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Frenchy DeSoto

Adelaide Keanuenueokalaninuiamamao "Frenchy" DeSoto (February 4, 1929 - January 21, 2011) was a kupuna of the Native Hawaiian movement, a Wai’anae community leader, a staunch advocate for the clean up and return of Makua valley and the “mother" of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

DeSoto, who overcame a rough childhood to become an outspoken advocate for disenfranchised native Hawaiians on the Waianae Coast, rose to prominence as a delegate to the 1978 state Constitutional Convention, where she shepherded a traditionally overlooked native Hawaiian agenda that ultimately led to the creation of OHA.

DeSoto served as chairwoman of the first OHA Board of Trustees in 1980, resigned in an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate, and was re-elected in 1986.

She resigned for good in 2000, along with the eight other trustees, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against OHA’s Hawaiian-only elections in the Rice v. Cayetano case. DeSoto and the other trustees said their decision to resign en masse was meant as a show of solidarity in defense of right of native Hawaiians to elect their own representatives to the trust.

DeSoto, who once worked as a janitor at the state Capitol, maintained that the rise of OHA was key to giving Hawaiians a voice in a political arena that would otherwise ignore them.

Throughout her life, DeSoto proved unafraid to speak out on a host of controversial issues. She was active in the Protect Kahoʻolawe Ohana, led the movement against the U.S. Army’s use of Makua Valley for training, and was outspoken on topics such as use of blood quantum for determining benefits to native Hawaiians and the disposition of funds generated by ceded lands.

"She was a very determined woman and extremely passionate about her beliefs. She was tough-minded and she could be very expressive. Her style grew out of the fact that deep inside her heart she had a lot of compassion for Hawaii and in particular Hawaiian people."

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