OHA Board Approves New Internal Governance Framework

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The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board of Trustees approved a new internal governance framework on Thursday, April 4, 2019, intended to better align the agency’s decision-making within its different roles to enhance OHA’s ability to meet the needs of the Native Hawaiian community. The new internal framework will improve the alignment of OHA’s identity as an organization serving the Lāhui (nation), its legal mandates as a state agency, its fiduciary duties as a trust, and its cultural values, policies and practices.

“I thank my fellow trustees for their vote today in approving a new governance framework for OHA,” said OHA Chair Colette Machado. “This is just the first step on a significant new path for the agency that will ultimately improve how we serve our beneficiaries. We understand that this is a long journey, and we are committed to the work ahead.”

OHA Vice Chair Brendon Kaleiʻāina Lee, who led the new governance framework effort, said: “Today’s board action starts a historic shift in how the agency sees itself and, as a result, how we serve our people. Re-structuring OHA’s governance by placing our commitment to the Lāhui and its cultural foundation above our role as a state agency and trust represents a major re-visioning of the identity of the organization and will lead to critical changes in how we conduct business for Native Hawaiians.”

The new governance framework was a recommendation of an OHA Permitted Interaction Group that was formed by the OHA Board in January. The group was tasked with investigating various elements of governance frameworks and models. The group was led by OHA Vice Chair Lee and included Chair Machado and Trustees Robert Lindsey and John Waiheʻe IV, as well as OHA Chief Executive Officer/Ka Pouhana Kamanaʻopono Crabbe, OHA Chief Operating Officer/Ka Pou Nui Sylvia Hussey, and trustee and administration staff.


The group reviewed OHA policies, procedures and five years of Board actions as well as governance frameworks of other Aliʻi Trusts and indigenous groups and native nations nationally and internationally.

The Board action establishes five new governance framework elements:

  1. Identity;
  2. Values and Mana;
  3. Statutory Basis;
  4. Policies;
  5. Supporting Documents and Practices (Operations)

A significant change of the new governance framework is the re-structuring of OHA’s identity, placing its Lāhui identity above its state agency and trust identities. The result is the following new identity structure:

OHA Identity Structure


According to the governance framework Permitted Interaction Group’s recommendation, the new identity structure will ensure that:

OHA identifies with and operates more similarly to other Aliʻi Trusts with a Lāhui mindset in improving the well-being of our Lāhui. Such an identity is rooted in the ʻōlelo noʻeau, E ʻōpū aliʻi, have the heart of a chief, have the kindness, generosity, and even temper of a chief. OHA’s identity is also place based, that OHA’s kuleana is to this place of Hawaiʻi.

The Board also approved a new Permitted Interaction Group to implement one of the elements of the new governance framework by investigating the development of Lāhui policies. These policies will articulate the Hawaiian cultural foundation and values of the organization. The group will consider Lāhui policies relating to normalizing Hawaiian language; protecting and exercising native rights regarding ʻāina (land), water, wahi pana (sacred places) and iwi kupuna (appropriate care of ancestral remains); strengthening ʻohana and kaiāulu (community), perpetuating Hawaiian culture, knowledge and practices; and engaging in national and  international indigenous contexts.

The Board also discussed forming additional Permitted Interaction Groups, including the creation of trustee and CEO policies, in the near future to further implement the new governance framework elements.


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