Category Archives: OHA

OHA on Kauai

OHA is holding meetings on the outer islands, part of which includes discussion of some of their ongoing grant projects.  For more, check out the OHA release/newsletter blurb below:

The Board of Trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs traveled to Kaua‘i for the first in a series of five community meetings with Native Hawaiians on the Neighbor Islands.

The community meeting – hosted by Trustee Donald B. Cataluna – drew a crowd of nearly 40 people to the King Kaumuali‘i School cafeteria.

Community member Alroy Enos, who is President of Ka Hale Pono, expressed appreciation for the $10,000 grant OHA awarded his organization to fund the first-ever parade in Anahola to mark Prince Kühiö Day.

Liberta Hussey-Albao, a 42-year Kaua‘i resident who has taken up genealogy as a hobby, offered her gratitude for the Papakilo Database, which she praised for assisting her efforts to trace family roots since OHA unveiled it in April.

Perhaps the most poignant moment came during a joint presentation by Rowena Contrades-Pangan and Anela Pä, the co-Directors of the Ho‘omana, which was created eight years ago with a $50,000 grant from OHA for such efforts as moving Native Hawaiians and others from welfare to work and providing inmates with a fighting chance when they get out of jail.

One of the program’s tough-to-employ clients fought back tears as she told the Trustees about recently completing a five-year prison sentence and receiving hope for her future from the program, which stepped in to provide her with job training and clothing at a time when family members and others gave up on her.

According to OHA Chairperson Colette Machado, Läna‘i will be the next stop for the Trustees, who will meet with Native Hawaiians on that island June 15-16 before heading to Moloka‘i in July, Maui in August, then the Big Island in September.

OHA Announces New Round of Grants

Have a program that will raise the well-being of the Native Hawaiian community?  The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is looking for you.  Non-profit granting trends being what they are, OHA has decided to create a new focus in their community granting program from a focus on addressing “individual needs” to programs that will, “lead to systematic change and maximize,” the impact on all Native Hawaiians.  A look through the 4Hawaiians Only wiki/database demonstrates that the community grants tend to be the broadest in interpretation of OHA goals, so it’s hard to say what difference this new focus will make.  I suppose we’ll have to see the results of the grant awards to evaluate the difference and what it could mean for Native Hawaiians.  I can say that the goal of fostering economic self-sufficiency is one that is consistently stressed in OHA publications, and interpreted rather broadly to support anything from community kitchens and farms to poi production.  The stress on education initiatives is also a constant, and can be seen in the many preschool and scholarship programs in the OHA fold.  What remains to be seen is whether the shift from individual help to systematic change affects the kinds of programs that have traditionally received these grants.  The grants can be up to 2 years and as much as $250,000 and are meant to focus on the following three “advocacy initiatives”:

  • Raising  family-income levels to help foster economic self sufficiency;
  • Meeting or exceeding educational achievement standards for  elementary, intermediate and high school students as well as increasing college graduation rates;
  • Reducing health risks by decreasing the obesity rate among Native Hawaiians.

(Those interested in learning more about the grant requirements, deadlines, etc. can  visit , call 594-1904 or email

Lobbying On The Taxpayer’s Dime

When you picture special interest groups and government lobbyists, you probably imagine corporate fat cats hiring sleazy lawyers to get them favors and interests from legislators.  (This also indicates that you’ve heard too many John Edwards speeches.)  Putting aside whether the unfairness of this image (unfairness to the business owners, that is–I wouldn’t dream of trying to defend the lawyers), it turns out that it doesn’t even correctly identify Hawaii’s biggest lobbying spenders.  Want to know who spent the most money trying to influence Congress so far this year?


Or more specifically, Hawaii’s taxpayers.  It turns out that in the first quarter of the year, government agencies in Hawaii spent more money lobbying in Washington, DC than private business did.  According to Hawaii Reporter, Hawaii state and local government spent about $185,000 on DC lobbying, compared to about $122,500 from Hawaii’s private businesses over the same period.  Unsurprisingly, the biggest state spenders were the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (which continues to push for the Akaka Bill) and InfraConsult, Inc. (which lobbies on behalf of Honolulu’s rapid transit project).

