Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations
The Hawaii State Legislature took action in 2022 by appropriating $600 million in general funds to its state agency, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) to address the woeful waitlist of more than 28,000 families waiting for land allotments promised over a century ago, under the federal Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 (HHCA) and again at Statehood in 1959 by the State of Hawaii. Act 276, the Waitlist Reduction Act was signed into law by Governor Ige in July 2022.
The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA), is a 35-year-old coalition of homestead associations, including its member, the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands (AHHL) that is dedicated to ending the waitlist. The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations and Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands launched a policy project to produce a $600M Beneficiary Spending and Strategic Plan. The groups will present recommendations to the new Governor elected in November, and to the new Department of Hawaiian Home Lands administration as well as the Hawaii State Legislature. Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations set four consultation sessions with its members and leaders, the first on May 19th, a second on July 23rd, a third scheduled on October 8th and a final convening on November 17th. On Saturday, July 23rd, the consultation was held in Honolulu — 65 Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations homestead and waitlist leaders spent 7 hours on the policy project.
“The legislature did an excellent job on Act 276, it contains relevant and flexible options to encumber $600 million to advance Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 beneficiary families on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’s waitlist to receive land allotments for a home, a farm, a ranch or mercantile purposes,” said Robin Puanani Danner, Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations Chairwoman. “We mahalo the Legislature’s mandate on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to produce a State agency strategic plan for the $600 million by December 2022, and we are excited to add our own plan, from the perspective of the citizens most impacted over the last 6 decades since Statehood.”
Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations organizes its Homestead Conference every year, typically in the fall, and periodic Policy Summits, in the spring or summer each year. Its summer Policy Summit was dedicated to the convening in July, the first in-person session since COVID, to work on the $600M Beneficiary Spending and Strategic Plan.
“It was dynamic and productive,” said Kammy Purdy, a Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations leader from Molokai with the Hoolehua Homestead Association. “My family is 5th generation on Molokai homesteads — since founding the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, we have endured the last 5 governors and all their Department of Hawaiian Home Lands directors that rarely have had any background in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 or in the meaning of a fiduciary land trust to an Indigenous people. One of the summit highlights was Lieutenant Governor Green and his spouse, Jaime Green stopping by — their remarks about our coalition, our citizen advocacy, understanding that we are the actual experts on what the solutions are, was so inspiring.”
Purdy continued, “We are used to politicians and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands representatives telling us they have arrived in office to save us, but Josh Green expressed that it is us, the people, the citizens that have the solutions we need our State government to act upon! He was plain spoken, and especially enthusiastic that we are doing the work to present how best the $600 million should be spent.”
Jaime Green was a summit favorite. A Native Hawaiian attorney in family law, educated at Brown University, she spoke of the knowledge and talent in our Hawaiian community, and the contributions of our kupuna and every generation to the well-being of Hawaii.
“The Summit was so powerful, so much mana and aloha in the room” said Mike Kahikina, Chairman of the waitlist association, Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands. “People translated truly, decades of hurt, of disappointment in State government, into hope and possibilities. The time we spent together validated what we have always known — the answers in any good democracy, are embodied in its citizens, and we are the citizens that too many have worked hard to make invisible, while issuing our land to everyone except Hawaiians defined in our lands Act.”
Danner led the summit conversation by setting the framework of Act 276, the simplicity of its 9 sections, and the wisdom of the legislature in articulating five core purposes for the $600 million. She called on Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations leaders to put aside the constant messaging of ‘no can’ or ‘wait for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ that Hawaiians hear from state and federal officials, administration after administration.
Instead, Danner said, “Reach for ‘What Can’ and ‘How Can’, never mind what others say, take what has plagued this program, what has hurt us over decades — be bold! You are the answer and I challenge you to not just lay out what Department of Hawaiian Home Lands should do, aole, lay out what you as Homestead Beneficiary Associations (HBAs), defined in federal code, what you can do!”
Kahikina echoed the sentiment, saying “The Hawaii legislature heard us, now we must be responsive to them, to the next governor, by providing a comprehensive plan for the $600 million, of what will make the Hawaiian Home Land program work — this policy project is the essence of our kuleana, of our sovereignty, and self-determination on homesteads.”
Leaders from Maui presented on the home development process, Hawaii Island presented on successful homestead childcare services important to workforce success, and Kauai presented on mortgage finance and access to capital that puts builders to work and families living in safe, affordable homes.
Hundreds of recommendations from the July summit have been recorded and will inform the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations/Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands plan scheduled for submission to the Legislature, to the incoming Governor and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands administration by December 10, 2022.
“This is patient work, worthy work,” said Vanessa Garcia Phillips,Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands Waitlist Vice Chair. “All of our leaders and members have day jobs or are retired with untapped experience and skills completely relevant to the success of the Hawaiian Homes program. What too many in government assume, is that we know nothing about the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, they tell us ‘its too complicated’, but really, it is not. The Act is straightforward, has always been straightforward – issue improved lots for Hawaiians to build homes, farms, ranches or mercantile businesses.”
Kipukai Kualii, the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations Policy Chairman is one of the primary drafters of the Beneficiary plan scheduled to be completed a week after the next Governor takes office in December. He is also an elected County Councilman.
“Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations has always produced smart, reasonable policy work, hosting seminars on what the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 actually says, its content made a part of Hawaii’s constitution in 1959,” Kualii remarked. “It is incumbent on us as homestead associations to be at the table, to be a part of the solution, and it is incumbent on our state and federal officials to genuinely hear the manao of homestead leaders. We can no longer afford to allow government agencies to ignore the wisdom of its citizens, the waitlist, where my own father is 88 years old, pure Hawaiian, an expert farmer and rancher, has waited well over half his life for a simple allotment of land.”
Homestead and Waitlist leaders from every corner of the state are working together, unified to present a spending plan within the parameters of Act 276. For more information on this $600M Policy Project, contact email@example.com.