Fall 2018


Director’s Column — I Mana I Ka Wai: Deepening Our Collective Knowledge So That We Are Empowered By Our Water Resources

By: D. Kapuaʻala Sproat, Director

Aloha e nā hoa makamaka,

In April 2018, Oʻahu Circuit Court Judge Gary W.B. Chang issued a pathbreaking decision with respect to trustee duties under both our public trust and “ceded” lands trust.  For the first time, a Hawaiʻi court ruled that the State of Hawaiʻi has a duty to mālama ʻāina.  Although the case is currently on appeal, it is an important indication of the power and potential of both the public trust and the ceded lands trust as legal doctrines, as well as the significance of Kānaka Maoli culture and history as a foundation for our laws and policy. Read more.


Scholarship and Advocacy Update: Davis v. Guam and the Erasure of Historical Harms

By: Susan K. Serrano, Associate Director

On Wednesday, October 10, 2018, Julian Aguon, ’09, an international human rights lawyer, adjunct law professor, author, and former Post-Juris Doctor Research Fellow with Ka Huli Ao, will argue before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in Honolulu.  Julian is lead counsel in Davis v. Guam, defending Guam’s decolonization process and the right of the native inhabitants to express, by plebiscite, their views regarding their desired future political relationship with the United States.

In Davis, Arnold Davis, a white Guam resident, represented by anti-affirmative action and conservative election attorneys, sued Guam for alleged violations of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Read more.


The U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Part I

By: Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie, Professor of Law and Founding Director

Recently, I had the honor of co-teaching a class on Comparative Indigenous Rights with Walter Echo-Hawk, the Spring 2018 Dan & Maggie Inouye Distinguished Chair in Democratic Ideals.  Walter has more than forty years of experience as an attorney asserting and defending the rights of native nations and tribes, and as a scholar and author.  One thing that struck me was Walter’s optimism that the racist colonial doctrines that underpin the United States’ relations with Indigenous peoples could be changed over time to reflect the principles embodied in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  G.A. Res. 61/295, U.N. Doc. A/RES/61/295 (Sept. 13, 2007).  Indeed, Walter’s 2013 book, In the Light of Justice, examines both the best and worst aspects of Federal Indian Law and details how many of the holdings of the U.S. Supreme Court on native peoples do not comport with the basic human rights principles set forth in the Declaration.  Walter urged those working on behalf of Indigenous peoples to continue to raise the principles set out in the U.N. Declaration in every possible forum – before courts, tribunals, legislatures, and the executive, and on a county, state, federal, and international level. Read more.


Archives Update: “For Our People: Past, Present, and Future”

By: Avis Kuuipoleialoha Poai, Director of Archives and Legal History

Welina e nā hoa makamaka! I am pleased to announce that Ka Huli Ao’s archives program, Punawaioala, was awarded the 2018 International Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) Guardians of Culture and Lifeways Award for Archives Excellence. ATALM’s international awards program “identifies and recognizes organizations who serve as outstanding examples of how indigenous archives, libraries and museums contribute to the vitality and sovereignty of Native Nations.” The theme for this year’s ATALM conference is: “For Our People: Past, Present, and Future”—an apt description for much of what we strive to do at Ka Huli Ao.  Read more.


October 2018 Maoli Thursday: Davis v. Guam and the Death Knell of Difference: A Conversation with Julian Aguon

Please join us for our October 2018 Maoli Thursday – Davis v. Guam and the Death Knell of Difference: A Conversation with Julian Aguon, Thursday, October 11, from 11:45am to 1:00pm in in Classroom 2.  Julian Aguon is an international human rights lawyer, adjunct law professor, and author. Licensed to practice law in Guam, Palau, and the Marshall Islands, Julian is the founder and visionary behind Blue Ocean Law, a regional law firm committed to breaking new ground at the intersection of international Indigenous rights and environmental law.

Julian is lead counsel in Davis v. Guam, defending Guam’s decolonization process and the right of the native inhabitants to express, by plebiscite, their views regarding their desired future political relationship with the United States. Julian’s most recent article, published in the Harvard Environmental Law Review, argues for the recalibration of the deep sea mining regulatory regime. Read more.


My Summer Experience Working in Indigenous Law in Washington, D.C.

