Today we honor the legacy of kia’i and visionary, Aunty Moani Akaka.
In the struggle for Hawaiian Rights, few if any have fought longer and harder than Edwina Moanikeala Akaka. She was a longtime Hawaiian activist and advocate, former Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee, and a founding mother of the renaissance of Hawaiian language and culture in the 1970s.
Born in Honolulu, Akaka spent her childhood years in Kaimuki and attended Kamehameha Schools until her father’s work moved the family to Northern California. After returning to Hawai’i as an adult, she was a fixture at meetings, hearings, conferences, and protests connected to Native Hawaiian issues, and her voice was often the loudest and most strident.
In 1971, she was one of 32 activists arrested, after occupying roof tops in Kalama Valley, trying stop the eviction of residents from their lands to make way for a tourist resort and upscale residential development. This was one of the first events that launched the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement
Aunty Moani was a founding member of the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana, which led the fight to stop the US Military's 49-year bombing campaign of the sacred island. She was also a founding member of Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi, the largest sovereignty group in Hawaiian history.
In 1978, she was one of more than 50 activists who risked their lives blockading the Hilo Airport runway in an effort to "collect the rent" from the State of Hawaiʻi who had charged the airport just $1 to lease 92 acres of Hawaiian Home Lands. The protestors faced 190 National Guardsmen in full riot gear and potential sentencing of a year in prison. That same year, she served as one of five Hawaiʻi delegates to the Nuclear Free Pacific conference in Pohnpei.
As an Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee for 12 years, she fought to improve the conditions of Hawaiians, including negotiating a $600 million settlement for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, directly resulting from the gains made in the Hilo Airport protests. During Akaka’s tenure, her frustration with the board over issues she deemed important led her to chain the local OHA office doors shut to draw attention to those matters.
Akaka also served the community in quieter ways, helping found Bay Clinic, serving on its board, and on the board of Habitat for Humanity, as well.
At age 70, she was among dozens arrested on Mauna Kea protesting the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the mountain. Aunty Moani continues to be a respected member of our community who stood strong for the Lāhui virtually her entire adult life.