Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 8 Primary Election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
The following came from Kauilani Almeida, candidate for Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees Hawaii island resident. Other candidates include Noelani Cashman-Aiu, Laura Desoto-McCollough, Louis Hao, Cyd Hoffeld, Pua Ishibashi, Lei Kihoi, Keola Lindsey, Lanakila Mangauil, Louis Pau and Kalaniakea Wilson.
1. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Native Hawaiians? What will you do about it?
The most pressing concern facing Native Hawaiians today is COVID-19. Our native kanaka must be protected. I will open my line of communication and work to coordinate distribution of resources in order to deliver a culturally appropriate response.
I see a need to increase communication between the OHA Board of Trustees and the Hawaiian people. We need to activate a daily communication system to engage the public and encourage our people to continue to makaala. We cannot afford to lose our people to this devastating disease; all precautions must be in place.
I will continue to work to support the communities’ effort to create opportunities for Hawaiian people to live with health and integrity.
2. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
OHA island trustees should not be voted statewide. Each island trustee should be voted by the island they represent: Hawaii island, Maui, Molokai/Lanai, Oahu, Kauai/Niihau. It doesn’t make sense that Oahu residents vote for Maui’s trustee or vice versa.
OHA’s trustees-at-Large could be voted statewide since they deal with state issues. It doesn’t make sense that monies that come from “ceded lands” to Native Hawaiians only can be voted by other ethnic groups.
As a trustee, I plan to provide a mechanism for consistent engagement for families to share accomplishments, challenges, experiences and grievances with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
3. What would you do to bridge the gaps within the Native Hawaiian community over issues like construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope or development of energy projects?
The purpose of OHA includes: “Assessing the policies and practices of other agencies impacting on native Hawaiians and Hawaiians, and conducting advocacy efforts for native Hawaiians and Hawaiians.” It is important for OHA to continue to advocate for those that stand for Hawaiian traditional values, and find common ground within the Native Hawaiian community.
I feel it is the trustees’ kuleana to study the issue and all applicable laws, and stand for what is just for the Kanaka Maoli. The issue, to me, is that the environmental rights, laws, rules and regulations must be applied with fidelity.
4. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea? Why or why not?
OHA’s mandate is to advocate for Native Hawaiian rights and interests. If our cultural integrity is to be protected, there cannot be anything (let alone a Thirty Meter Telescope) in or above the Wao Akua of Mauna Kea.
Our people have stood, and they have spoken. Kanaka Maoli are under OHA’s protection and have the inherent right to say no
5. Do you support OHA providing financial aid to Mauna Kea protesters?
Yes. The State of Hawaii laws define the purpose of OHA to include “assessing the policies and practices of other agencies impacting on native Hawaiians and Hawaiians, and conducting advocacy efforts for native Hawaiians and Hawaiians.” Funding support for protectors that are standing for cultural beliefs is in line with OHA’s purpose.
6. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?
The DHHL plays a major role in reducing homelessness. Their purpose is to provide housing for Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.
At this time, DHHL is land-rich and cash-poor. Therefore, we need to help them increase their revenue base by advocating for them on a legislative level so the State of Hawaii fulfills its legal obligations to provide administrative costs for this department
7. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?
The criminal justice system is biased against Native Hawaiians, as evidenced in the OHA Report on the Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System. Other factors of this issue include income inequity, transgenerational trauma, educational oppression and deprivation of Kanaka Maoli government, land, language and religious freedom. Criminal Justice reform is necessary to address these issues, especially for non-violent crimes. Innovative programs to establish culturally and community based rehabilitation centers should be implemented and widely available for all our people
8. What are your views regarding Hawaiian self-determination?
Hawaii became a nation in 1846 recognized by England and France. We were on par with all nations in the world. I believe we are a nation and that we can regain nationhood status. The process is within our grasp.
9. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
The state has done a poor job working with the Hawaiian community. Native Hawaiians were put under the state’s care via the federal government.
Perhaps we should bypass the state and work directly with the federal government to address the need for reparations with OHA. In this reality, nationhood status could come much sooner.