For the past ten years at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement's Annual Convention, NHLC has presented the Native Hawaiian Community Advocate Award recognizing outstanding individuals with a personal contribution to Native Hawaiian rights and leadership.
NHLC presented its 2016 Native Hawaiian Advocate Award to Puanani Burgess.
Puanani Burgess fondly known as "Aunty Pua" is a community building facilitator, trainer, and consultant in Hawaiʻi, the U.S., and the Pacific. She is also a poet, cultural translator, and has been a lecturer with the Urban Studies and Regional Planning Department at the University of Hawai'i, Manoa. She was a Weinberg Fellow and the Myles and Zilphia Horton Chairholder for the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tennessee. She is noted for her experience in community, family, and values-based economic development, mediation and storytelling processes as part of conflict transformation, and in developing community-based organizations.
Aunty Pua is a noted cultural expert and was recently awarded a Meritorious Doctor of Letters (D.Litt., Indigenous Knowledge Holder) for her lifetime contributions to Indigenous education by the World Indigenous Nations University. Aunty Pua is also recognized as a Living Treasure of Hawaii and as a Community Scholar working with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. Aunty Pua serves as a mentor to her generation and to subsequent generations passing on living Hawaiian wisdom, knowledge, practices and worldview. Aunty Pua’s work as a member of the Hui is having and will have an international impact as she shapes our thinking about how indigenous work in education, social services, and community development is evaluated and assessed. She is revolutionizing our thinking back to Hawaiian ways.
NHLC awarded Judge Walter Meheula Heen its 2014 Native Hawaiian Advocate Awardee for his 50 plus years of public service to the people of Hawaiʻi in a variety of roles including a distinguished judicial career.
As a Judge on the Intermediate Court of Appeals, Judge Heen authored a number of important decisions dealing with Native Hawaiian rights. In 1986, he issued the decision in the land title case known as Hustace v. Kapuni that ensures that Native Hawaiians receive notice of lawsuits that may affect their ownership interest in ancestral lands. When this case began, notice was provided primarily by way of a newspaper ad and those who failed to respond to the newspaper ad were defaulted. In his decision, Judge Heen noted that, “[t]he consequences of quiet title actions are so severe that to have one's interest in land summarily taken away without an opportunity to respond is in violation of due process requirements and our sense of fairness and justice.” Now, and as a result of this decision, whenever a quiet title action is filed, the plaintiff must engage in an extensive search for people who might have a claim to the property and can no longer rely solely on notice of the lawsuit via newspaper publication without first reviewing various publicly available records.
In the initial appeal of the case commonly referred to as PASH, Native Hawaiians who gathered shrimp from several ponds contained within the footprint of a major resort development planned for the Kona Coast requested a contested case to challenge the permit for the project claiming that their gathering practices were threatened by the project. This request was denied by the county. In his ruling, Judge Heen confirmed that these individuals were entitled to a contested case and that the Hawaii Planning Commission had “disregarded the rules regarding the gathering rights of native Hawaiians and its obligation to protect and preserve those rights.” The Hawaii Supreme Court affirmed this ruling.
Mahalo nui Judge Heen, for your unyielding dedication to the betterment of the conditions of Native Hawaiians.
NHLC is pleased to award its 2013 Native Hawaiian Advocate of the Year Award to Mac Poepoe. Uncle Mac noted the slow decline of fish and shoreline species, and in the early nineties, consulted with other Molokaʻi fishermen to bring about a change. That decision led to the creation of the Hui Malama o Moʻomomi, a grassroots organization dedicated to conserving and maintaining resources, and returning to the traditional Hawaiian best practices of resource management. He has revitalized the Northwest coastline of Molokaʻi from ‘Ilio Point to Nihoa, and trained many people from young to old about the importance of konohiki thinking. It has been a challenge to redirect attitudes from the Western view of “individual rights” to the Hawaiian view of “for the next generations”, but his determination to continue the effort of malama ‘aina has resulted in an awareness, not only in his own community on Molokaʻi, but many communities throughout the state and internationally, about the importance of Hawaiian-style stewardship and community self-management.
Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation awarded Ed Wendt its 2012 Native Hawaiian Community Advocate of the Year Award for his tireless struggle on behalf of himself and Wailuanui/Ke`anae kalo farmers, gatherers, and fishers seeking to enforce their constitutional rights to pursue their Hawaiian traditions and customs dependent on free-flowing streams. This award recognizes Ed's decades-long struggle against the 4th largest landowner in Hawai`i, Alexander and Baldwin (A&B), which is the largest private diverter of water in the United States. With permission of the State of Hawai`i, A&B, through its subsidiary East Maui Irrigation Company, has diverted over 100 East Maui streams collected on 33,000 acres of conservation lands. A&B uses this water to irrigate 27,000 acres of sugar cane fields managed by another A&B subsidiary, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar plantation, the last of dozens of plantations that once operated in Hawai`i. Ed is President of Na Moku Aupuni O Ko`olau Hui, the community organization he helped found in the 1990's to oppose the continuing diversions of water that was sapping the culture and spirit of his community.
