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Environmental Law Clinic students work with Native Hawaiian community members on water rights.

Environmental Law Clinic students work with Native Hawaiian community members on water rights.

Law school partnership with OHA continues to serve the Native Hawaiian community

From UH News Sep 19, 2017

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has finalized an agreement with Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law to continue the Aʻo Aku Aʻo Mai Initiative.

The initiative was created to provide access to justice for Native Hawaiians through legal education and direct legal services on issues of importance to the Native Hawaiian community. OHA has committed $150,000 for Ka Huli Ao to hire a post-juris doctor fellow and offer a minimum of four legal clinics over the next two years.

This latest phase of the initiative aims to expand the base of knowledge and support on issues impacting OHA beneficiaries and Hawaiʻi’s natural resources, especially those in rural Neighbor Island communities. Inspired by Native Hawaiian tradition, Aʻo Aku Aʻo Mai reflects the fact that learning is a shared and symbiotic process that respects the transfer of knowledge both from community members to students and vice versa.

OHA and Ka Huli Ao first launched the Initiative in 2011 to produce a legal primer and support community outreach on Native Hawaiian land issues, but it has since grown to include other areas of Native Hawaiian Law.

From 2015-2017, Ka Huli Ao provided trainings, research and other support to 80 ʻohana who were embroiled in an administrative trial on Maui over their water rights and were not represented by attorneys; educated more than 40 law students in Native Hawaiian law; and all together directly assisted or trained more than 400 individuals on Maui, Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi islands in various areas of Native Hawaiian law, including water rights and traditional and customary Native Hawaiian practices.

“The Aʻo Aku Aʻo Mai Initiative has already produced significant benefits for Hawaiʻi’s people and resources from Kaʻūpūlehu to Nā Wai ʻEhā. We are honored to continue partnering with OHA in this important endeavor and we are thrilled to expand our reach to other legal issues that have an impact on Native Hawaiians, especially those in rural communities. Through this Initiative, we hope to create a lasting legacy that will continue ā mau loa,” explained Ka Huli Ao Associate Professor and Environmental Law Clinic Director Kapua Sproat.

Added Richardson Law School Interim Dean Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie, “This is yet another example of the crucial role Ka Huli Ao plays through its community outreach, supporting and empowering so many who would not otherwise have the assistance of an attorney. Faculty and staff do extraordinary work in many other realms as well, such as in their teaching, research and scholarship.”   


Established in 2005 at the William S. Richardson School of Law, Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law is an academic center that promotes education, scholarship, community outreach and collaboration on issues of law, culture and justice for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific and Indigenous peoples.

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