I Mana I Ka Wai: Deepening Our Collective Knowledge So That We Are Empowered By Our Water Resources
By D. Kapuaʻala Sproat, Director
Aloha mai e nā hoa makamaka!
In April 2018, Ka Huli Ao facilitated I Mana I Ka Wai, our first water law and advocacy training for beneficiaries of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (“DHHL”). This partnership between DHHL and Ka Huli Ao aims to deepen the Native Hawaiian community’s collective knowledge in this arena so that, as the theme for our training suggests, we are empowered by our fresh water resources. As Kaleo Manuel, DHHL’s Director of Planning reflected: “Continuing conscious conversations and dialogue around water with our homesteaders is an important process of rehabilitation and the realization of our Prince’s legacy.”
DHHL’s rights to fresh water to support homesteading and other opportunities are guaranteed by state and federal law, including the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, the State Water Code, and a number of decisions by our Hawaiʻi Supreme Court. For example, under Hawaiʻi’s Water Code, “[a]ll permits issued by the [Water] commission shall be subject to the rights of the department of Hawaiian home lands as provided in section 221 of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, whether or not the condition is explicitly stated in the permit.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 174C-49(e). These protections apply to both DHHL’s existing water sources such as wells, as well as its reservations of water for future needs. Despite the law’s lofty promises, these rights have been largely unfulfilled, as DHHL has not received the water that it needs to support homesteading and farming in particular. In fact, the State Water Commission has denied DHHL’s permit applications, even where it has an existing reservation of water such as on the Island of Molokaʻi.
In recent years, DHHL has been proactive in articulating and protecting the needs of its beneficiaries. In 2014, Hawaiian Homes Commissioners adopted a water policy to chart its path forward. In partial fulfillment of that policy, staff have expanded their requests for water reservations across the paeʻāina. In August 2015, DHHL secured a reservation for Keauhou, Hawaiʻi – the first for an aquifer that had not yet been “designated” for extra protection as a water management area. In June 2017, DHHL’s request for a surface water reservation in Waimea, Kauaʻi was also recognized. Through I Mana I Ka Wai (a series of ten workshops), we hope to co-power DHHL beneficiaries and other supporters to bring the law and their water policy to life on the ground in their own communities.
Our first training on Molokaʻi in April 2018 was an excellent start. Presentations from a range of experts spanned everything from science, to law, and policy. Delwyn Oki, Ph.D., overviewed Molokaʻi’s water resources as well as the United States Geological Survey’s current ground water modeling. Then, Ka Huli Ao Post-JD Fellow Mahina Tuteur and Director Kapua Sproat delved into applicable laws with an emphasis on the rights of Native Hawaiians and homesteaders in particular. Jonathan Scheuer, Ph.D., next provided insight into DHHL’s water policy and how it can be operationalized by homesteaders before William S. Richardson School of Law Students Luʻukia Nakanelua and Mahesh Cleveland walked participants through two case studies. Food and refreshments were provided by the ʻohana of Keani Rawlins (WSRSL class of 2015 and Ka Huli Ao Certificate Recipient). A site visit after the classroom portion of the training offered DHHL beneficiaries a first-hand look at some of their ground water resources. Dr. Scheuer explained, “[i]t was gratifying to be in a space with folks who have been working on water issues for four decades along with people who are just engaging with the complex water challenges Molokaʻi faces. The spirit in the room was one of people determined to control their own water future.”
In addition to deepening DHHL beneficiaries’ capacity in this arena, Ka Huli Ao is thrilled about the opportunities that this provides for current students and recent graduates. As Luʻukia shared, “I grew up in a Maoli home where it was mahiʻaiana every day, waving signs on the highway in support of ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, and going to community meetings and hearings regarding the mismanagement of our natural and cultural resources. The core of Maoli politics is simple: access to ‘āina, wai, and kai for present and future generations. Having the opportunity to provide a forum, support, and potential solutions for communities with similar problems in a constructive way is the most fulfilling thing for me in law school and in life. As exhibited during our first DHHL training, Molokaʻi’s mauli is certainly alive and well because of the unwavering strength, knowledge base, and extensive experience of its community. Working with community leaders and homesteaders such as Uncle Walter Ritte, Uncle Glenn Teves, and Uncle Kūnani Nihipali to take the fight from the streets to the legal arena is a testament to our lāhui’s ability to adapt in this ever-changing world in an effort to ensure that our people and resources thrive.”
Nine additional trainings will be facilitated in Hawaiian Homestead communities over the next year and half, with the next four being held this summer. In June 2018, trainings will be held in East and West Maui. In August 2018, two more sessions will be facilitated in East and West Kauaʻi. The remaining workshops will be in Kaʻū, Kona, and Waimea (Hawaiʻi Island), on Lānaʻi, and in Waiʻanae, Oʻahu. This presents Ka Huli Ao and our students and graduates with their own opportunity to i mana i ka wai; as Mahesh explained: “The opportunity to work closely with and learn directly from members of a community about the water issues they face on a day-to-day basis underscores the importance of these types of trainings, and really drives home both the diversity and commonality of experiences among Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries. I look forward to our future water law trainings and continuing this learning process in other homestead communities.” Stay tuned for more on these efforts!
Ka Huli Ao is dedicating I Mana I Ka Wai to the life and memory of William Kahelelani Richardson. Billy, as we affectionately knew him, was a friend of the William S. Richardson School of Law and Ka Huli Ao in particular. He was also a loyal Hawaiian Homes Commissioner. He left this world for the next in November 2017, and we miss him. But, we are hopeful that his spirit will continue to guide us in this effort and beyond. We trust that our training series will reflect his curious and resilient spirit and his commitment to seeking justice on Native Hawaiian and DHHL-related issues in particular. Ola i ka wai; e mālama i ka wai; i mana i ka wai!