Senator Akaka Staff Meet with Native Hawaiian Leaders


March 28, 2011

Honolulu, Hawaii – Loretta Tuell, Staff Director for Senator Daniel Akaka, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, visited with dozens of Hawaiian leaders while in the State last week.  Tuell, an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe and an attorney, has a long history and deep understanding of the sovereignty of native peoples across the United States.

“It’s truly great to have Ms. Tuell and Chairman Akaka’s staff visit with so many different Hawaiian organizations in his home land,” said Robin Puanani Danner, President of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA).

“Our national policy priorities are not only indicative of what is important in the Hawaiian Islands, but also across Indian country and Alaska.  As native peoples, no matter where our homelands are in the 50 states, we know what our challenges are, and we also know what the solutions are.  It’s great to have a Chairman with staff leadership that connects with those that know best – our people on the ground.”

CNHA administers the Native Hawaiian Policy Center and provided Tuell with the top national policy priorities, and discussed ongoing partnerships with tribal governments and tribal leaders around the country.  CNHA’s Native Hawaiian leaders signed a unity declaration with American Indian and Alaska Native officials in 2009, launching a national unity project on federal programs.

“We aim to join forces on areas such as renewable energy, innovation, education, business growth and federal self determination policies that strengthen consultation with native leaders, including Hawaiian non-governmental organizations,” Danner told Tuell and Chairman Akaka’s staff.  “For too long, too many government officials have wrongly assumed that state agencies in Hawaii represent the Hawaiian people, and they don’t and never can as state government agencies. Everyone has a role to play – we expect both OHA and DHHL to be the best state agencies possible, managing our resources and lands in consultation with Hawaiian community leaders.”

Danner highlighted the talent in Native Hawaiian educational institutions, mentioning Aha Punana Leo, the native charter schools, and programming like the excellence in Native Hawaiian law.  She also briefed Tuell on the incredible strength and unity of the homestead leaders where trust lands are located and managed by associations that have operated and continue to apply self determination as a core value in their trust land areas.  Danner shared the fellowship of dozens of civic clubs located in Hawaii and states around the country, as well as independent social justice nonprofits and health clinics like Hawaiian Community Assets, the Native Hawaiian Health Clinics, and the Homestead Community Development Corporation.

“Hawaiians are active in our communities, and are appropriate partners of state and federal agencies,” Danner explained.  “We may not have federal recognition of a native government, but make no mistake, the functions of government, of serving our people, of nourishing culture and our life ways is happening on a daily basis – native people are engaged and when they have stepped forward, results abound.”

Lilia Kapuniai, a CNHA Vice President, briefed Ms. Tuell and Chairman Akaka’s legislative team on CNHA’s programs, including its loan fund, homes under construction for low to moderate income Hawaiians, the nearly 1 million dollars deployed on solar water systems, its nonprofit developer arm constructing certified kitchens, marketplaces and other commerce facilities, and its work with the Department of Interior to network tribal and Hawaiian business corporations to one another and other Pacific native peoples.

Under its policy work with its members, CNHA presented Tuell with 5 main priorities to share with Chairman Akaka:

1.      Enactment of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, as passed by the SCIA in 2010.   And an amendment to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, formally recognizing homestead governing organizations as described in act 302.

2.      Move jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act from the senate energy committee to SCIA where all other native issues are overseen.

3.      Reauthorize the Native Hawaiian Education and Housing Acts, each needing congressional reauthorization.

4.      Ensure the implementation of administrative rules on the HHCA and Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act by the Obama Administration.

5.      Sponsor legislation to advance Substantially Underserved Trust Areas, job creation,
SBA 8(a) business growth and infrastructure investments.

Four of the five priorities focus specifically on Native Hawaiians and or Native Hawaiian trust lands, with the fifth priority part of a national native policy priority that strengthens federal programs for all native peoples.

“Hawaiians, like our Indian and Alaska Native counterparts are incredibly focused and moving initiatives to not only take responsibility for ourselves, but also to set new standards for state and federal agencies in working with our communities,” Danner concluded.  “The more the congress, and in particular the SCIA is educated about who we are, how we fit into the federal policies on self determination, the better.”

CNHA is a national member organization, unifying Native Hawaiian organizations to advance cultural, economic and community development for Native Hawaiians.  For more information, visit or email at


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