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A lei hulu presented to newly elected members of the Board of Trustees at their investiture. - Photo: Francine Kananionapua Murray

Investiture charts a new course for OHA

Story by Lindsey Kesel appears in the Jan. 2017 Ka Wai Ola

The hopeful spirit of the Investiture Ceremony, as well as the overarching mission of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, was beautifully captured in this year’s theme: “Inā ua pa‘a ke kahua… akā e pa‘a nō ka hale. If the foundation is solid and the structural integrity of the house is sound, water will flow and the wind will blow but the house will remain.”

Held at Central Union Church on Dec. 9, the installation event united hundreds of community members – including dignitaries, government officials and program partners – in welcoming four recently elected OHA Trustees and marking a change in board leadership.

After a piano prelude by Hawaiian musician Aaron Salā and the blowing of conch shells, distinguished guests were ushered into the church along the red carpet path. Colorful kāhili guided the procession of men and women from the royal benevolent societies and ali‘i trusts, followed by representatives of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and finally the OHA Trustees and administration members. Spectators joined in singing the national anthem of the Hawaiian Kingdom, “Hawai‘i Pono‘ī.”

Amidst a backdrop of twinkling Christmas trees, festive garlands with bright red bows and a stone cross with the words, “Love Never Faileth,” Kahu David Ka‘upu began with an opening prayer that touched on the power of love, joy and peace. He shared profound words from Matthew 7:24-27 highlighting the importance of building a strong foundation in order to weather any adversity.

Next, the newly elected OHA Trustees – Keli‘i Akina, Ph.D., Collete Machado, Dan Ahuna and Robert Lindsey Jr. – were presented with blue lei hulu and given a special blessing to commemorate the start of their four-year terms. They were then joined by OHA’s returning trustees, and Board Chairwoman Rowena Akana and Vice Chair Leina‘ala Ahu Isa, Ph.D. were welcomed to their new positions. Aaron Salā and friends played the beloved mele “Kaulana Nā Pua,” with its celebrated opening line, “Famous are the children of Hawai‘i, ever loyal to the land,” as onlookers were treated to a special hula performance by OHA staff members.

Taking the podium as OHA’s new Chairwoman, Akana addressed the audience with reflections of the agency’s humble beginnings and the progress the hui has forged over its 36-year presence. She spoke of the huge mandate the original nine trustees faced, the monumental ceded land settlement reached with the Waihe‘e administration and the Board’s success in growing its investment funds.

Akana, first elected in 1990, listed various ways that the Board has supported its beneficiaries, but also touched on the imminent need to return to the core pillars of OHA’s previous success: “Somewhere along the way, I think OHA lost its focus on the real purpose of what a trust is… In 2017, I look forward to helping those beneficiaries come back to the OHA that we used to know, the OHA that reached out to our beneficiaries, the OHA that listened to them, the OHA that built houses on neighbor islands, the OHA that worked for our people… Nothing is too difficult if we can work together.”

Next, OHA’s Ka Pouhana (CEO) Kamana‘opono Crabbe took the podium to welcome the inducted Trustees, and garnered standing ovations as he first thanked former Trustee Haunani Apoliona for her 20 years of service, then recognized former Trustee Oswald Stender for the 14 years he served on the board. Crabbe spoke of the importance of fortifying OHA’s foundation with a traditional approach: “Our kūpuna understood that the only way to ensure that a home could withstand the strongest winds and the heaviest rains was to construct a solid foundation… with superior intelligence, quality materials and tools, during the ideal time of the year and at the most secure location.” He highlighted two fundamental elements that comprise OHA’s infrastructure – the legal mandate to improve the lives of Native Hawaiians, and the organization’s fiduciary responsibility to manage and protect the trust for current and future generations of beneficiaries.

Crabbe recounted recent measures of progress, including President Obama’s appointment of OHA as a co-trustee to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the return of Kalani‘ōpu‘u’s treasured mahiole and ‘ahu‘ula from the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and OHA’s strong role when Hawai‘i hosted the quadrennial IUCN World Conservation Congress, which “placed the indigenous movement center stage and demonstrated traditional management practices to sustain fragile global environment and ‘āina.”

He detailed other OHA actions that were consistent with the state’s objectives of food security, eradicating invasive species, protecting pristine native habitats and environmental ecology and improving advocacy for renewable energy sources. Spectators erupted in applause at his definitive line, “What is good for Hawaiians is great for Hawai‘i.”

He went on to reinforce OHA’s support for communities seeking self-determination, a movement that “requires kanaka action, and Native Hawaiian involvement and engagement,” and challenged the Board and community to step back and redefine OHA’s role in education in order to meet the changing demands of the shifting political landscape. He shared two mo‘olelo about Hāloa and Kauikeaouli that illustrate how what was considered pono leadership in ancient times is the same as what continues to be needed today. He ended with this charge: “Your kūpuna, my ancestors and forefathers, knew very well what morality was all about and it went hand in hand with leadership and excellence in aloha – aloha for our people, aloha for our land… Good morality, good judgment means good fiduciary duty. That is what we expect of OHA, that is what we expect of our Trustees, and we will deliver.”


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Click below to watch the 2016 OHA Investiture.

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