Karen Awana

Karen Awana

Karen Awana

Candidate:  Karen Awana
‘Aha District:  O‘ahu
E-mail: karenawana@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/KarenLeinaniAwana


  1. What are your qualifications to be a delegate to the ‘aha?

My knowledge and experience in the Native Hawaiian community is vast. I was raised in a community with the highest concentration of Native Hawaiians in the world. My family has resided here for over 4 generations. While growing up, civic engagement was always important. We participated in political campaigns, advocated for the Waianae Coast and Hawaiian issues.

I’ve been a member of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board where I Chaired the Health, Human Services, Public Safety and Transportation Committees. During my time on the board, I organized the Waianae Coast Weed and Seed Steering Committee to combat drug use, crime, homelessness and other challenges in this area. Through the Weed and Seed, we effectively created an environment where residents, service providers, government and business worked together to address priority issues determined by a community meeting attended by over 100 people. I successfully initiated representation on the Oahu Metropolitan Planning – Community Advisory Council for the Waianae Coast. We successfully informed the rest of the island on the need for an alternate access route out of the coast which was placed on the priority list for major projects. These community-driven organizations provided me with an excellent footing which would later help me in understanding how local issues interface with government.

Upon his election to the City and County of Honolulu, Councilmember Todd Apo invited me to join his team. His area of responsibility encompassed Ewa Beach to Keawaula. These communities are comprised of a large population of Native Hawaiians. I reported to the community on behalf of the councilmember and worked closely with all levels of government to ensure constituent issues were addressed.

For the past 8 years, I served from Lualualei to Ewa as a Hawaii state legislator. During my time here, I supported and introduced many bills to help Native Hawaiians. Some of my achievements were initiating the discussion about an inventory of all lands in Hawaii, recognition of Native Hawaiian tattooing as a cultural practice, passed legislation to allow cultural practices in prisons after seeing the large Native Hawaiian population that were being sent to the mainland. This particular issue became a focal point for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs where a study was conducted and a report was created. I passed legislation to establish a disaster preparedness plan for the Waianae Coast which would serve as a pilot program so other communities may be able to do the same. Many Native Hawaiians reside in rural communities where help would be hard to find during disasters. The positive effect has been statewide interest from residents to begin their own community disaster preparedness plans.

I also introduced legislation to locate a K-12 Hawaiian Immersion school site in the Leeward Coast. The existing immersion school is currently located in East Oahu while a sizeable student enrollment lives in Leeward Oahu.

Although no longer elected, I continue to keep in touch with projects that would benefit our Native Hawaiian population. My efforts led to the capital improvement project for the Nanakuli Library. I am pleased to announce that the groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for November 21, 2015.

I also served as Chair of the House Committee on International Affairs where I introduced and passed a resolution to establish sister relationships with all of the islands in Oceania. In 2014, I was elected as the Vice-Chair of the National Caucus of Native American, Alaskan Indian and Native Hawaiian Legislators. Because of my work in this caucus, I was selected to the National Caucus of State Legislators Quad Caucus comprised of the Native American, Hispanic, Black, and Asian legislators from throughout the United States. During my time here, we worked together to establish legislative priorities to help address disparities in minority communities. The challenges of minorities are identical to the challenges of Native Hawaiians. I’ve worked closely with a national organization – Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum. During a collaborative effort we established a youth leadership program which was piloted in Hawaii with the help of the American Pacific Forum. Other minority groups have since begun similar programs.

I’ve been serving on the Nanakuli Maili Neighborhood Board for a few months where I chair the Hawaiian Affairs Committee. We passed a resolution to support the efforts being made by protectors on Mauna Kea. Other neighborhood boards are looking at our resolution and will be introducing it at their full board.

My work to help Native Hawaiians has touched many. However, our culture does not encourage boasting. I serve with humility and aloha. This is what I have learned from my kupuna and my `ohana. These journeys have led me to truly understand Native Hawaiian issues as I was raised in a Native Hawaiian community. I have served and still serve a Native Hawaiian community. By no means do I know everything. There is still much to learn. As you have reviewed, I have the ability to work with people from different backgrounds and interests. A delegate for this position needs to have a working knowledge on the issues and have effectively applied this knowledge in varying degrees. I now have the skills that are necessary in nation building and I humbly ask for your support. `A`ohe hana nui ke alu `ia – No task is too big when done together by all.

  1. How would you characterize the values of your campaign to be elected as a delegate to the ‘aha for example, with aloha, lōkahi, kūpono, etc.?

I believe aloha encompasses all that is done using our Native Hawaiian traditions and values. If actions are done with aloha, the hard work and righteousness follows because of our love for what we are doing, what we are saying, and how we interact with each other. This is how I characterize my campaign and my daily life.

  1. What three components of the constitution are you particularly interested in advocating and why?

I believe this question is premature in light of the fact that the delegates of the `Aha have yet to meet and discuss the components of the constitution.

  1. What governance model will you advocate for?

I would advocate for full independence also known as Hawaiian Sovereignty. The Kingdom of Hawaii operated under a sovereign nation by which the current legislative guidelines are operating – Hawaii Revised Statues. Hence, we are still operating under Kingdom Law.

  1. Are you willing to discuss other governance models?

We can discuss other models. However, the implementation of the model is another story.

  1. How would the governance model that you choose impact the ali‘i trusts, the Hawaiian Homestead Act, federal contracts made with Native Hawaiian businesses; grants provided by the United States for programs and services to the Native Hawaiian people?

I can foresee the ali‘i trusts reverting back to the Native Hawaiian establishment. A transition would need to be made to allow the Native Hawaiian establishment to oversee our Hawaiian lands as well as other resources. Federal contracts made with Native Hawaiian businesses are agreements between two parties. These parties will need to decide how to manage their arrangement. Grants for programs and services will no longer exist as we will have the ability to manage ourselves with the returning of our lands and all resources. We need to come to the realization that our destiny and future lies in our hands – we must take responsibility.

  1. In your governance model, would you be inclusive of people other than Native Hawaiians as citizens?

Yes. Citizens should be those who live among us, choose to be with us and subscribe to the ideals and values of our government. However, there may be certain rights and privileges reserved for Kanaka Maoli because of our inalienable rights to this land.

  1. How do you see participation by others in helping the ‘aha on the various aspects of the draft constitution?

I am confident that the delegates to the ‘aha will be able to contribute to the draft constitution. Should additional support be needed, I am also confident; help will be sought where needed.

  1. Looking ahead, as a delegate to the ‘aha, how would you assure that the governance model ratified by the Native Hawaiian people is implemented and recognized at the state, federal, or international level, as appropriate.

It would be unwise to guarantee an outcome before looking at the factors and information presented before me. I will be able to share with you that I have a history of utilizing my skills and knowledge which lead to positive outcomes.

  1. Why should Native Hawaiians vote for you?

Please refer to my response in question #1. In addition, I know what is at stake for Native Hawaiian people, as mentioned earlier I have a history of utilizing my skills and knowledge which lead to positive outcomes. I am able to work with people with different points of view and backgrounds. I am a good listener and not afraid of long hours and hard work.