The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is a semi-autonomous state agency created in 1978 “to address the needs of the aboriginal class of people of Hawaii.” By state law, 20 percent of all income and proceeds derived from the public land trust — 1.2 million acres of ceded land held in trust for the benefit of Native Hawaiians — are to be paid annually to OHA by the state of Hawaii. That 20 percent amounted to approximately $15.1 million in ceded lands revenue for the 2011 fiscal year.
While OHA is a government agency, only 6 percent of its budget for fiscal 2011 — $2.47 million — came from the state’s general fund. The rest of its $40 million operating budget came from ceded lands revenue from the state, investments and federal funds.
It’s mission is “to malama Hawaii’s people and environmental resources and OHA’s assets, toward ensuring the perpetuation of the culture, the enhancement of lifestyle and the protection of entitlements of Native Hawaiians, while enabling the building of a strong and healthy Hawaiian people and nation, recognized nationally and internationally.” The agency spends the bulk of its revenue on grants and programs to support its mission.
The use of OHA’s trust funds is limited to Hawaiians of 50 percent blood quantum, making general funds from the Legislature “critical as it allows OHA to provide support and assistance to Hawaiians in fulfillment of state law, which states OHA’s purpose as bettering the condition of all Hawaiians regardless of blood quantum.”
The agency, which has 163 employees, is led by its CEO, Clyde Namuo, and its board of trustees. Here’s a link to OHA’s organizational chart.
At times, OHA has claimed its employees are not public employees, nor subject to open records laws, because the bulk of its revenue comes from ceded lands, it says are not “public funds.”
OHA’s Office of the Administrator is organized into two branches: operations and beneficiary advocacy and empowerment. The operations branch manages internal operations, while the beneficiary advocacy and empowerment branch oversees OHA’s six program divisions: Hawaiian Governance Hale; Grants Unit; Native Rights, Land, and Culture Hale; Economic Development Hale; Education Hale; and Health, Human Services and Housing Hale. The office also oversees the Washington D.C. office, which focuses on Hawaiian issues at the federal level.
View its annual reports online.
Board of Trustees
OHA’s nine trustees are elected by the general public for four year terms. Four positions are representatives “at large” and the other five represent districts, including Hawaii Island; Maui, Molokai, and Lanai; Oahu; and Kauai and Niihau. Some of its responsibilities include policy setting and managing of the agency’s trust. Here’s a link to bios of OHA’s trustees.
When Hawaii became a state in 1959 all lands of the Hawaiian monarchy that were not being federally used were “ceded” to the state, about 1.8 million acres. Section 5(f) of the Admission Act held that all transferred lands being designated into a trust with the following purposes: support public education, improve the conditions of native Hawaiians, development of farm and home ownership, make public improvements, and provision land for public use.
At the 1978 Constitutional Convention, delegates packaged a group of provisions for the new Constitution of Hawaii for the benefit of Native Hawaiians, including the establishment of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
OHA held its first election on November 4, 1980 with a voter turnout of 43,000 Hawaiians. The first trustees were sworn in on November 27, 1980 by the late Hawaii Chief Justice William S. Richardson. The first nine members of the OHA Board of Trustees were Peter Apo, Roy Benham, Rodney Burgess, Frenchy De Soto, Thomas Kaulukukui Sr., Moke Keale, Joseph Kealoha, Walter Ritte, and Malama Solomon. The election of OHA trustees is now open to all voters, not just Hawaiians.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs assists thousands of Native Hawaiians through a number of grants and loan programs as well as through service providers. OHA offers six different grant categories ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. In 2007, OHA revealed the Malama Loan Program for native Hawaiians naming First Hawaiian Bank as the strategic lender. The loan is offered for businesses, education, and home improvement purposes for amounts up to $75,000 at 5 percent fixed rates for five year lifespans. Read descriptions of OHA’s grants and loan programs online.
OHA Honolulu Headquarters
711 Kapi’olani Blvd., Ste. 500
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: (808) 594-1835
Fax: (808) 594-1865