New Rules to Guide State Aha Moku
Molokai Aha Kiole News Release
Historic rules have been adopted by the state’s `Aha Moku Advisory Committee (AMAC). After almost two years of administrative rules discussion, AMAC voted to approve its Administrative Rules draft, thereby fulfilling a mandate handed down by the legislature in 2015.
The rules reflect the `ike (traditional knowledge) shared by Hawaiian cultural practitioners and kupuna throughout Ka Pae `Aina (the Hawaiian Islands). The rules also reaffirm statutory and constitutional protections of Native Hawaiian traditional and customary rights and practices and the public trust. The rules incorporate by reference the Paoakalani Declaration in order to protect Hawaiian traditional knowledge as a resource in itself that must be managed carefully and safeguarded from misappropriation. Finally, the rules uphold international law, namely, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with the `Aha Moku system serving as a customary decision-making process and vehicle for respecting free, prior, and informed consent.
In a vote of six ayes, one no vote, and one member not present, there was a clear majority for moving the process forward to meet the final Legislative report deadline in December. Through their vote to approve, committee members demonstrated their support that the process was pono.
One of the key components that the legislators required was engagement of stakeholders. `Aha Moku community meetings for the Rules Draft were held on each island in November of 2015. “We’ve had several revisions and took our time with this final one, making sure that throughout the process, there were opportunities to give feedback,” said Lori Buchanan, Molokaiʻs `Aha Kiole Pala`au Moku Representative.
Molokai’s own Malia Akutagawa (Mana`e Moku) was requested by AMAC vote to assist in revising the document to its final format, meeting both committee and public approval. Akutagawa is an Assistant Professor of Law and Hawaiian Studies at the Hawai`inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge – Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies and the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii – Manoa. Professor Akutagawa, assisted by her law students, provided the committee and their respective islands access to a continuous update of the working document over a four month period, from June to present.
“With her knowledge of Hawaiian practices and rights, Professor Akutagawa brought the kupuna into the revisions. It is their voices that will now be heard, finally, when bringing the resource issues of Hawaii Nei to the state, through this board,” said Buchanan.
The `Aha Moku Advisory Committee serves under the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), providing advice and recommendations for Hawaiian cultural and traditional best resource management and protection. The rules inform DLNR of Hawaiian Indigenous methodologies and provide the procedural pathway to communicating and resolving concerns from island `aha moku councils, to AMAC, and the respective DLNR divisions and other state, county, and federal agencies that have kuleana for managing natural and cultural resources in Hawaii.
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