Spotlight Grant – Waipa Foundation

In 2009, OHA gave a grant of $150,000 to the Waipa Foundation for a project that can best be described as an attempt at cultural conservation.  This seems to be a something of a modern trend in Native Hawaiian granting, so if you’re looking for Native Hawaiian grant dollars, I can only recommend that you find some culturally significant land (not hard in Hawaii–there’s a good chance that you’re standing on some right now) and propose the building of a community and cultural center there to preserve some kind of tradition.  And if you could throw a sustainable farm into the mix, that wouldn’t hurt either.

The Waipa Foundation is doing just that in Waipa, Kauai, where the project stepped in to prevent the further development of the area and preserve Waipa as a, “sustainable, culturally and community-based model for land use and management.”  There is, of course, a Native Hawaiian cultural center at the heart of the project, and an ambitious plan for a kitchen, a poi mill,  and the farming of local crops.  The original vision of the Foundation involved a strong theme of restoring the land to its potential, and the website does allude to future plans for reforestation and similar ecological projects.  (Personally, as someone with family on Kauai, I can’t help but wonder if the grant application mentioned the need to preserve the Hanalei area from affluent hippies.)

Of course, it remains to be seen whether these types of projects will be successful in the long-term . . . especially because they (by necessity) take a long time to develop and evolve.  A switch in grant trends could leave Waipa and similar projects high and dry (financially speaking) unless they were able to reach some level of sustainability and self-sufficiency.

And of course, there is still the big question that lies at the heart of so much of Native Hawaiian granting.  Does this project truly help Native Hawaiians?  Is this how they would choose to spend the funding if allowed to vote on the matter?  (This then leads to obvious questions about the finances of Hawaiian self-determination, but we’ll leave that debate for another day.)

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