Staking a Claim
Cultural and environmental healing for the DHHL
By Catherine Cluett
A place to call home may be on the horizon for many Hawaiians waiting to receive Hawaiian Homeland property. Not only would future generations be given an inheritance of land, but thanks to a new energy policy, they could be left with a legacy of renewable resources and sustainability they would be proud to call their own.
Representatives from the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) held a “beneficiary consultation” meeting with Molokai community members last Wednesday to discuss what additional land the Department should acquire on Molokai. They also sought residents’ feedback on a new DHHL energy policy that will affirm Hawaiians’ commitment to sustainability and make renewable energy resources more accessible to the community. DHHL’s Administrator Darrell Yagodich and Planner Bob Freitas both gave presentations to a large gathering.
In 1995, the United States legislature passed a bill to resolve controversies over Hawaiian Homelands dating as far back as 1920, and to restore trust lands that had been lost as a result of those controversies. Currently, the DHHL is working on Land Acquisition Proposals that authorize the DHHL to negotiate the acquisition of this land from the state of Hawaii to restore the lost Hawaiian home lands trust.
In 1995, Molokai had 25,366 acres of DHHL land, and since then 403 acres have been added in Ualapue. Other land around the state has also been added since the act was passed, including land on Lanai, an island that previously had no DHHL acreage, said Yagodich. DHHL receives $30,000 per year from the state until the year 2015, so the Department is anxious to move forward with acquisitions before the funds run out.
The purpose of the Land Acquisition Proposals, Yagodich explained, is to look at the state’s lands on Molokai and other islands to choose land that should be acquired by the DHHL. The Department is looking for suggestions by January 18, and will take action by March or April of 2009, according to Yagodich.
Molokai residents in attendance offered comments and land acquisition recommendations. Suggestions included Kalaupapa, all fishponds on Molokai, and portions of Pelekunu and Wailau valleys.
New acquisition priorities as set by the DHHL include residential homesteads, income generating property, land consolidation (which means combining two parcels into one large one to acquire the land between them), and community benefit.
While future generations may benefit from new additions to Homelands on Molokai, such existing acquisitions as Ualapue remain unused today. there are still many Hawaiians on the waiting list to receive land, as residents at the meeting pointed out. Yagodich explained that a lack of funds to create the infrastructure in Ualapue needed for residential use is to blame for its current status.
The green bug is spreading. DHHL is following the state’s initiative for sustainability and renewable energy options for Hawaiians. The Department drafted an energy policy as part of an initiative called Ho‘omaluō that will help Hawaiians and the broader community achieve energy self-sufficiency.
Currently, 90 percent of Hawaii’s energy comes from fossil fuels. Freitas reminded his listeners that the state spends $70,000 on oil resources annually. Molokai also has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation.
“Reducing the consumption of imported fossil fuel will have an immediate and positive benefit to [Hawaiian Homesteaders],” states the policy draft. Using the ahupua`a concept of resource management as a guide, the goal of the policy is to enable homesteaders to fully utilize clean energy resources on Hawaiian home lands.
The draft outlines five objectives:
1) Malama‘aina: Respect and Protect our native home lands
2) Ko’o: Facilitate the use and development of diverse renewable energy resources
3) Kukulu pono: Design and build homes and communities that are energy efficient, self-sufficient and sustainable.
4) Kokua noi na kahu: Provide energy efficiency, self-sufficiency, and sustainability opportunities to existing homesteaders.
5) Ho’ona’auao: Prepare and equip beneficiaries to promote a green, energy efficient lifestyle in their communities.
A copy of the Energy Policy Draft and links to the power point presentations from the meeting is available at www.hawaii.gov/dhhl. Click at the top right of the home page on “DHHL Beneficiary Consultation.”