NHLC is especially pleased and honored to present the 2011 Community Advocate Of The Year, Dana Naone Hall.
Dana is one of the founding members of Hui Ala Nui O Makena, an organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of historical, cultural and native Hawaiian rights. Her more than thirty years of advocacy has produced impressive results that we all have benefitted from. She successfully fought the closure of that part of the alanui fronting Seibu’s Maui Prince Hotel and, in the process, protected the area’s rich coastal resources. She was also instrumental in efforts to relocate the Ritz Carlton Hotel away from the shoreline dunes at Honokahua. Her work in that case led to significant protections for iwi kupuna. She also successfully opposed a private golf course development slated for the Waihe’e shoreline, an area rich with archeological and cultural sites. Because of her dedication, that important cultural landscape will be preserved in perpetuity. Dana has also served with distinction as a member of the Maui-Lanai-Molokai Islands Burial Council. As a member, vice-chair, and chair, she established an impressive record of resolving very contentious matters involving development projects and native Hawaiian burials.
Dana has no need for official recognition of her more than three decades of tireless and very effective advocacy on behalf of Native Hawaiians. Dana continues to step up because of her sense of justice and unflinching courage under fire. She is an inspiration to us, she holds a very special place in Hawai‘i’s history, and our recognition and acknowledgement of that is long overdue.
In 2010, NHLC presented its Community Advocate of the Year Award to two cousins from Honopou, island of Maui, Hawai`i - Beatrice Kekahuna and Marjorie Wallett (posthumous). Honopou is one of the few remaining natural areas of Hawai`i that directly supported the ancient traditions and customs of Hawaiians. Beatrice and Marjorie were the stalwarts of Hawaiian traditional and customary use of Honopou Stream. They were raised in Honopou, helping their families survive on the bounty that the stream provided in supporting taro growing, native stream life, and the fresh water interface with the ocean so vital to the gathering and fishing traditions of the coastline.
Beatrice Pualani (Kepani) Kekahuna, also known as (Aunty) Nani, was born on June 3, 1932 to Juliana (Koko) and Lokana Kepani in Huelo, Maui, Hawaii. She was the second youngest in a family of 12 children. She had a humble upbringing on the east side of Maui. As children, she and her siblings would explore the valleys near their home, following the fresh water streams to the ocean. Taking care of taro patches was a way of life for them. In turn, the taro provided food for such a large family. These waters also fed the opa`e, hihiwai and o`opu on which she was raised. They also nurtured the fisheries on the East Maui coast which provided her ohana an important source of food. Her early life in East Maui gave her an intense appreciation for how water sustains life. She was brought up to believe if you took care of the land, the land will take care of you.
To this day, she is still cultivating taro as well, yet many things have changed from her childhood days. The diversion of our natural streams by giant agribusiness interests has made it difficult to maintain the taro patches that used to flourish during her childhood. Without enough water, the taro will not grow properly. Without access to home-grown taro or the fish, o`opu, opa`e and hihiwai she once regularly gathered, she sees tradition slipping away. This is why Beatrice is also active in the pursuit of water rights for taro farmers and gathering/fishing rights for subsistence gatherers.
No small part of NHLC’s ability to sustain its representation of East Maui residents is dependent on people like Aunty Beatrice and her recently departed cousin Marjorie Wallett. They stepped forward when they saw their streams dying from diversions meant to grow sugar. Aunty Beatrice’s warmth, patience, and persistence has been undiminished against the economic forces of the 12th largest landowner in the state and state government officials who are too often influenced by powerful political and economic forces. Her dedication to this cause has been inspiring, effective, and we express our deepest and sincere appreciation to her. Mahalo Aunty Beatrice!
Aunty Marjorie Wallett was born on March 28, 1932 in Honokohau, Maui. When she was about ten years old, the family moved to Honopou where they learned to work in the kalo lo’i. This area on Maui is the land base for one of the few remaining vestiges of Native Hawaiian culture and tradition. It is under assault from the economic and political forces that threaten to disrupt the practices that have sustained our way of life for centuries. When Aunty Marjorie moved back to Honopou after working on the mainland for 30 years, taro farming appeared to be dying off – the victim of diminishing water in the streams due to diversions by HC&S and A&B.
So when the concern for protecting our water rights arose, she didn’t hesitate to defend the rights of kalo farming on Honopou Stream and the streams of East Maui. In 2001, she was one of NHLC’s clients, who stepped up to launch the first formal challenge to water permits then being regularly issued by BLNR each year, as well as to demand the restoration of stream flow by the CWRM. During all of the many hearings and meetings held since then, her quiet nature belied the gentle ferocity with which she persisted in demonstrating her resolve.
Aunty Marjorie died on April 3, 2010 after a short illness. While she lived to see the CWRM take action to partially restore Honopou, today, her work to implement that decision—to give it meaning—continues through her daughter Lyn Scott. Attorneys at NHLC have rededicated their efforts to making stream restoration a reality in her memory.
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