Category Archives: Grants

OHA’s Official Grant Goals

Break out the champagne and the 12-pages of Hawaiiglish, it’s OHA grant application time!  (What is Hawaiiglish?  It’s the name I’ve come up with for the bizarre hybrid of English and Hawaiian that is especially popular in the field of obtaining Hawaiian grants or talking about Hawaii when you’re running for office.  You know . . . when you get sentences like, “The kapuna understand the matrix of needs required to foster care of the ohana.”  Yes, this is a pet peeve of mine, since I feel like it’s pandering–as though Native Hawaiians are going to applaud anything you say just because you stuck the word “pono” in the sentence.)

Anyway, as part of its announcement of the new granting year, OHA also published its list of priorities.  And, to be scrupulously fair, many of them are completely reasonable and even necessary.  For example, there is a huge emphasis placed on increasing economic self-sufficiency for Native Hawaiians, with a specific goal of increasing family income and housing stability.  There are also laudable mentions of the need to exceed education standards and preserve Hawaiian culture.  Heck, I don’t even have a quarrel with the emphasis on preserving the environment and protecting the land.  There are places in this country where I might not be moved by that (I’m looking at you here, Newark), but Hawaii . . . well, that is some beautiful, beautiful stuff.

Of course, what I’ve done here is once again (like a broken CD or KPOI’s playlist) come back, yet again, to the same theme.  In effect, laudable goals do not equal laudable programs.  That’s why this exercise in transparency is so necessary.  Native Hawaiians deserve to know if all of these efforts to increase their family income, preserve their land, and protect their culture are actually good and effective program, or if they’re nothing more than vanity projects, giveaways to favored groups, or noble ideas that just don’t work in the real world.  Or whether they’re working like crazy and just need some more publicity and support to really help.  Some people get threatened by transparency efforts like 4HawaiiansOnly.  They think we’re trying to attack people or take away their support.  That’s a very defensive and short-sighted view.  All we’re doing is giving people the information they need to make an informed judgment about how their money is being spent.  You have to wonder about the motivations of those who want to prevent people from having that knowledge.

Racial Equality . . . Brought to You by Kellogg

Yes, that Kellogg.  Or, more accurately, his charitable legacy, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  It’s Grrrrrreat!

It was recently announced that Chaminade is the lucky recipient of a $200,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation for a program that will help promote racial equality and healing (their words, not mine) through . . . er . . . well, as near as I can tell, through a travelling history exhibit and some college seminars.  Oh yeah!  Bring on the healing, Chaminade.  I know that nothing makes me feel more like destroying complicated socio-historical boundaries than a multi-disciplinary university conference.  I’m sure the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t mention them in his “I Have a Dream” speech was just an oversight.

Ok. I’m being a little glib and unfair here.  The grant (which is spread over two years) actually goes to support the Chaminade History Center’s Native Hawaiian History Initiative, which plans to bring “expert instruction” on things native Hawaiian to schools with lots of Native Hawaiian students.  And then of course, there will also be the various university symposia, lectures, and so on.

Now obviously, I have my reservations about how much a feel-good program designed to appeal more to resume-burnishing college professors than ordinary folk is going to do to break down racial barriers.  But here’s the neat thing:  who cares?  It’s a private grant from a private foundation.  No taxpayer funds involved.  Granted, I can be one of those annoying people who points out everything else they could choose to do with their money, but in the end, it is their money.

Of course, that doesn’t answer the question of whether it’s a program that will actually help Native Hawaiians in any measurable way.  (Let’s just dispense with the pretense that this is going to promote any kind of racial healing at all.  Problems of racial equality are rarely soothed by a bracing university lecture series.)   So were I Native Hawaiian, I’d be a tad annoyed that so much of the money spent to allegedly “help” me goes to community centers, elitist conferences, and travelling history displays.  But then again, if I were Native Hawaiian, I’d have a whole list of gripes to work through about the sheer number of people throwing around gobs of money to “help” me–as though I were some kind of sad, incapable social project.  (And on that note, I’d better stop before this becomes even more rant-y.)

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.)

A Real Help in Education

Don’t think that I haven’t noticed a certain . . . cynicism coming from many of our analyses of the grants on our site.  I swear that it’s not because I’m a curmudgeon with a skeptical nature.  Well, let’s say that it’s not entirely because of the skeptic/curmudgeon thing.  To be clear: I think that there are great things that can be done to help Native Hawaiians.  I want to see the ones that work get the kudos they deserve.  But this is an area that needs the bright light of transparency like Lady Gaga needs a new stylist.  (Translation for the pop culturally-impaired: It needs it a lot.)