Yes, the state spends taxpayer dollars to lobby in Washington for more taxpayer dollars.  (And on behalf of issues that have significant public opposition back here in the Islands.)  And then they raise our taxes.  If that isn’t an argument for more fiscal accountability in our spendthrift government, I don’t know what is.

New Grants from OHA Announced

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has just announced the award of $329,000 in “Community-Based Economic Development” grants to nine programs that will help make Native Hawaiians “economically successful and self-sufficient.”  You know, when you read enough grant-type literature, that kind of phrasing really starts to drive you crazy.  It seems like there are two kinds of “economic development” grants.  The first are trendy experimental things, like programs that believe that the way to reaching economic independence is by creating green businesses based on sustainable local agriculture and traditional customs.  Or something on that line.  Frankly, considering all the grants that seem to involve “sustainable agriculture,” “green something or other,” or “community kitchens,” one begins to wonder whether there are all that many Native Hawaiians who even want to work on these things. Goodness know I wouldn’t.  I would be very depressed if I was struggling to get back on my feet and my big charitable break was being sent to work on a sustainable taro farm.  I can’t help but feel that there’s not a lot of room for another taro millionaire.

The other kind of “economic development” project are what used to be considered simple charity back before grant writing became a profession.  Things like helping the recently incarcerated get back on their feet or helping people finish their education.  Now that they have to compete for funding with programs that present funding a poi factory as a major act of empowerment, the programs that simply help people get back on their feet have to recast themselves as “community-based economic development.”  The whole thing makes you long for the relative simplicity of legalese.   In any case, here are the latest batch of OHA grants:

Ali‘i Pauahi Hawaiian Civic Club – $50,000 to support the establishment of a tissue culture clean room laboratory at Ka Mahi‘ai ‘Ihi O Wailea on Hawai‘i Island to increase maile production.

WorkNet Inc. – $50,000 to provide training and job opportunities to 60 participants in WorkNet C.A.F.E. (WorkNet Culinary Arts for Entrepreneurs), a hands-on course in the Food Service and Maintenance industries for jobs and/or continuing education at the high school and community college levels. At least 36 of the participants will be Hawaiians who are emerging from correctional facilities or the Federal Detention Center.

Mana Maoli – $49,705 to support the CD component of the Puolo Mana Maoli Project. The CD production process will include 10 culture-based charter schools that have agreed to contribute one track each to this CD component. This project will work with youth on improving their skills in creating, performing and recording music as well as the business and marketing aspects of the project.

SCORE Hawai‘i – $40,000 to provide training and technical assistance (counseling, advising and mentoring as well as conducting workshops) to improve the success of Hawaiian entrepreneurs.

Kula no na Po‘e Hawai‘i – $39,520 to support the homestead yard service/maintenance training program that prepares youth to operate a yard-service business serving Papakölea, Kewalo and Kaläwahine Streamside.

Alternative Structures International (dba ‘Ohana Ola ‘O Kahumana) – $25,000 to support the teaching of aquaponics to families with persons with disabilities and homeless families with children. The teaching aims to help them become self-sufficient and sustainable, as well as promote a healthier lifestyle and provide training and technical assistance for additional income and business opportunity.

Women in Need – $25,000 to support the WIN Bridge to Success program, which provides transitional housing for women with children. The program will help Native Hawaiian participants to gain the skills and personal development tools needed to become self-sufficient and productive members of the community.

Family Promise of Hawai‘i – $25,000 to support its work to help at least 20 Native Hawaiian families with housing and employment services. Through the services of Family Promise of Hawai‘i, more than 80 percent of participants transitioned from homelessness to housing, usually in three to four months.

Corvette Center Ministries (dba Zion ‘Ïpuka) – $24,616 to improve the lives of Native Hawaiians by providing nutritious food, transitional housing, drug rehabilitation, and educational and vocational programs.

