HONOLULU — The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has spent more than $39,000 in support of the protest against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea.
The OHA board of trustees released its expenditures to the public Thursday and also said it provided some but not all of the Maunakea support-related documents demanded by a subpoena from the state Attorney General’s Office.
“While OHA has provided the Attorney General certain documents responsive to its subpoena, we are reviewing each category of items requested for production by the AG on a case by case basis,” the agency said in a statement Thursday.
The trustees reviewed OHA’s Maunakea expenditures in front of a full house at its Iwilei headquarters during a meeting in which scores of beneficiaries thanked the board for its Maunakea support and appealed for more aid.
The OHA trustees approved a resolution July 25 that authorized the agency’s administration to advocate for the rights, safety and well-being of Native Hawaiian “protectors” and provide related assistance.
As of Sept. 17, OHA spent $39,052 and committed 159 staff hours on digital media services while fulfilling the mandate of a resolution, according to a report by interim OHA CEO Sylvia Hussey.
Three-fourths of the money went to the Puu Huluhulu protest camp at the base of Maunakea Access Road and paid for toilet rentals and servicing, dumpster removal and landfill disposal fees, and tent rental and lighting.
More than $8,000 went to staff and trustee travel for site visits and beneficiary assessments and for a community meeting, and more than $2,200 underwrote legal observers, including workshop supplies and travel.
Officials were quick to point out that no funds were authorized for the legal defense of those arrested on the mountain, although they did add that less than $1,000 was used to send to the Big Island a handful of attorneys interested in providing pro bono representation.
“We’ve been focusing specifically on the rights of our beneficiaries to exercise their constitutional rights and providing for the public health and safety of our beneficiaries,” said Jocelyn Doane, OHA’s public policy manager. “I think that’s really important because the media is suggesting that we’re paying for their legal defense or paying for their bail fund, that we’re paying for all kinds of things we’re not paying for.”
Chairwoman Colette Machado added, “This is an update that we wanted to give to the public. We don’t have anything to hide.”
The mostly Native Hawaiian protesters have been blocking Maunakea Access Road since July 15, preventing construction of the $1.4 billion next-generation project planned as one of the most powerful telescopes in the world.
OHA trustee Carmen Hulu Lindsey was one of dozens of demonstrators who were arrested July 17. Trustee Dan Ahuna was on the mountain the day before, and several of the trustees have visited the camp at other times. The trustees visited the Maunakea protest site as a group last week during an annual trip to Hawaii island.
Lindsey volunteered that OHA funds were not used in her case.
“I have my own attorney. I was up on the mountain that day at my own expense. So nothing here other than the travel of the one trip is accountable to me. I just wanted to make that clear,” she said.
Kamehameha Schools also has acknowledged providing help to the protest, including a large tent and support for documentation of the protests through livestreams, photos and videos.
OHA spokesman Sterling Wong said the agency expects to monitor the needs of the encampment and continue to provide a level of support that fulfills the mandate of the board’s resolution as long as necessary.
The OHA trustees took a number of positions in the resolution, including condemning any further provocation or intimidation of those seeking to protect the mountain and discouraging the use of unwarranted force against peaceful protest.
The resolution also called on the governor to rescind his emergency proclamation, which he did, but offered no position on the actual location of the TMT.
During some two hours of testimony Thursday, testifiers praised the board for its financial support and said OHA was helping to give rise to a cultural renaissance.
“Our nation is finally rising,” former Hawaiian-studies teacher Malia Marquez said. “I beg of you to continue to support our lahui (nation). The people of the world are watching.”
Lanakila Mangauil, one of the leaders of the kiai, or”protectors” of the mountain, offered his appreciation.
“Aloha for doing what OHA is supposed to be doing,” he said. “This is what’s galvanizing our people — unlike we’ve ever seen before. Right now, as we speak, in Waimanalo our people are standing. They are being arrested for standing for the right to protect aina. And for too long we’ve all been ignored, and that’s why you’ve got this monstrosity of a city here.
“We are waking up. We are going to continue to stand, and your support is greatly needed. The other side has a lot of support behind them. They have dropped over a half a million dollars in media just a couple of months ago. They got choke support already.”
University of Hawaii graduate student Ilima Long said OHA’s financial support has helped to buttress a new thirst for knowledge among Hawaiians.
She said 651 classes have been held at the Maunakea encampment, as part of what’s being called Puu Huluhulu University. The classes, she said, have been taught by 42 college-level professors, 12 lecturers and a variety of others with cultural and special knowledge.
“People are absolutely inspired by what they see up on the mauna,” Long said. “They see that now is a time to really know who we are, to know where we come from, to know our culture, to know our language, and that is what this movement is inspiring, which is absolutely in alignment with the strategic priorities of OHA.”