in a recent Honolulu Advertiser article. Giving this kind of power to developers could lead to abuses that would allow high rise condos and shopping centers to be built on sacred refuges or burial grounds which are so important to Hawaii’s history. This form of privatization has some serious drawbacks, but the greatest concern is that it will diminish the quality of historic preservation work in Hawaii and allow greater destruction of Hawaiian sites and burials for the sake of development. The opportunity for the developer to skew the review in their favor is great since he is the employer of both the consultant doing the study, and the consultant reviewing it for adequacy.

The State has previously shown its tendency to avoid its statutory responsibilities in the handling of the burials program within the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). For the past two years OHA has funded two positions, including all the fringe benefits, for the burials program although the statutes mandate positions for this program, and the Legislature provides funding for it. Why is OHA funding positions for which the State has responsibility? Perhaps it’s another form of privatizing. Again, the State is passing the buck. There have been attempts to permanently move this program to OHA, but by doing so the program would lose its purpose because OHA has no enforcement powers. Moving this program to OHA would be detrimental to its existence unless the Governor and Legislature work to grant OHA enforcement powers, as required by statute.

In November 1997, I criticized the effort by the Governor and DLNR to privatize small boat harbors. In the article, I pointed out that WestRec Marinas lobbied the Governor and Michael Wilson, hoping to get a consulting agreement with DLNR to manage small boat harbors for the State. My concern then was for the people. What would happen to the local fishermen and the submerged lands in the harbor when boat harbors became privatized?

My concern is still that of the people of this state, and of the Aina. Whether the Governor privatizes the State Historic Preservation Division or the management of small boat harbors more public input is needed before being seriously considered.

Over the last two years I have watched what appears to be a very sinister move on the part of the administration and certain legislators to create commissions and divisions of the State government to divide and parcel out sections of ceded land so as to remove them from the main corpus of ceded lands. We only have to look at the bills being introduced into the Legislature to see this. Upon statehood in 1959, the State Constitution named two beneficiaries of Hawaiian lands: the Native Hawaiians and the general public. Therefore, it is my view that the general public should be as concerned as the Hawaiian people are that the State government does not breach its fiduciary responsibility as trustees to the public land trust. In the 1998 general elections we must tell these legislators that they can no longer mismanage our tax dollars and then cover their tracks with the use of ceded land.