Stately Spending

If you know your way around this site, you know that there are two ways of perusing the many, many grants we’ve recorded.  Many.  Many, many, many.  It’s overwhelming actually.  And overwhelming is kind of the point.  No matter where you stand on the issue of Native Hawaiian sovereignty or the Akaka Bill, if you’ve checked out the grants here, you cannot fairly say that Native Hawaiians receive no support or help.  There may be any number of cultural or socio-economic issues at play in the question of how Native Hawaiians fare in society.  But if you’re looking for a reason to support the Akaka Bill, the claim that Native Hawaiians get no government resources is laughable in light of the evidence here.

Anyway, for those who just want an overview, there’s the quick list that can be viewed here.  And for those who want to dig a little deeper, there’s the wiki/database of grants that can be viewed here.  (And as a reminder: if you have any information or feedback to share on any grant, be sure to email us at so that we can add that information to the wiki.  Frequent or especially helpful researchers are given their own log-ins to update at will.)

Recently, we added some information to our quick grant list that was previously only available in the wiki–you can now see at a glance which grants come from federal agencies and which from state departments.  It’s no surprise to see that the federal portion of the grants on the list so far is slightly higher–a total of approximately $265,666,125 spent since fiscal year 2007.  As for approximate state spending, it comes to a more modest (but still considerable) $56,201,112 for the same period of time.  That’s more than the annual budget for a few different state departments.  For a state that struggles with budget and deficit problems, that’s almost real money.

Lobbyists Thank OHA for Akaka

Over at Hawaii Reporter, a new report has revealed that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has spent $3.44 million since 1999 on its (ultimately failed) lobbying efforts in support of the Akaka Bill. And this doesn’t include the approximately $2 million OHA spent to operate a Washington, DC office or any other expenses (such as travel) spent in pursuance of OHA’s pro-Akaka effort.

Of course, OHA has never been particularly forthcoming about that portion of its spending that it would prefer to remain obscure.  So we know that–according to its own Annual Report–in fiscal year 2009, OHA spent $13,686,447 in its Native Hawaiian granting efforts in fiscal year 2009–including $454,456 for health, $1,056,578 on economic development, $354,456 on “nation building”, and $1,866,993 for “native rights, land, and culture.”

And thanks to the data available on, we know that in FY2009, OHA spent $1,017,632.90 on Personnel Services, $1, 411,058.63 on the vague and mysterious “Services on a Fee Basis”, and a head-scratching $46.94 for “Telephone.”

So who benefited from the OHA lobbying effort?  Considering that the legislation–despite a brief flurry of activity in the Democratic Congress–eventually went nowhere, the most obvious beneficiaries of OHAs efforts was not Native Hawaiians or Hawaii’s taxpayers, but rather the Washington, DC office of Patton Boggs–a large law firm specializing in (amongst other things) lobbying.  And one of whose lobbyists was (and its hard to think that this is a coincidence) former Governor John Waihee.

The truly interesting thing about OHA’s rather significant lobbying expenditures is that there is no clear consensus of opinion on the advisability of the Akaka Bill, either among the Hawaiian public at large, or even among Native Hawaiians, a group of whom even attempted to sue OHA for straying too far from its mission in its pro-Akaka activities.  Although the benefits of the Akaka Bill can be debated by both sides, the one organization that unquestionable benefits from its passage (in terms of political power and financial considerations) is the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  So, in essence, the Hawaiian taxpayers have been paying for a department of the state government to lobby for more power and money for itself in Washington.  And unsuccessfully too.  Along with $20,000 hammers and bridges to nowhere, that may be the very definition of government waste.

OHA: Rant vs. Reason on Race (A Debate)

Hawaii’s splendid isolation has contributed so much to the character of the islands.  Our island paradise owes much to it, as does our culture of family and “aloha spirit.”  On the other hand, those on the mainland have only the slightest acquaintance with the political and social issues we struggle with, and it’s easy for the most complicated and contentious issue to be reduced to static and soundbites by the time they reach Washington, DC.  And that’s how the Akaka Bill, a socially divisive, culturally transformative piece of legislation, gets reduced to “a nice little thing for Native Hawaiians” by the time it hits the beltway.  Few people outside of the Islands know much of our history, and even fewer know much about the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Bishop Estate Trust, Kamehameha Schools, or any of the ways that the fight over the Akaka Bill is affecting Hawaii.