Anyway, lest it be said that we never have anything nice to say about OHA or their grants, let me take the opportunity to bring attention to their K-12 Family Education Assistance Program, which is now accepting applications from Native Hawaiian Families with significant education costs.  In short, these are grants of up to $5000 to Native Hawaiians families who are spending a large proportion of their income in order to send their children to private school.  The point is (obviously) to help give disadvantaged families better access to private education.  (And by extension, better academic and career chances, etc., etc.  Not to disparage public schooling in Hawaii, but . . . um . . . you know, my mom always told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, it’s better to keep my mouth shut.)

Who couldn’t get behind individual scholarships help for disadvantaged Hawaiian families?  This is the kind of thing that the trust monies were made for.  Moreover, it’s good to see the effort to help Hawaiians get a better education at the lower grade levels, thereby setting the students up for more success as they get older.  It’s nice that there are college scholarships to help Hawaiians as well, but how many promising kids slip through the cracks and never even get the opportunity to apply to college.  Quite a few education experts feel that we should be focusing our efforts at improving opportunities in primary and secondary education rather than placing so much emphasis on college entrance rates.

Anyway, the deadline for applications to these grants is June 30th, so if you know someone who might be interested, send them to to this page on the OHA website to learn more about requirements, applications, and so on.

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Sustainable Plant?

Sometimes, I really have to wonder about the thinking behind some of these grant programs.  Take, for example, the $444,500 granted in 2009 to the Ali’i Pauahi Hawaiian Civic Club from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (Yep, federal funds.)  The grant is being given for Ka Mahi’ ai ‘Ihi o Wailea (The Sacred Farm of Wailea).  Again, I have to stress here that this is the actual language from the grant.  I am not making  up the sacredness of the farm in question.  So what is it that the Sacred Farm is going to do with hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds?  Why, the money is for, “Establishing a community and culturally-based sustainable farm to raise sacred and important native plants for domestic use and export.”  Sacred and important Hawaiian plants.  As opposed to non-sacred or unimportant plants.  Not to get too hung up on the plant judgment thing, but I couldn’t resist doing a Google search to try to find out what counts as a sacred Hawaiian plant.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a  As far as I can tell, a sacred native plant is a plant with some degree of use in Hawaiian culture + the word “sacred”.  So we’ve got taro, ‘ohelo, and so on.

Ok, I’m getting a little obsessed here.  I just can’t stop envisioning some pencil-pusher in Washington nodding and saying something like, “Of course we do have to protect the sacred native plants.”

What I don’t get is how this is really an effort to help Native Hawaiians.  I’m sure the argument is about creating a viable business for the community, but if that were really the goal, then there wouldn’t be so many limitations on the products of the farm.  Assuming that there is a viable trade in export and sale of Hawaiian plants (which there clearly is), then why not make the focus on creating a sustainable source of income for the community?  Obviously, there are competitors in the native plant business.  And at least some of those aren’t going to be adding cost to their production by requiring the farming to be “culturally-based” and “sustainable.”  Not that these aren’t selling points in themselves–as the organic trend has taught us, there are people willing to pay the upcharge for philosophy-based farming–but who is this really helping?  If you lived in a struggling community, how happy would you be to hear that your newest economic opportunity was in the form of a Sacred Farm?  I just can’t shake the feeling that this is more about helping Sacred Farm then aiding the community at large.

It’s Aloha Friday!

The hardest part is finding the little surfboard.
The hardest part is finding the little surfboard.

So it’s Aloha Friday.  It seems like we should start things with a picture of a surfing squirrel.  (With all credit to the Photoshop wizards that created it.)  Granted, this has very little to do with grants for Native Hawaiians, unless it’s possible to get funding from OHA for a surfing squirrel program.  (And I’m not saying that it’s not.)  But it can’t all be frustrating government spending programs and mysterious money trails.

So . . . have you been enjoying any Hawaiian language television lately?  Don’t look at me–I have vitally important Survivor episodes to catch up on.  Also, I can’t speak Hawaiian.  But I do hope that there are quite a few of you out there just pining to see some Hawaiian-language programming.  Because in 2009, the federal Department of Health and Human Services granted $494,104 to Aha Punana Leo for the development of Hawaiian language video content for broadcast.  Apparently, the ability to channel surf right past Hawaiian language programming while trying to find the UH game will help, “advance the social development of Native Hawaiians.”  Of course, here in Hawaii, we’re surrounded by examples and uses of the Hawaiian language, and I can’t see how it does much to offer practical help to the average Native Hawaiian, but who knows . . . maybe a few public access TV programs will do the trick.