comscore 2020 Election: Kauilani Almeida | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2020 Election: Kauilani Almeida

  • Kauilani Almeida
Name on ballot:

Kauilani Almeida

Running for:

OHA Hawaii Resident Trustee

Political party:


Campaign website:

Current occupation:

Grassroots Activist



Previous job history:

Volunteer President of Pana’ewa Hawaiian Home Lands Community Association (PHHLCA) 1993-1998, 2018-present

Kumu Hula of Halau Hula Te Ha’a Lehua 2007-present

Volunteer Executive Director of Kalauonaoneopuna (1994-2006)

Volunteer Secretary/Treasurer of Board of Kalauonaoneopuna (2018-present)

Executive Director Haola Inc 1995-1998

Volunteer Chairperson for Haola Inc 1993-1995

Volunteer Secretary/Treasurer of Board for Na ‘Ohana O Kalapana (1991-1995)

Previous elected office, if any:


Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

I am trained and experienced to lead, and manage social service and community-based agencies in order to effectively assist native Hawaiian communities. My strengths are in organizational and leadership skills, and I have decades of experience working with various levels of service on large-scale community development projects to completion.

By applying for the OHA seat, I am paying tribute to our Queen’s legacy and standing firm with the Hawaiian value, ‘Oi kau ka lā, e hana i ola honua (while the sun yet shines, do all you can); doing all I can for my community and beyond. My qualifications include:

-Well-versed in legal documents with ability to negotiate in favor of my people
-Understands Board obligations, roles, and responsibilities, especially being respectful to staff
-Keen on fiscal matters
-Keen on policy making
-Keen on grant management
-Successful track record with developing and executing strategic planning

As a kanaka wahine, our beloved Queen Liliuokalani has always been a source of inspiration. My objective has been to have my work be a tribute to her legacy.

What will be your top priority if elected?

OHA must be well-versed in disaster relief and recovery efforts to support our people. We need infrastructure to address vulnerabilities, like the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore my top priority is
to reassess and realign all OHA programs as well as the community partners who carry-out its deliverables with the intent to provide support to our people’s needs: shelter, food, and health.

As an OHA Trustee, I will also make it an imperative and ongoing practice to work alongside my constituency as my application for this seat is because and for them.

What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent and what can the Office of Hawaiian Affairs do to address that need?

The most pressing concern facing native Hawaiians today is Covid-19. Our native kanaka must be protected. I will open my line of communication and work to coordinate distribution of resources in order to deliver a culturally appropriate response. I see a need to increase communication between the OHA Board of Trustees and the Hawaiian people. We need to activate a daily communication system to engage the public and encourage our people to continue to maka’ala. We cannot afford to lose our people to this devastating disease; all precautions must be in place. I will continue to work to support the communities’ effort to create opportunities for Hawaiian people to live with health and integrity. This pandemic has leveled the playing field. The Kanaka Maoli need to take the lead in restructuring the economy of the Hawaiian Islands.

What is one specific change you would like to see in OHA’s operations and what would you do to make it happen?

OHA Island Trustees should not be voted statewide. Each island Trustee should be voted by the island they represent: Hawaii Island, Maui, Moloka’i/Lana’i, Oahu, Kaua’i/Niihau. It doesn’t make sense that O’ahu residents vote Maui’s Trustee or vice versa. OHA’s Trustees-at-Large could be voted statewide since they deal with State issues. It doesn’t make sense that monies that come from “ceded lands” to Native Hawaiians only can be voted by other ethnic groups.
As a Trustee, I plan to provide a mechanism for consistent engagement for families and communities to share accomplishments, challenges, experiences, and grievances with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and what should OHA’s role be in the process?

The purpose of OHA includes: “Assessing the policies and practices of other agencies impacting on native Hawaiians and Hawaiians, and conducting advocacy efforts for native Hawaiians and Hawaiians.” There are widely known and accepted kanawai that apply to Mauna A Wakea, starting from Wao Akua and above. OHA should continue to support the protectors that are dedicated to upholding these kanawai. By protecting them, the cultural and environmental integrity of the mauna will be protected. It is important for OHA to continue to advocate for those that stand for Hawaiian traditional values, and find common ground within the native Hawaiian community. If our cultural integrity is to be protected, there cannot be a Thirty Meter Telescope in or above the Wao Akua of Mauna A Wakea. It is important for OHA to continue to advocate those that stand for Hawaiian traditional values, and find common ground within the native Hawaiian community. I feel it is the Trustee’s kuleana to study the issue and all applicable laws, and stand for what is just for the Kanaka Maoli. The issue, to me, is that the environmental rights, laws, rules, and regulations must be applied with fidelity.

What is OHA’s role in easing the overrepresentation of Native Hawaiians in prisons?

The criminal justice system is biased against native Hawaiians, as evidenced in the OHA Report on the Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System. Other factors of this issue include income inequity, transgenerational trauma, educational oppression and deprivation of Kanaka Maoli government, land, language, and religious freedom. Criminal Justice reform is necessary to address these issues, especially for non-violent crimes. Innovative programs to establish culturally and community based rehabilitation centers should be implemented and widely available for all our people.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

My father is a Korean War Veteran and he raised all seven children to be leaders. He always said “ it’s not what you say, it’s what you do, that is how people judge your character. Stand up for justice. No wait to be asked, if you know, just do. Take pride in all that you do and complete something you started, no leav’um for someone else for pickup. By us doing these values, he taught us discipline, integrity, work ethics and most of all pride.
Those values have carried me through my entire life thus far and it will be with me as the OHA Hawai’i Island Trustee. As Trustees, we should practice due diligence over every aspect of OHA’s finances, (the Lahui’s trust finances). Every trustee, contractor, every employee must make financial decisions for the benefit of our Lahui and be held accountable to that. As Trustees, we should not approve expenditures that are popular, we are here first to improve the economy, education and health of our Lahui. As Trustees, we should demand that the State and University of Hawaii comply with their contractual responsibilities to pay rents and ceded land revenues NOW, or face eviction! Trustees must communicate with beneficiaries and other Hawaiian serving entities.
As a grassroots activist, I am painfully aware of the result of laxed overview and decisions based on, or appears to be based on favoritism and bias. I will keep the process open by involving constituents in the selection and evaluation. I was taught to stand up for justice and am not foreign to such actions when necessary. My na’au is my conscience, it has never let me down ever. I look forward to the challenges with anticipation.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2020 Hawaii elections coverage.
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