And for a perfect moment that really crystallizes the harm that the Akaka mentality is causing in our Islands, one need go no further than the recent exchange between Jere Krischel, an activist and member of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii and Rowena Akana, a Trustee-at-Large for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The interchange began when Ms. Akana used the bully pulpit of her column in OHA’s monthly newspaper to attack the Grassroot Institute and Mr. Krischel for their opposition to the Akaka Bill—specifically for Mr. Krischel’s statement that the Akaka Bill, “racially segregate families and communities into groups with different rights based on whether or not they have Hawaiian blood.”  Though Akana called this “ridiculous,” she made no effort to defend her position, instead devolving into ad hominem attacks and invective.  She makes the absurd claim that the Grassroot Institute has no roots in Hawaii, and goes on to make the outrageous statement that, “Krischel and his ilk are the foreigners and they are the racists! They need to go back to where they came from and take with them their racist attitude. We don’t need them to spoil our Hawaii.”  As Mr. Krischel is from Hawaii, it leaves one to wonder where she would like him to go “back to.”

It should be unnecessary to treat such obvious slander seriously, but for the record, Grassroot Institute is a member of a national policy network, but has been active in Hawaii, on Hawaii’s issues, since it was founded here in 2001.  Mr. Krischel was born in Hawaii, went to Punahou, had a paper route in Wahiawa, and picked pineapple for Del Monte as a summer and weekend job.  What’s truly outrageous is that Ms. Akana takes the position from the outset that a.) One must pass some sort of “Hawaiian-enough” litmus test before one even dares to express an opinion on the Akaka Bill—a Bill that (let’s not forget) affects all of Hawaii and not only Native Hawaiians); and that b.) Anyone expressing a negative opinion of the Akaka Bill is a racist who needs to get out of Hawaii.

No wonder those who oppose the Akaka Bill state that it will result in a destructive level of racial division in the Islands.  It seems to have a head start on that even without being passed.

In response to Ms. Akana’s column, Mr. Krischel wrote a letter taking exception to her insults, asking for an apology for her accusations of racism, and explaining his motives for his opposition to the Akaka Bill.  Krischel writes:

First and foremost, as a human of many ethnicities and nationalities, I have a strong aversion to any racial categorization. The thought of being defined by one’s ancestry is anathema to me. Although some may wish to label themselves “indigenous” to one area or another, it is my firm belief that ultimately we are all descendants of immigrants and indigenous to the planet earth, and we should treat one another with equality and respect no matter where the bones of our ancestors are interred.

As an American, from a country with a history born of the rejection of hereditary title and monarchy, I strongly believe in the ideals of human equality. Although the United States has not always been perfect in implementing the 14th amendment, it is an ideal to which I believe we should all aspire

. . . .

As a scholar, I also have a strong interest in Hawaiian history, which has been further sparked by my recent participation in the debate over the issues of the 1893 overthrow, race-based government programs in Hawai`i, and the impending Akaka Bill. My father, Walter Benavitz, was a member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and participated in the 1987 tour of the Hokule`a. My school, Punahou, was a place of history drawing back to 1841 with a strong Hawaiian studies component.

All of these motivations brought me to the decision that I could no longer remain silent, and allow the racial supremists to dominate the dialogue. Witnessing the current tone and tenor of particular extremists on the issue, those activists inspired the “activist” within me.

It is my sincere hope that with enough constructive discussion, we can overcome our frailties, realize the complexity of “historical truth”, and move beyond the politics of identity. We can and should live in a world that tackles humanitarian issues in a needs-based, race-blind manner.

Ms. Akana’s response to Mr. Krischel’s letter did not do much to continue an open dialogue, rather instructing him to read a number of books meant to open his eyes to the innate racism of his background and the Islands.  She points out that racist attitudes existed in the Islands far into the 20th century (an issue that was not up for debate), and suggests (no doubt to the surprise of Punahou grads everywhere, including—one might think—our current President) that Punahou is an example of that tradition of racism and privilege by pointing out that, “Punahou School was started by the missionaries who did not want to have their children go to school with any Hawaiian or any other minority.”  In her short instruction of Mr. Krischel in her reply, she states that, “You obviously are oblivious not only to Hawaiian History but also to the history of the Japanese and other immigrants who came to Hawaii to work and live.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t be so pie in the sky pious with your attitudes.”

