Molokai Commends OHA
When the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) grants money to Molokai organizations, each dollar gets stretched to its fullest thanks to the interconnectedness of the local community, OHA chairwoman Colette Machado said last week.
“We are truly blessed with how families extend and extend with the aloha,” she said during an annual Molokai community meeting hosted by the OHA Board of Trustees at the Kulana `Oiwi Halau last Wednesday. The event preceded the trustees’ board meeting Thursday.
More than 100 people packed the halau Wednesday night, and more than a dozen individuals and representatives of local organizations testified before the trustees for about four hours.
Most thanked OHA for funding and grants during the past year, including Na Pu`uwai’s Billy Akutagawa. He praised OHA for a $100,000 grant allowing Na Pu`uwai to accept Native Hawaiian senior citizens into its adult elder care program if they cannot afford the $66 a day fee.
“All of this is thanks to you in assisting us to move forward,” he said.
Lynn DeCoite of the Molokai Homestead Farmers Alliance also thanked OHA for their grant support, which allowed the group to run its second successful agricultural fair.
“Now we can actually have fun farming,” she said.
Others came to bring awareness about particular issues to the trustees, including resident activist Walter Ritte, who wanted OHA, among other issues, to provide a platform to talk about alternative energy, calling it “our kuleana as Hawaiians.”
“Nobody sees the value of this island,” he said, suggesting Molokai be used as a model for environmental responsibility. “We know how to be sustainable – that’s who we are.”
Kanoho Helm, an organizer of anti-wind group I Aloha Molokai (IAM), walked trustees and audience members through a detailed Power Point presentation outlining IAM’s stance against proposed wind farms on Molokai. Helm asked OHA trustees for their support in blocking the project – including windmills and an undersea cable to send energy to Oahu.
“There is no compromising our stance,” he said. “No matter the benefits people think they may get, there is no compromise.”
Machado said OHA has not taken a stance on the so-called Big Wind project, but added OHA appreciates that IAM has taken over educating people about the issue and hopes to appoint a staff to oversee its progress.
OHA’s Chief Advocate Esther Kia`aina outlined laws impacting Native Hawaiians signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie this year, including Act 195. The law formally recognizes Native Hawaiians as the indigenous people of Hawaii and “facilitates the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian government.”
It also calls for the creation of a five-person Native Hawaiian Roll Commission within OHA to facilitate the organization of native Hawaiians. OHA Chief Executive Officer Clyde Namu`o said he expects the governor to make appointments to the commission shortly after its Aug. 5 nomination deadline.
Act 195 is similar to the so-called Akaka bill, proposed by Hawaiian Senator Daniel Akaka, which seeks to establish a process to federally recognize Native Hawaiians much like Indian tribes. Namu`o said the bill has stalled as Congress battles over whether to raise the national debt limit.
Also passed during the past legislative session was Act 107. People may now sell hand-pounded pa`i ai, which is hand-pounded kalo undiluted with water, under certain conditions, even when it is made outside a certified kitchen and without Department of Health (DOH) permits. OHA supported the bill after DOH threatened to cite an individual in 2008 for selling pa`i ai because of sanitation concerns.
Per Act 54, the Department of Land and Natural Resources will coordinate with other state agencies and OHA to develop by 2014 a Public Land Trust Information System. The new agency will inventory public lands, largely made of former lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Act 170 calls for the creation of a Criminal Justice Task Force to focus on helping individuals avoid lives of crime. The push for a task force came from an OHA study showing that Native Hawaiians are imprisoned at a higher rate than other populations, despite being arrested at a comparable rate.
Other bills enacted include Act 95, which approved OHA’s 2011-2013 budget at $99,000 per year less than the $2.47 million originally requested due to budget shortfalls; Act 169, a public land sale amendments package; and Act 130, which supports charter school funding.
Peter Apo, a trustee who represents Oahu, thanked Molokai for its hospitality during the trustees’ visit. He described OHA as a “placeholder” until Native Hawaiians can reinstate Hawaii as its own nation.
“We came a long way in almost 40 years. We still have a long, long ways to go,” he said.