The Office of Hawaiian Affairs holds a strange place in Hawaii. Our general desire to help Native Hawaiians makes people kindly disposed to its mission. The fuzziness about where the money comes from and where it’s going (on the other hand) has dogged OHA for years.
The 4Hawaiians Only Wiki documents quite a few OHA grants from 2007 and 2008 (and we’re currently adding more from 2009), and we’re looking to you to help us fill in the blanks. Check out the wiki and let us know what you know (or have learned) about these programs. Do you know someone who has actually participated in programs like the Pu’ulima Taro Education Project? (I presume this has to do with educating people about taro and not educating the taro itself. Because that would be a huge waste of money. Everyone knows that taro has to learn at its own pace.) But if you do know someone who has insight into these programs, get him to post about his experience. If he loved it, then he can let people know that this is a worthy program that deserves support. If he thinks it was a waste of time, he can spread the word that there are better uses out there for the money . . . or that this isn’t helpful to Native Hawaiians. OHA and the state of Hawaii have spent a lot of money building community programs and resources. Now it’s time for the community to evaluate their work.
After all, if you know that someone is out there, going on about how much they’re helping you, wouldn’t you like some objective evaluation of what they’re doing? OHA is notorious for avoiding this kind of scrutiny. Now that we have the power of the internet, we don’t have to wait for them to respond to the reporters and researchers. We can start the grading process ourselves.
Health disparities are both sad and frustrating. As a local girl who did her law journal research on the problem of health disparities among women and minorities, I’ve long been concerned about how to address the problem. The interesting thing about social problems, however, is that the answer is not always more money. That’s just the easy way out for government: “Hey! Here’s a sad and worrisome problem!” “Oh, no worries, we’ll just set aside some money for studies and an outreach project. Problem solved.” Or not.
Consider the news that Hawaiians and those of Asian descent often face certain health disparities. Native Hawaiians, especially (we are told), are prone to obesity at a higher rate than the rest of the population. Putting aside for a moment the inherent problems with how obesity is measured at present (and speaking of disparities–how about the fact that many of the measures for health are not tuned to obvious differences between ethnic groups), it’s not as though there have not been efforts to reach Native Hawaiians specifically in the realm of health care. As you can see in our database, there is a large amount of money set aside specifically for Native Hawaiian healthcare. But that hasn’t eliminated the disparities. Interestingly, I think one of the best tools so far in making people in Hawaii (of all ethnicities) more aware of obesity, diet, and nutrition, is the more recent work from Sam Choy. And he’s not getting a grant for spreading his message–heck, he’s creating employment for others in Hawaii.
And that really is the whole reason for this project. No one is saying that these programs are good or bad on an individual basis–that’s for you to look at and determine. (We’re just helping provide the tools to do so.) But we do want people to think about how we’re trying to help Native Hawaiians and how well it’s working in a larger sense.
What with it being St. Patrick’s Day and such (and a happy one to you), I thought we’d step away from the usual stuff for today, and give a small nod to the awesome that results from combining the influences of Ireland and Hawaii.
No, I’m not talking about green poi. (If such an abomination exists, I would rather not here about it.)
I’m talking about modern surfing.
We all know that surfing is an invention of the Polynesians, and the original Sport of (Hawaiian) Kings. And that it was discouraged by the missionaries. But what is less well known is that it was revived and popularized in the 20th century by a local Hapa-Irish/Hawaiian man named George Freeth, whose father immigrated to Hawaii from Ulster in the 1870s. Freeth re-introduced surfing in the early 20th century and then helped to make it popular on the mainland (especially California).
A documentary on the Irish contribution to surfing, called Waveriders, traces this story. Filmed in Ireland, California, and Hawaii (They have surfing in Ireland? Who knew?), the movie won a Best Documentary award in Ireland, and has just been released on DVD.
So there you are–combining Hawaii and Ireland saved surfing. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you couldn’t come up with a heck of a good boxer out of it too.
As you go through the many grants in our database, the obvious question (aside from “How much money????” and “Do any of these really help people?”) that comes to mind is how these programs for Native Hawaiians fit in with the Akaka Bill. Or it should be. Unfortunately, the Akaka Bill is one of those things that people tend to react to emotionally even when they don’t know much about it. The people of Hawaii are generous. They want to help Native Hawaiians. They’re told that the Akaka Bill will do so. But what they’ve only begun to find out is the true implications of the bill . . . that it’s not good for Hawaii. Or Hawaiians, Native or otherwise.
At the American Spectator, Peter Hannaford has a good article on the implications of Akaka—how it creates a race-based government inside the state and a truly unequal situation for the residents of Hawaii. (He also points out how passage of Akaka plays into the strategy of the sovereignty movement.) And he makes the important point that Congress cannot create an Indian tribe, which it would be doing by passing the Akaka bill. After all, the sovereign nation of Hawaii was not composed only of Hawaiians, but of a wide variety of races and ethnicities who had come to the Islands for a variety of reasons. Hawaii was a melting pot before melting pots were cool. In that sense, Akaka is a violation of the spirit of the Islands. (And, as this site demonstrates, helping a group via government action is a tricky thing to accomplish effectively.)
Not unsurprisingly, when you’re dealing with hundreds of grants and millions of dollars, the details of the grants start to blur. But if you’re paying attention, certain patterns begin to emerge. Like the tendency of some of the Native Hawaiian grants to be aimed at helping more that just the locals they’re claiming to care for.
Consider two of the most recent additions to our grants data: $179,165 to the Nanakuli Housing Corp. for, “designing affordable, environmentally green housing to homestead residents,” and $435,061 to the Waianae Community Redevelopment Corp. for a sustainable, “center for organic agriculture.” The rationale for grants like this is always phrased in terms of how it will help Native Hawaiians continue their culture, break the cycle of poverty, and so on. But notice how both projects cater to the environmentalist crowd with their emphasis on “green housing” and organic, sustainable agriculture. This isn’t about what Hawaiians want or need. This is about helping them on someone else’s politically correct terms. I’m not saying that Hawaiians don’t care about protecting the land or conserving the environment. But this isn’t giving them a choice about how they want to improve their homes or run their local agriculture. This is about using one group to please another.
No, this isn’t a blog only for Native Hawaiians. Nor is it only for people fortunate enough to be living in Hawaii. Our title is just our way of letting people know what kind of grants and resources are available to people of Native Hawaiian ancestry. See, we have a theory that the light of transparency does great things. Like letting people evaluate how their tax dollars are spent. So we set out to find out how much help was available to Native Hawaiians. After all the claims and posturing of this political climate, we thought a little truth could be a great thing.
And our research has led to this website . . . an ongoing research project, if you will. In it we explore the different grants available to Native Hawaiians (and hopefully, how effective they are). We’re not here to pass judgment or make claims about what people need or don’t need. We just thought that knowing is half the battle. And that (if we’re going to making important political decisions about money and ethnicity and such) a little knowledge might be a pretty handy thing.
So make yourself at home. Poke around in our database, take a look at the grants, and consider becoming a fellow researcher and adding to our Wiki of grant information. And come back frequently–we’ll be updating regularly to let you know about what we’re doing, what we’ve found, and other fun stuff.
Aloha. (And a Happy New Year.)
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