In his response, Mr. Krischel deals with the issues of race and historical examples presented by Akana, pointing out that they further emphasize his belief that any race-based policy would be a mistake.  Krischel writes:

For example, the fact that Japanese and Chinese immigrants, who were the only ones ever treated like second class citizens under law (see the 1887 Constitution of Hawaii which took away the right to vote from Asians), would be excluded from Hawaiian programs and race-based governments seems like adding insult to injury.  My clear understanding of the history of immigration and institutionalized racial discrimination in the past (including race-based pay which put haoles and native Hawaiians on top, Portuguese second, and chinese, japanese and filipino at the bottom), makes me ever more adamant that we should avoid such racial qualifications in the future.

. . . .

if at some point in history someone was racially discriminated against, we don’t achieve justice by racially discriminating against others today.  The answer is to remove *all* racial qualifications from *all* laws and government regulations, and to treat people as equals in both blood and spirit now and forevermore.  The fact that you could somehow interpret my demand for racial equality as some sort of hidden racism just doesn’t seem rational at all, and is why I must insist on an apology from you.

I hope you understand very clearly that the Akaka Bill, and any government program which decides a person’s worth based upon their racial heritage rather than on their individuality, is poisonous, and just as bad, if not worse, than all of the injustices you listed in your reply to me.  While indulging in a spirit of revenge against others may offer some cynical satisfaction, it’s destructive both to the self, and to society.  I clearly understand that the world has not always been a kind place to everyone, and that even in Hawaii, we’ve had many injustices in the past (even before western contact in 1778, when the ali’i ruled supreme and the kauwa served as a permanent slave class).  But the evils of the past do not justify more evil in the present.

I believe Hawaii is a model for the world because as far back as 1840, our constitution declared that all people were “of one blood”.  I believe Hawaii is a model for the world because the Kamehameha Dynasty turned a stone age society into a modern Kingdom in less than a generation by embracing Western ideals, technology and society.  I believe Hawaii is a model for the world because despite the rough patches of our history, we are more kapakahi than anywhere else, and in choosing who we will love and have children with, we ignore race with a passion unmatched anywhere else that I know of.

I also believe that what you currently support in the Akaka Bill, and in the preservation of existing race-based programs in Hawaii, including many OHA programs, threatens very deeply what makes Hawaii so special.

Ms. Akana’s next (and final) letter is very short.  She states that, “When no reparations or any compensation is given for taking or the stealing of Native lands, Natives have every right to seek justice.”  She does not explain how this position fits into the existence of the Bishop Estate Trust or Hawaiian Homelands.  Ms. Akana then declines to continue the conversation.  At no point does she apologize for calling Mr. Krischel a racist.

Mr. Krischel’s reply to Ms. Akana’s final letter are an eloquent examination of the problem with the language of grievance that Ms. Akana employs as her primary argument:

I’ll respectfully remind you that like many others without any ancestors in Hawaii before 1778, I was born in Hawaii, and didn’t migrate here from *anywhere* else.  If you want to point out that my ancestors migrated here from somewhere else over a hundred years ago, I’ll point out that the same is true of the few Marquesans and/or Tahitians in your ancestry who migrated here before Captain Cook arrived in 1778.  The “a small fraction of my ancestors were here before yours were” argument is hardly the basis for any form of government, or appropriate for deciding how to apportion resources between people.

Furthermore, your argument regarding Native Alaskans and Native Americans is fatally flawed and based on a terrible, yet apparently very common, misunderstanding of Indian Law by Akaka Bill supporters.  Native Alaskans and Native Americans do not have any sort of claim on the US based on their bloodline, and my non-tribal part-Cherokee son can attest to that.  There may be federally recognized *tribes* (including the Cherokee Freedmen, who have African American ancestors, and often don’t have any Native American ones), but there is no recognition for someone simply because their ancestors lived somewhere before western contact, which is what the Akaka Bill proposes.  Most Native Alaskans and Native Americans, including my son, aren’t part of any tribe at all, and are treated the same way as other non-tribal citizens are.  Particularly for Hawaii, where the Kingdom nobly declared in 1840 that all people were “of one blood”, and made no distinction between natives and non-natives, creating a new political relationship based on blood is simply racism, pure and simple.

