Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 General 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 Mililani Trask, candidate for Office of Hawaiian Affairs Hawaii Island trustee. The other candidate is Hope Cermelj.

Go to Civil Beat’s Election Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for Office of Hawaiian Affairs Hawaii Island Trustee

Mililani Trask
Party Nonpartisan
Age 71
Occupation Attorney
Residence Kurtistown, Hawaii Island

Community organizations/prior offices held

Previously served as an elected OHA trustee.

1. What do you see as the most pressing problem facing Native Hawaiians, and what will you do about it?

Poverty and homelessness are our people’s problems, and they are due to our people’s alienation from our land and cultural practices, including Wahi Pana and traditional fishing and agricultural practices.

OHA needs to complete the first ceded land inventory of our land and ocean assets and seek a segregation of lands and resources including renewable energy resources for indigenous Hawaiians so that OHA and DHHL can address the 28,000 beneficiaries on wait-lists for affordable housing, as well as develop community based initiatives to sustain our traditional diet and farming practices.

2. 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 TMT problems will only be resolved when the state and commercial science people accommodate Hawaiian people’s rights to worship on the Mauna as well as exercise traditional uses, including gathering and hunting.

In addition, the law as set forth in Chapter 171 must be followed — get the appraisal and pay the rent. (Not $1 a year!)

Native Hawaiians and native Hawaiians own renewable energy resources on all ceded lands (as well as submerged lands) but receive only a fraction of a fraction of its value called “royalties” while the private sector including HECO, reaps a huge profit. This results in extremely high energy costs for the native and public resource owners and huge profits for HECO and foreign companies.

This will only stop when we (the state including DHHL and OHA) become our own renewable energy developers. Clean, sustainable local sources of renewable energy is the mantra!

3. Do you support the construction of the TMT atop Mauna Kea? Why or why not? Could a new management structure help to resolve long-standing disputes?

I do not support development of TMT and am one of 35 kupuna who were arrested there. Mauna Kea is sacred and has been overdeveloped and desecrated. I have worshipped on the Mauna for 40 years and built the ahu below Hale Pohaku. The legislative effort in 2022 failed and was rejected not only by Hawaiian practitioners but UH and Lassner.

New management will solve nothing and has failed in the past. Unless systemic racism is addressed, the problems will continue because Hawaiians will never give up the Akua or abandon their culture.

4. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?

DHHL should play a major role in this area when it comes to Hawaiians, but it does not because it does not have the funding or executive authority needed to construct homes for the current wait list. DHHL and OHA can and should undertake joint efforts to help Hawaiian homeless. Historically, DHHL was the only state department that did not get a budget from the legislature for years.

The problem is compounded by the extremely high cost of living and construction materials in Hawaii.

5. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?

Poverty and homelessness are our people’s problems, and it is due to our people’s alienation from our land and cultural practices, including wahi pana and traditional fishing and agricultural practices. We begin by understanding the intergenerational transmission of trauma, and how our collective past continues to impact us.

As indigenous peoples we need to understand this and how it works within ourselves, then we can address the core problem and apply culturally appropriate solutions.

6. What are your views regarding Hawaiian self-determination?

Self determination is the right of all peoples to freely determine their political status and by virtue of that right, to freely pursue economic, cultural and social development. Hawaiians and the world’s indigenous peoples did not attain this right until 2007.

We need to educate ourselves and future generations about our own human rights and express and manifest this inherent right through our own nation-building initiatives; only we can restore the Lahui.

7. Is OHA getting its fair share of ceded-land revenues from the state?

No.

8. Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?

Not yet, but it is getting there in partnership with community-based Hawaiian groups who are committed to uplifting our peoples and addressing health and poverty disparities.

9. Is Hawaii managing its tourism industry properly? What should be handled differently?

No. Tourism should be strictly controlled by number and there should be an increased tax on tourism to facilitate the industry paying its way instead of putting the costs of tourism on the local taxpayers, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian.

Tourists consume our water, use our roads and facilities, and contribute to increased waste and toxicity, but do not pay their fair share for maintaining services, addressing effluent discharge or ongoing use of Hawaii’s public services.

10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.

Create a new paradigm: Keep Hawaii Hawaiian. Educate people, locals and tourists, about our traditional values and lifeways.

Impose restrictions and requirements to ensure people alter their behavior to accommodate the “Hawaiian” way. Example: In Hawaii, we do not put trash in the ocean, people who do will get fined.

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