Kauaʻi residents weigh in on OHA efforts during meeting
News Release from OHA August 19, 2013
OHA Trustee Dan Ahuna (left) and Kauaʻi Mayor Bernard Carvalho honor former OHA Trustee Donald Cataluna, whose wife, Dorothy, accepted the recognition on his behalf prior to a community meeting in Līhuʻe on Aug. 14.
KAUAʻI (Aug. 19, 2013) - Nearly 100 people turned out for a Board of Trustees meeting in Līhuʻe that was meant to help keep Native Hawaiians on Kaua'i engaged and strongly attached to priorities as well as initiatives supported by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Some Native Hawaiians at the three-hour meeting - led by Trustee Dan Ahuna - drew energy from OHA's support of their efforts to ensure that the Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative gives thoughtful consideration to traditional and customary rights of Native Hawaiians before diverting water from two popular streams.
Others voiced suspicion about enrolling with Kanaʻiolowalu, the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission's effort to engage about 250,000 Hawaiians in the process of re-establishing their own nation.
At the same time, many others took comfort from a new program at Kauaʻi Community College that offers free tuition and books to eligible Native-Hawaiian students as part of a broader effort to help develop marketable job skills meant to raise their standard of living.
“The $250,000 grant we received from OHA for the program will benefit about 40 students over the next two years,” said Bruce D. Getzan, director of the Office of Continuing Education and Training at Kauaʻi Community College.
Among others in attendance at the meeting inside the Wilcox Elementary School cafeteria was a group of Native Hawaiian taro farmers, who were not bashful about their gratitude toward OHA for helping them ensure that any impact on traditional and customary rights is factored into decisions by the Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) before diverting water from two streams to power hydroelectric plants in Līhuʻe.
“I am very grateful to OHA for its intervention,” said Debbie Lee-Jackson, a kuleana landowner and taro farmer in Huleia. “I am directly affected by the water diversions.”
In his testimony to OHA trustees, Brad Rockwell, the power supply manager for KIUC, acknowledged his company’s willingness to work with the Hawaiian community.
He was also quick to portray the water diversions as a credible alternative to the role imported oil is playing in the high cost of electricity. “We are trying our best to address high-energy costs,” Rockwell told trustees.
But the most tense moment during the community meeting came within its final 10 minutes, when Trustee Peter Apo attempted to soothe concerns raised about the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission's Kanaʻiolowalu, a crucial step in re-establishing a Hawaiian nation.
His comments were prompted by the sentiments of a handful of OHA beneficiaries, whose viewpoints on Kanaʻiolowalu nurtured doubts about an effort that is being widely touted as perhaps the last chance for Native Hawaiians to register to participate in organizing their nation.
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