Maui Wildfire Tragedy: Native Hawaiian-led Solutions

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We at SAND share in the collective grief of the tragic wildfires in Maui. The sacred islands of Hawaii hold a special place in the heart of SAND as our movie The Art of Life was filmed there, and segments of the upcoming full-length film were also filmed in collaboration with indigenous Hawaiians in late 2022.

Below is a post from NDN Collective we would like to share on compassionate ways to support those in this area:

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For Immediate Release: August 16, 2023

Rapid City, SD – As the death toll from the Maui wildfires continues to rise and communities come together to offer support, the Native Hawaiian community is already grappling with the threat of a new wave of colonialism on their ancestral homelands. Thousands of acres, and hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed, displacing thousands and leaving many separated from and still searching for their loved ones.  

During a time when people are confused, scared, hurt, and displaced, there is already a fear and real danger that corporations and wealthy outsiders will swoop in to grab land from local residents. 

In response to the ongoing devastation and at the request of Native Hawaiians within the organization and connected to their network, NDN Collective urges:

* Non-residents (tourists) do NOT travel to Maui at this time while residents work to pick up the pieces. Resources are spread very thin

* Support Mutual Aid Efforts that are directed at getting immediate relief to people who have been displaced from their homes and jobs. We recommend these vetted funds: 

  • Hawaiʻi People’s Fund
  • Nā `Aikāne o Maui Cultural Center: Venmo Uilani-Kapu with the note, “Donations to Nā `Aikāne”
  • Maui Mutual Aid Fund 
  • Support the community-led rebuilding efforts of the historic town of Lāhaina, Maui in ways that center the values, ancestral connections to land and water, and Indigenous knowledge systems of the kānaka ʻōiwi, Native Hawaiian people. 

* Remember and hold close that there is a network of knowledge, financial resources, and wisdom through learned experience that can and will be centered by Native Hawaiians in the rebuilding efforts.

* Remember that there is always inaccurate information spread after major tragedies, and seek out trusted sources in these critical weeks following the disaster.

* Spread the message that the Maui wildfires were NOT a natural disaster – they were caused by colonialism and corporate greed, and that the most important response is to return land to Native Hawaiians #LandbackLāhaina.

“Right now, we are on the verge of being erased. My fear is what happened after Hurricane ‘Iniki on Kauaʻi will happen here. Hundreds of outsiders arrived and reaped the benefits of the relief, and the population exploded and local people were displaced. We are doing everything we can to ensure that does not happen in Lāhaina”
—Keʻeaumoku Kapu, Community Leader, Director, Na ʻAikane o Maui 

“We are ready to mobilize resources and support, as are many kānaka ‘ōiwi (Native Hawaiians) throughout Hawai’i who have kuleana (responsibility) to each other. We encourage others to support grassroots efforts, including local mobilizations and community led solutions.”
—Camille Kalama, NDN Collective Board Member

“In light of the tragic wildfires that have devastated the island of Maui, NDN Collective is actively assessing the needs of community members and local organizations, and is preparing to strategically deploy resources to support the lineal kānaka ʻōiwi descendants of this island to reimagine and rebuild their home for the long-term in ways that breathe life into their ancestral connection to the land, water, and ocean resources of West Maui.” 
Davis Price, NDN Collective Hawai’i Regional Director 

“My heart is with my home community of Maui, which is still battling live fires. Although the fires were of an unprecedented magnitude, the decisions that led to a human rights disaster on this scale, are due to poor leadership which has continuously deprioritized kānaka ʻōiwi and residents, in service to the extractive tourism industry. This industry has been robbing the island of critical physical and environmental infrastructure.

“Water diversion and theft has turned historic wetlands like Lāhaina into dry, arid deserts. Our roadways, which have always been too small for the amount of tourists that visit, proved immobile during the fires, leading to lives lost while stuck in traffic. The greed of developers and landowners has led to housing insecurity across the islands. Now, with an entire town having burned down, it is unclear where people will go. The rebuilding effort must center the vision and leadership of Native Hawaiian people, while calling for the termination of any current leaders who have historically supported land dispossession and tourism over the health and well being of Native Hawaiians and residents.”
Kailea Frederick, NDN Collective Publisher

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NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building, and narrative change, we are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms.

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