By: Ian Tapu, 2L

This summer, through the generosity of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and Ka Huli Ao, I had the immense privilege of interning in Washington, D.C. with Akin Gump and the OHA DC Office. In addition to working for the Indigenous arm of a large international law farm and supporting Native Hawaiians in the federal arena, it was also on a more basic level about being a Polynesian man in a major city that largely framed my experiences this summer. I was challenged and uplifted in a way that validated my choice to be in law school and cemented a passion to work for Indigenous and underrepresented communities.  Read more.


Student Outreach Update: “E lei kau, e lei hoʻoilo i ke aloha.”

By: Avis Kuuipoleialoha Poai, Director of Student Outreach

Aloha e nā hoa makamaka! I have the privilege of working with students of all ages, and the exuberance and aloha they express reminds me of a beautiful ʻōlelo noʻeau, “E lei kau, e lei hoʻoilo i ke aloha.” Aloha is worn like a wreath through the summers and winters—it is everlasting. This past summer we had a number of fun events. I share a few of my favorites below.

On July 31, 2018, Kaleio Crowell (2L) and I welcomed 16 students from the Native Hawaiian Student Services’ Kekaulike Summer Bridge Program. This six week intensive summer program is designed to prepare Native Hawaiian community college students for the transition to the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa campus. The 2018 cohort is an impressive group coming from UH Maui College, Kauaʻi Community College, Honolulu Community College, Windward Community College, and Leeward Community College.  Read more.


A Matter of Belated Justice: A Summary of Nelson v. Hawaiian Homes Commission II, 141 Hawaiʻi 411, 412, 412 P.3d 917 (2018)

By: N. Mahina Tuteur, Post-J.D. Research and Teaching Fellow

In 1921, the United States Congress passed the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (“HHCA”), setting aside some 203,000 acres of the 1.8 million acres of Government and Crown Lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom, confiscated by the Republic of Hawaiʻi and transferred to the United States, for homesteading by Native Hawaiians with at least fifty percent blood quantum.  In 1959, the State of Hawaiʻi accepted responsibility for the Hawaiian Homes program as a condition of statehood, formally assuming the duties of a trustee for homestead beneficiaries.  Read more.


OHA Elections: the Process and Its Importance

By: Letani Peltier, Post-J.D. Legal Fellow

UH Mānoa William S. Richardson School of This fall, the people of Hawaiʻi will have the opportunity to vote for several Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board of Trustees positions. Like any government agency, OHA has its shortcomings. But it is a uniquely Hawaiian institution, a product of the hard work of both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians during the 1978 Constitutional Convention that stands poised to advocate for Native Hawaiians in a way that few other agencies can. Thus, it is our responsibility to protect this gift from our kupuna—to support it through its struggles and to hold it accountable to the ʻāina and the lāhui. Participating in the OHA trustee elections is one way to do that. Read more.


The Resilient Hawaiian Communities Initiative Update

By: Sean Aronson, Post-J.D. Fellow

Some say that summer is a time to unwind and kick back, but for the Resilient Hawaiian Communities (RHC) initiative, things have never been busier. Since the last update, the two Native Hawaiian communities that are working on climate change adaptation planning have made tremendous strides in reaching their goal of becoming more resilient in the face of the coming ecological impacts to their homelands.

The objective of the RHC initiative is to build capacity within two Native Hawaiian communities through the creation of a resiliency plan. The plans will integrate the latest climate research with the specific place-based solutions the communities identify to best prepare for the ecological impacts anticipated as a result of climate change.   Read more.


What’s New at Ka Huli Ao?

Ka Huli Ao warmly welcomes new and returning staff!  Rhiannon Tereari‘i Chandler-‘Īao ’16 recently returned as a Post-Juris Doctor Research & Teaching Fellow; Anna Jang ’18 joined us as a Post-Juris Doctor Research Fellow; and Lan Nguyen recently started as a Faculty Support Specialist for Ka Huli Ao and the Environmental Law Program.

On Thursday, September 6, Ka Huli Ao presented its first Maoli Thursday event of the semester, “An Unjust Burden: The Disparate Impact of the Criminal Justice System on Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders,” featuring Ken Lawson, Co-Director of the Hawaiʻi Innocence Project; Tyler Gomes, former Public Defender and currently Partnerships Manager – Hawaiʻi at Elemental Excelerator; and Kamaile Maldonado, Public Policy Advocate at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  Susan Serrano, Associate Director of Ka Huli Ao, moderated.  Read more.