Native Hawaiian protesters who are ‘tired of waiting’ stage protest to claim DHHL lands

A group of native Hawaiian protestors frustrated by the growing waitlist for a homestead is taking matters into their own hands.
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 6:50 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2023 at 7:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Native Hawaiian protesters frustrated by a growing waitlist for a homestead are taking matters into their own hands.

This week, the group began placing signs on vacant Department of Hawaiian Home Land parcels in Waianae and Kalaeloa, “reclaiming” the land for beneficiaries.

“We’re tired of waiting. We’re tired of dying on the death list. And it’s time for kanakas to stand up and reclaim our lands,” said Native Hawaiian activist De Mont Manaole.

Manaole, whose mother was on the waitlist for 30 years before she died in 1995, said his protest is peaceful and differs from other attempts to occupy ancestral lands.

Because of the DHHL’s failure to reduce the waiting list, which is now at about 28,000 people, his group of native Hawaiians on the DHHL’s waitlist are seeking to reclaim the land as beneficiaries.

The protesters also include Hawaiian-owned businesses who complain that the DHHL has bypassed them for commercial leases.

“We’re not on the land; people who are actually getting leases to the land are mainland corporations,” said Guy Gasper of GG’s Redemption, which refurbishes used cars.

Lynette Cruz of the Waianae Moku Kupuna Council said she supports the protest because the waitlist problem is only getting worse.

“I gotta commend De Mont. The reality is, if you don’t do it, nobody will do it. People have to step up,” Cruz said.

DHHL’s interim chair Ikaika Anderson said he has no plans to evict or remove protesters.

“What we’re seeing is just a frustration of our beneficiaries and our wait listers with the previous administration as to how they were treated. And I need to be clear, the department needs to do better in treating our beneficiaries,” said Anderson.

“I’m not going to arrest these beneficiaries or take any arresting forceful action against them. I’m happy to talk with them. I’m happy to meet with them.”

The protesters also were concerned that most of the $600 million lawmakers gave to the DHHL last year won’t be spent on time and will lapse.

The DHHL has until 2025 to encumber that money for its projects. But Manaole said that federal restrictions only allow the DHHL to spend that money at a rate of $175 million a year.

The department has also been accused of hoarding $60 million in federal funding for low-income housing, prompting the feds to cut off funding for several years.

“It’s like the state is setting us up for failure. I think they want to be able to say that Hawaiians cannot manage money, and so now we’re going to take this money back,” said Manaole.

But Anderson said he believes that he and his successor, the DHHL’s Chair nominee Kali Watson, will be able to encumber that money in time to build projects to help reduce the waitlist.

“Working with Gov. Josh Green, I believe my administration could have done that. I have every reason to believe that my successor Kali Watson will be able to do that too,” he said.