Lastly, there was no “taking or stealing” of Native lands.  You may despise the ali’i for giving away vast tracts of land to their European supporters during the Kingdom Period, and you may despise those native Hawaiians who sold their kuleana lands to non-natives after the Great Mahele, but nothing was taken, and nothing was stolen.  Your pursuit of “justice” here, specifically on the basis of bloodline, is terribly misinformed and ignores the true history of the land.

Now, if you’ve got any sort of specific information about a specific acre of land, that was stolen from a specific person, by a specific person, at any specific time in the history of the Kingdom, Republic, Territory or State of Hawaii, please, share with me – I would love to learn if you have something to teach, and with specifics we can work towards rectifying things without any appeal to race.  But simply waving one’s hands and declaring that you, based simply on your bloodline, deserve some sort of reparation or compensation from me, for some unspecified piece of land supposedly stolen from a native Hawaiian by some unspecified person at some unspecified time, is not a rational argument, especially considering that my non-native ancestors in Hawaii, by your own citations in your first reply, were terribly discriminated against and exploited.  The children of ali’i asking for reparation and compensation from the children of plantation laborers seems distasteful on every level imaginable.

It is no coincidence that the more people learn about the Akaka Bill, the less comfortable they are with it.   Initially swayed by the praiseworthy desire to do something good for Native Hawaiians, the public has been mislead by the Rowena Akanas of this world into thinking that this is a simple “reparations” issue.  But as Jere’s examination of Hawaiian history and the philosophical problems with race-based policies demonstrate, the Akaka Bill actually takes Hawaii in the wrong direction.  And the attempts of Ms. Akana to shut down all argument through invective, accusations of racism, and faulty history are an example of just how far the Akaka Bill can take us away from Hawaii’s spirit of aloha and ohana.

To read the full exchange between Jere Krischel and Rowena Akana, click here.

The Akaka Industry

Conventional wisdom says that (despite the boasts of our newest Governor) with the new Republican Congress in place, the Akaka Bill is effectively dead for the time being.  The theory is that the Bill never had much support among Republicans in Congress, and no Democrats will be willing to expend large amounts of political capital in order to push for it.  How true this is remains to be seen, but there are some groups in Hawaii who have way too much invested in the Akaka Bill to let a mere detail like political deep-freeze derail their efforts to promote it.

Like (brace yourselves for the surprise) OHA.

In a rather irregular move, OHA Trustee Haunani Apoliona called for OHA to continue its efforts to enroll Native Hawaiians for a possible Native Hawaiian government as called for by the now-defunct Akaka Bill. The reasons given by Apoliona and OHA CEO Clyde Namuo are fairly predictable–and they take care to note that they are looking to enroll Hawaiians living outside of Hawaii.  The reason for this effort is fairly obvious–OHA clearly believes that it will be easier to pass the Bill in the future if there is an established roll of “qualified” Native Hawaiians to be recognized by such a bill.  So a future version of the Akaka Bill will simply be able to reference the OHA-headed group as the Native Hawaiian government without the accompanying concerns about who should be included and how registration should proceed.  In addition, OHA clearly has a lot invested in being the preeminent Native Hawaiian organization in any Native Hawaiian government.  Sovereignty groups and other Native Hawaiian organizations that question OHA’s actions and motives can be absorbed and disarmed by OHA preemptive organization, thereby shutting down or minimizing any Native Hawaiian opposition to a future Akaka Bill.

There is, after all, a great deal of money and political power at stake.  It would be asking too much to think that OHA could just let that go.

