HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Under the gaze of colorful stained glass and a packed-in-the-pews audience in St. Andrews Cathedral, Haunani Apoliona made her final speech as longtime chair of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
"My mission has sought justice for Hawaiians by focusing on the issues for the right reasons, in the right way, at the right time," she said.
Apoliona described herself, trustee Colette Machado, and former trustee Hannah Springer as "reformers of OHA" who came on board together in 1996.
Machado will be the new chair. She called Apoliona a tireless worker.
"She always brings to the table a lot more than is on the surface. It's something that goes a little deeper. and that commitment will continue to be part of us," she said.
Apoliona called the current status of native Hawaiians vibrant. She cited actions by the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and the rise of Hawaiian civic clubs as signs of progress.
She fought back tears when she referenced the protection now given the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
"Papahanaumokuakea now enjoys international recognition," she said.
But Apoliona said more work needs to be done to resolve the ceded lands issue and to push for the passage of the Akaka Bill.
"OHA cannot, has not, and should not attempt to improve conditions for native Hawaiians in isolation but with collaborative action. Hiki no!" she said.
"I think Haunani is spot on in her analysis that while we serve Hawaiians, we have to serve them in a way that benefits all of Hawaii," new OHA trustee Peter Apo said.
On November 4, OHA marked its 30th anniversary.
It begins its fourth decade under new leadership as Apoliona steps down to the position of trustee after ten years of being OHA's lead voice.