Hawaiian Homestead leaders meet with Biden-Harris Transition Team
Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations
Enrolled members of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA) convened its Homestead Policy Council with representatives of the President-Elect Biden Transition Team on December 23, 2020. The purpose of the briefing was to share priorities of native Hawaiians for potential action in the first 100 days of the Biden/Harris administration starting January 20, 2021 after the presidential inauguration.
“President-Elect Biden’s team is populated with incredible minds on transportation, on farming, on native trust lands, finance, and health policy, among others,” said Robin Puanani Danner, elected chairwoman of Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations. “There wasn’t one iota of complacency, only serious dialogue and interest in the unique issues of our 100-year-old federal land trust law. It was uplifting and all about solutions, mahalo nui every member of the Biden Team.”
During the hour-long call attendees focused on executive branch actions that can clear away barriers of native Hawaiians on the waitlist for a land award, farming priorities to advance food sovereignty on all islands with the USDA agency, opening the flow of capital under existing federal loan guarantee programs like the HUD 184 mortgage program, supporting safe trust land neighborhoods with incoming officials at the Department of Justice, and increased utilization of New Market Tax Credits in Indian Country and Hawaiian Home Lands with the U.S. Treasury Department. Specific solutions were also discussed for consideration by the Department of Interior to increase engagement of native Hawaiians, as well the Department of Transportation to address high costs.
“It was an honor, truly a productive and meaningful meeting with the Biden team, on realistic public policy in the executive branch, speaking directly to us, to work with us as an indigenous constituency,” remarked Kipukai Kualii, a County of Kauai councilman, a native Hawaiian on the waitlist for a farm lot. “The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations and all of us as homestead association leaders across the State have work to do, but it was clear from the meeting, we have federal officials across the table ready to work with us too.”
The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations delegation, 13 Policy Council leaders from Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Molokai, Hawaii Island and the Waitlist organization, the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands (AHHL) presented. Kim Balauro shared her experience as a lessee in Waihole, Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations Kupuna Kammy Purdy and Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations Vice Chairwoman, Sybil Lopez spoke on solutions on economic recovery and food production by homestead farmers and ranchers within reach with executive branch collaboration. Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations Councilwoman Kekoa Enomoto addressed capital and development solutions, as well as strategies with the Department of Health & Human Service. The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations delegation provided a comprehensive policy document for consideration by President-Elect Biden.
Mike Kahikina an original founding member of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations from Nanakuli, Oahu, a former State legislator, closed the meeting by saying, “As a veteran, a Hawaiian, to be speaking directly to my government, about solutions, what can be done, I’m hopeful – it’s been 100 years.” Kahikina thanked each member of the Biden/Harris Transition Team, especially for the common sense dialogue on ways to move forward after the January inauguration of President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris.
The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, founded in 1987, is the oldest and largest homestead association registered with the federal Department of Interior, exercising sovereignty to advance the tenets of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 and advance the interests of 10,000 land allottees and 28,000 native Hawaiians awaiting a homestead land award.