Office of Hawaiian Affairs
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) is a semi-autonomous entity of the state of Hawaii charged with the administration of 1.8 million acres (7,300 km²) of royal land held in trust for the benefit of native Hawaiians. Created by the 1978 Hawaii State Constitutional Convention, native Hawaiians were given the right for the first time through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to make their own decisions as to investment of ceded lands and collect revenue generated by those lands to fund programs for the people. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is considered the most influential arm of the larger Hawaiian sovereignty movement that inspired its creation.
The Constitution of Hawaii establishes the Office of Hawaiian Affairs under the terms of Article XII, Sections 4 through 7. The article defines "ceded land" as lands held in trust for the native Hawaiian people and therefore never part of the territory "annexed" to the United States. Ceded land was identified as such in the constitution of the Republic of Hawaii, Hawaiian Organic Act of 1900 and the Hawaii Statehood Admission Act of 1959. The constitution states, "The Office of Hawaiian Affairs shall hold title to all the real and personal property now or hereafter set aside or conveyed to it which shall be held in trust for native Hawaiians and Hawaiians."
Board of trustees
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is governed by an elected board of trustees. The constitution provides an outline of that board, "There shall be a board of trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs elected by qualified voters who are Hawaiians, as provided by law. The board members shall be Hawaiians. There shall be not less than nine members of the board of trustees; provided that each of the following Islands have one representative: Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Molokai and Hawaii. The board shall select a chairperson from its members." The board of trustees provision was amended upon a United States Supreme Court ruling in the case of Rice v. Cayetano that non-Hawaiians could not be excluded from the election process, including the right of non-Hawaiians to run for such an office. (To date, only one non-Hawaiian has been elected to the board: Charles Ota, from 2000-2002.) Trustees are elected to a two year term by general election of Hawaii registered voters. Trusteeship is considered a state position with annual reimbursement of $50,000. The board of trustees generally meet every other week.
The constitution adds, "The board of trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs shall exercise power as provided by law: to manage and administer the proceeds from the sale or other disposition of the lands, natural resources, minerals and income derived from whatever sources for native Hawaiians and Hawaiians, including all income and proceeds from that pro rata portion of the trust referred to in section 4 of this article for native Hawaiians; to formulate policy relating to affairs of native Hawaiians and Hawaiians; and to exercise control over real and personal property set aside by state, federal or private sources and transferred to the board for native Hawaiians and Hawaiians. The board shall have the power to exercise control over the Office of Hawaiian Affairs through its executive officer, the administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, who shall be appointed by the board."
OHA publishes a free newspaper named Ka Wai Ola.