Penned In

Lest it be said that all I do is criticize the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, I will direct your attention today to a thought-provoking study they’ve just released on Native Hawaiians in Hawaii’s criminal justice system.  I won’t give it my unqualified seal of approval–after all, the term “disparate treatment” in the title implies a lot more than disproportionate representation and the usual barriers and difficulties encountered upon release–but for an organization that is (theoretically) dedicated to the needs and betterment of Native Hawaiians, this is a worthy topic of study and action.  (And if I may be permitted a little judgment, far more worthy of attention than some of the pet vanity project receiving OHA funding, not to mention the barrels of money poured into lobbying on the Akaka Bill.)  Among the points made by the report (from the OHA press release):

  • Of the people serving a prison term in Hawai‘i, approximately 50 percent are housed in facilities on the mainland. Of this population, about 41 percent are Native Hawaiian, the most highly-represented group. While incarcerated out of state, these people are further disconnected from their communities, families and culturally appropriate services for re-entry.
  • Native Hawaiians do not use drugs at drastically different rates from people of other races or ethnicities, but Native Hawaiians go to prison for drug offenses more often than people of other races or ethnicities.
  • Once released from prison, Native Hawaiians experience barriers that prevent them from participating in certain jobs, obtaining a drivers license, voting, continuing education, obtaining housing and keeping a family together.

I will question the assertion that Native Hawaiians don’t use drugs at different rates that the rest of the population.  Granted, studies of drug use by ethnic population are legion and far from exact, but the situation is more complex than OHA paints it in their release.  For example, at least one study has found significantly higher rates of persistent smoking and drug use among pregnant women of Hawaiians ancestry.  And anyone who has seen the devastation of the ice epidemic in the Islands wouldn’t be surprised to hear that treatment admissions for use of amphetamines and methamphetamines among Asian and Pacific Islanders far outstrips the rest of the population.   I understand and even applaud the desire of OHA to help lower the number of Native Hawaiians entering the criminal justice system, but playing games with the statistics to bolster their case helps no one.  (Except maybe, those looking for more grant money by appealing to the OHA line.)

Of course, this does lead to the question of what OHA is planning to do with the results of their study.  The easy answer is, “culturally-sensitive interventions.”  But what does that really mean?  If I’m a local woman struggling with these problems, am I going to be comforted by the notion that someone is really working on a culturally sensitive intervention to my family?  Personally, I’d be a lot happier with an approach that was proven to be effective over one that raised my ethnicity over everything else.

Stacked Deck

As I’ve mentioned before, there are Native Hawaiians who are opposed to the Akaka Bill.  This is not such an incredible notion.  After all, there’s no requirement that one must close one’s eyes to the problems in the Bill just because of one’s ethnic heritage.

And it is equally obvious that OHA supports the Akaka Bill.  Though the word “support” drastically understates their approach.  There are professional cheerleaders that would feel that OHA goes a bit overboard in its efforts to hype up the Bill.  It’s hard to say how much of their money and staff time they are currently devoting to lobbying for passage of the Akaka Bill, but it’s obviously a central priority.  And why wouldn’t it be?  There’s plenty of debate over the far-reaching impact of the Akaka Bill in Hawaii, but one thing that is certain is that OHA will benefit greatly.  Already entrenched as the elite governing “voice” of Native Hawaiians in Hawaii, OHA is situated to be hugely influential in implementing a new Native Hawaiian government.  Take that for what it is.  I’m not saying that OHA is anything less than perfectly aboveboard and transparent.  I’m just saying that they have a lot of money and a lot of political power and are lobbying to get more.

Of course, this has made some Native Hawaiians a bit uneasy.  So uneasy, in fact, that they filed suit against OHA, challenging its expenditures in support of the Akaka Bill.  Though it would seem reasonable that Native Hawaiians would like to see a little more balance in OHA’s political machinations (especially when using money from the Trust), it seems that the Average Kimo has very little say in how OHA can spend his money.  In Day v. Apoliona, the Courts interpreted the OHA mission in a way that gives the OHA Trustees enormous leeway in how they choose to fulfill OHA’s mission . . . up to and including the Akaka lobbying efforts.  It makes you wonder what wouldn’t be allowed as part of the OHA mission.  It seems like pretty much anything that uses the word “Hawaiian” is fair game.  What’s worse is that this closes another avenue for Native Hawaiians to question OHA’s expenditures and priorities.  So much for accountability.  Perhaps it’s time that Native Hawaiians start asking some hard questions about who they trust to administer their Trust.