2015-2016  ANNUAL REPORT


What does “flourishing” look like?

For the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation “flourishing” equates to   “[a] just Hawai‘i, guided by Hawaiian values, customs and ways of knowing.”  While this may sound lofty and unattainable, this past fiscal year 2015-2016 offered a clear glimpse of such. For example, in one of NHLC’s oldest active cases, the values, customs and ways of knowing which have been passed down to us by our ancestors are showing the way forward for our clients and the East Maui community in general.  Kalo farmers, native gatherers, and other cultural practitioners are witnessing the long awaited return of streamflow to East Maui streams diverted for more than 100 years.  Recent back to back court decisions and a hearings officer’s recommendation have ordered the release of millions of gallons of diverted stream flow. 

While A&B, the diverter, is appealing these decisions and has convinced lawmakers to let it divert stream water for three more years without evidence that it actually needs the water it diverts, we believe justice, long denied, will ultimately prevail here.  In another of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation’s older cases, our Judiciary upheld the will of the people of this state by requiring the legislature to carry out its constitutional duty to provide sufficient sums to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for its administrative and operating costs. 

In this case, a circuit court judge ruled that the state is required to provide at least $28.4 million to DHHL for its yearly administrative and operating expenses. Before NHLC filed this lawsuit on behalf of all beneficiaries, DHHL received zero funding from the state and was forced to use monies received through leasing its own trust lands to generate income for the development of homesteads.

There is little question that the lack of funding has contributed to the department’s dismal record of awarding leases to thousands of applicants on the wait list.  In addition to these impactful cases, NHLC’s attorneys succeeded in defending and protecting the property interests of Hawaiian families.  On Maui, a family group’s interest in four acres was confirmed by the court in a case where the plaintiff’s claimed it owned the entire four acres. In a very sensitive case involving a newborn’s ʻiēwe or placenta, NHLC assisted the parents in reaching an agreement that will go a long way toward ensuring this child’s overall welfare. In each of these ways, NHLC builds on its vision of a Hawai‘i where everyone flourishes.

Message from the Executive Director:

It gives me great pleasure to share with each of you some special moments from our past fiscal year.  It has been both exciting and reassuring to witness a new group of young dedicated attorneys add their mana‘o and spirit as we strive for justice by stepping up to work on NHLC’s landmark cases. 

NHLC celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014.  The theme of our fundraiser “Ho‘omalu Ka Lehua I Ka Wao”, translates to “The Lehua shelters the forest.”  As we learned from Hawaiian language scholar Puakea Noglmeirer, “the lehua is the first to colonize new lava, and so is known as the brave one. The first warrior into battle is referred to as the lehua, and often this first skirmish keeps a real war from breaking out if the lehua is victorious. The lehua tree provides the shade and shelter necessary for  the understory – the entire forest- to flourish.”    

As executive director , I want to thank each of our supporters, our lehua, who allow us to be lehua in turn.  In a truly ironic twist, our success inevitably results in threats to our funding.  Despite our efforts to maintain a balance between culture and progress, -- a balance upon which the success of all, including business and commerce, depend, our work is portrayed as anti-development/business. 

Buying into this misconception threatens the very heart of Hawai‘i’s economy because without that special essence which flows from the Hawaiian identity Hawai‘iis just another place.  

It is therefore reassuring for us to know that you remain committed to standing up as our lehua. 

Mahalo nui!

Moses K. Haia III