Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey was one of seven witnesses who testified yesterday before a U.S. House subcommittee reviewing the impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous populations.
The House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States hearing was entitled “A Year in Review: The State of COVID-19 in American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Communities – Lessons Learned for Future Action.”
The hearing focused on community needs and policy recommendations from Tribal health care, Tribal elder, Native housing and Native Hawaiian experts on the current state of coronavirus and its impact on Indigenous populations throughout the pandemic. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-New Mexico) and Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaiʻi) sits on the subcommittee.
At the end of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that among 14 states participating in its analysis, the overall coronavirus mortality rate among American Indian and Alaska Native persons was 3.5 times higher than that of White populations. In Hawaiʻi, Pacific Islanders account for nearly 30% of cases even though they make up only 4% of the population.
Chair Lindsey thanked the subcommittee for the opportunity to bring attention to some of the Native Hawaiian community’s most urgent needs.
“Like many of our Native cousins across the contiguous states and in Alaska, our people face disparities related to health and welfare, violence against women and children, the criminal justice system, and the effects of climate change. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has worsened these disparities,” Chair Lindsey said.
“Office of Hawaiian Affairs is grateful for the leadership of many on this Subcommittee to ensure Congress provided assistance to the Native community through the American Rescue Plan; however, many long-standing issues related to the federal trust responsibility owed to Native Hawaiians remain unaddressed - Native Hawaiians have been left out of federal consultation requirements for too long; several federal programs that benefit Native Hawaiians are overdue to be reauthorized and strengthened, especially now with the lingering effects of COVID-19; and Native Hawaiians still lack parity with other Native Americans in many federal programs and policies.”
Chair Lindsey urged the committee to take action on these issues in the 117th Congress.
Other witnesses yesterday morning included:
- Francys Crevier, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Urban Indian Health
- William Smith, Chairperson and Alaska Area Representative, National Indian Health Board
- Larry Curley, Executive Director, National Indian Council on Aging
- Adrian Stevens, Acting Chairman, Board of Directors, National American Indian Housing Council
- Dr. Charles Grim, Secretary, Department of Health, Chickasaw Nation
- Rodney Cawston, Chairman, Colville Business Council, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
This was Chair Lindsey’s second opportunity this year to testify before members of Congress on the needs and federal priorities of the Native Hawaiian community. View Chair Lindsey’s written testimony here. View Chair Lindsey’s testimony before the House subcommittee here.
About the Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Established by the state Constitutional Convention in 1978, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is a semi-autonomous state agency mandated to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians. Guided by a board of nine publicly elected trustees, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs fulfills its mandate through advocacy, research, community engagement, land management and the funding of community programs. Learn more at www.oha.org.