OHA survives elections
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NOVEMBER 14, 2000

While the rest of the country went to the polls last Tuesday, voters in Hawaii ushered in a new era in Native Hawaiian affairs.

But unlike their counterparts in the states, the results of the elections for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) are solid. And for the first time in its history, a non-Native Hawaiian was elected to the OHA board last week.

Charles Ota was one of several non-Native Hawaiians who ran for seats on the nine-member board this year. He is a businessman, a former Maui County councilor, and a former regent at the University of Hawaii.

Ota was also one of two interim trustees elected by voters. Governor Ben Cayetano had named an interim board back in September.

The election of the new board marks significant changes in Native Hawaiian affairs. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court opened up elections for the OHA board to all Hawaiians.

Previously, only Native Hawaiians could vote for the board. But the Supreme Court said such a restriction violated the US Constitution because it was based on race.

As a result, the seats themselves were also opened up to non-Natives. Many in the Native Hawaiian community believe land, money, benefits, and other programs could be threatened should non-Natives gain control of the board.

But for now, the board has a Native Hawaiian majority. They take office November 28 following certification of the results.

A bill to extend federal recognition of Native Hawaiians is still languishing in Congress. It passed the House in September but has not yet been voted on in the Senate.

The other board members elected on Tuesday are Rowena Akana, Haunani Apoliona, Don Cataluna, Linda Dela Cruz, Clayton Hee, Colette Machado, Oswald Stender, and John Waihee IV. Waihee is the son of former Governor John Waihee.

Relevant Links:
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs -
More on Rice v. Cayetano -
Native Hawaiians, Department of Interior -

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