Native Hawaiian Law Training Update: Hahai Pono I Ke Ala Kukui Me Ka Huli Ao
Mahina Tuteur, Post-J.D. Fellow
On June 7, 2019, Ka Huli Ao, in partnership with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), conducted a Native Hawaiian Law Training Course for members and staff of state and county boards, commissions, councils, and agencies who administer resources and programs that impact Hawaiʻi’s natural and cultural resources. Over 100 people attended the full-day training course at Orvis Auditorium on the UH Mānoa campus, with members of the State Land Use Commission, Legacy Land Conservation Commission, and the Hawaiian Homes Commission among those in attendance. State representatives and county councilmembers also participated, as well as several staff from the Hawaiʻi County Planning Department and the Maui County Department of the Corporation Counsel.
The theme of the training was “Hahai Pono I Ke Ala Kukui Me Ka Huli Ao,” or “Pursue the Path of Enlightenment Through Justice.” This ʻōlelo noʻeau encourages decision-makers to seek justice by upholding the state’s trust responsibilities in relation to natural and cultural resources that support the Hawaiian community and the larger public. It also recognizes that the state has commitments, as recognized in both federal and state law, to pursue a path that will lead to reconciliation with and justice for Hawaiians and will ultimately benefit all those who call Hawaiʻi home.
After Professor Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie welcomed participants with an ʻoli, OHA Trustee and Vice-Chair Brendon Kaleiʻāina Lee opened the training course with background on the program’s history and purpose. Trustee Lee explained that since OHA and Ka Huli Ao began partnering on this training initiative in January 2013, approximately 920 people have taken the course. With OHA’s leadership, the enactment of Act 169 during the 2015 legislative session made the training mandatory for select boards and commissions, with the goal of ensuring that government policy-makers understand and make decisions consistent with the state’s fiduciary obligations to Kānaka Maoli and the public trust. This was the ninth training since the signing of Act 169, and now qualifies for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits, with over forty attorneys receiving CLE credit for attending the training.
Senator Kaialiʻi “Kai” Kahele followed, with an oli honoring his family’s relationship with the small fishing village of Milioliʻi, and remarks reflecting on his path from Miloliʻi to the Hawaiʻi State Senate. He urged those in attendance to remember and honor their pilina and work to fulfill their kuleana to their kūpuna, ʻohana, and community. Ethnic Studies Professor Davianna McGregor then provided historical context in her presentation on “Hawaiian History: Foundations for Kuleana.” Leading experts in Native Hawaiian Law covered several topics including the Public Land Trust (presented by Professor MacKenzie), Native Hawaiian Traditional and Customary Rights and Practices (presented by Professor Susan Serrano), Water and the Public Trust Doctrine (presented by Professor Kapua Sproat), and Protecting Iwi Kūpuna (presented by Professor Malia Akutagawa). The day concluded with a Q&A session.
Participants provided overwhelmingly positive comments, with many requesting expansion of the training course to neighbor islands as well as the advanced-level courses for those who desire more in-depth discussion of constitutional and statutory mandates and case law. One participant commented: “I am pleased and better informed on all topics presented, enjoyed meeting and visiting with new people, loved the lunch and appreciate the books. I am also very proud of our Hawaiians who have studied hard to become smart lawyers who are helping to protect the rights of Native Hawaiians.” Another attendee remarked: “This was an excellent course, interesting and informative.”
Ka Huli Ao continues to receive requests from policy-makers, staff, and community members to provide similar trainings across ka paeʻāina, and is excited to expand this effort. This is especially critical as state and county agencies, the courts, and communities continue to grapple with the meaning and contours of the state’s duty to mālama ʻāina, kai, and kānaka. We are hopeful that this training can play a small part in inspiring our decision-makers to ʻauamo their kuleana (shoulder the responsibility) and uphold their legal obligations to protect and steward resources for present and future generations.
Mahalo nui to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Orvis Auditorium, ‘Ahahui o Hawaiʻi volunteers Liʻi Nāhiwa, Bev Simina, Ashley Kaono, and Kelli Lyman, as well as Hawaiʻinuiākea student volunteer Kamuela Park, for all your kōkua in making this training possible.