Kristen Hinano Lee Oleyte

Kristen Hinano Lee Oleyte featured photo

Kristen Hinano Lee Oleyte

Kristen Hinano Lee Oleyte

Candidate:  Kristen Hinano Lee Oleyte
‘Aha District:  O‘ahu

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

Over the last decade as a Policy Advisor for the Federal government it was my job and privilege to collaborate with our community and other native governments. I diligently listened to the concerns of our kūpuna, cultural practioners, and other leaders; understood the tools of government; and responded with resources and expanded opportunities through policy. As Senator Daniel Akakaʻs trusted advisor on Hawaiian issues, including federal recognition from 2005-2010, Iʻd seek to contribute the constitutional perspectives derived from discussions with legal experts, needs prioritized by our people, and pragmatic lessons learned of how we form a government that honors our culture and operates efficiently.

During the last five years at the Department of the Interior, I interacted with Pacific Island communities, businesses, and governments to address health, education, cultural, and capacity development needs. My understanding of how the structure & power of their governments achieve or limit successful outcomes is useful context as we govern our own affairs. Further, I am skilled in conducting analyses of complex issues, developing and implementing strategies, and preparing informational briefings/materials that result in decision-making.

  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.?

The issue of sovereignty is one that is very close to the hearts of all our people and we each have unique ideas of how it should be exercised. Hōʻihi (respect) is a value that guides me as I would seek to give and receive respect from all delegates, especially those with differing perspectives and backgrounds. Ensuring that my actions arise from a deep aloha (love) for our people motivates me to work cooperatively to put the wellbeing of our people first. Taking the time to hoʻomaopopo (understand) the views and values of others is critical to ensuring we incorporate the collective talents and wisdom of our delegates to produce a constitution worthy of our lāhui.

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

Government Structure—I want to ensure our government is structured to be responsive and directly accountable to us. Not every issue will require a legislative solution, while other issues may strictly be in the realm of the courts, given our diverse needs I feel we are best served when there is a separation of powers, such that we have an executive, legislative, and judicial entities. As we are a sizeable and diverse community, our legislative body can be responsive to our needs through a bicameral system. Such that elections will result in one chamber with an equal number of representatives and the other will be comprised based on traditional geographic/political boundaries.

It is likely that policies and decisions will be place-based, impacting an island, specific communities, lands, or resources. We need local/island decentralized structures in place to be responsive and tailor governance action to the emergent issues of the area, accompanied by mechanisms for manaʻo and experiences of others that are geographically placed to inform decision making.

Citizenship—Is a critical element that must be included in our constitution. I would seek that citizenship is inclusive of Native Hawaiians that want to participate, regardless of residence though exclusive of non-Hawaiians. We need to come together as a people to make decisions about our own needs and set our own priorities, amongst ourselves. The privacy of our lāhui to do so, should be respected.

Interim Authority—Between the ratification of the Constitution and election of our government officials, we will need to provide interim authority to an entity or designate group of individuals that will maintain the roll and hold elections for our government officers. How an entity or individuals are designated helps ensure they are qualified and can carryout those duties. Specifying and codifying the terms of this interim authority, enables the process to reorganize our government to advance from the constitutional convention through to the elections.

  1. What governance model will you advocate for?

I am dedicated to forming a government that will better manage our resources and develop culturally relevant, effective solutions. Representatives of our government should be democratically elected. In order to ensure our government is responsive to our needs it should have mechanisms to pursue initiatives widely supported across our islands, while upholding deference to local structures as place or resource based decisions are made within an island or ahupuaʻa. Such efforts allow us to address the needs of our community. Though we also need to provide authority to engage with not only non-citizens though other nations, where partnership and collaboration is mutually beneficial.

  1. Are you willing to discuss other governance models?

I’m willing to discuss other governance models. Though they must directly address the conditions of our people today and emergent issues. Governance models need to demonstrate how our domestic needs will be met and enhance our ability to engage with the United States and State of Hawaii.

  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?

A Native Hawaiian government that is federally recognized is well postured to support the preservation of the aliʻi trusts, uphold the Federal trust relationship administered through the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, as well safeguard federal programs, grants and services benefitting our community. A federally recognized government would have an enhanced ability to engage not just with the U.S. Congress though with all federal agencies to address issue specific needs so housing, health, education and other programs are carried out in the most efficient and responsive manner. A Native Hawaiian government could collaborate with the Federal government, non-Hawaiian and Native Hawaiian businesses to foster job growth and training, as well as institute their own Hawaiian hiring preferences. Having an active role in developing innovative business enterprises can catalyze partnerships with our schools, homestead communities, non-profit sector and others to have a much more profound positive effect on the resiliency and wellbeing of our communities.

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

No. The lack of non-Hawaiian citizenry doesn’t mean we do not value or respect their contributions. In fact federal recognition furthers the ability of our lāhui to interact and collaborate with non-citizens, providing a more direct and formal way to forge partnership on our terms, whether that partner is a local, State, Federal, non-profit or private sector entity. This helps focus and increase available resources, knowledge, and expertise to result in positive outcomes for our lāhui.

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

In casting our votes for delegates, we assume responsibility for electing leaders that have the expertise, skills, and values to develop a constitution for our people. In advance and during the ʻaha, the process can benefit from the perspectives and wisdom resident in our community and those with specialized expertise to inform and educate delegates. While we need people that are experienced in government and consensus building, like me, we must incorporate the wisdom and perspectives from other disciplines, particularly those that are stewards of our culture, lands, health, and well being. This helps us identify values that will guide us and form priorities of where and how we should focus our attention.

  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.

Community engagement and educational outreach are vital to garnering the support for recognition by other nations and the U.S. I would be committed to participating directly in briefings and educational meetings that present mechanisms and potential partnership opportunities with the U.S. and other native governments. This would compliment the work of representatives of our government that would be eventually elected.

Even after the Constitution is ratified, forums will be needed to ensure that those enrolled contribute their knowledge and expertise to inform what our government’s priorities should be. We must not forget that this government is being established to serve the needs of our people.

  1. Why should Native Hawaiians vote for you?

My professional efforts are driven by my ability to think strategically, set conditions for collaboration, and reach consensus. I look at problem sets with not only a focus on immediate solutions, though solutions that are culturally and politically relevant, which can be sustained. I am resolved to meaningfully engage our lāhui to advance initiatives that are aligned with our shared values and responsive to our needs.

My motivation in serving as a delegate is rooted in my genuine desire to be of use and value to our community. My entrance into public service a decade ago was inspired by a simple, though genuine desire to make a difference and be part of positive change. I seek to share my foundational knowledge about governance so that we are well postured to draw upon our own cultural and practical experience, though also the experiences of other native governments from across the Continental U.S. and Western Pacific. I want our ʻaha to succeed and I will work collaboratively to produce a constitution that makes sense for the challenges we are confronted with.