National CAPACD Urges Need for Long-Term Recovery that Centers Local Voices on Maui

Over the last week, National CAPACD has been monitoring the devastating wildfires on Maui and checking in with local leaders on how we can best demonstrate our aloha for those impacted – both community members displaced from their homes and businesses and for whom this land is sacred. As officials move toward rebuilding, we emphasize the importance of planning for a long-term recovery that both responds to this immediate crisis and is sustained beyond it. Efforts moving forward should ensure that the impact of the wildfires does not deepen the existing challenges on Maui, and rebuilding should center the voices, cultures, and experiences of the Native Hawaiian people. 

We urge federal and state relief and recovery responses to be creative and spacious to provide the possibility for reimagined solutions that generate housing and preserve land rights of Native Hawaiians for generations to come. This is an especially important crossroad as we increasingly confront the impact of climate change crises, which disproportionately displace indigenous, Black, brown, and low-income communities from places already burdened by centuries of extractive colonialism and militarism

Officially the deadliest natural disaster in the state of Hawai’i’s history, as well as the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century, the death toll is now over 100, with thousands of people still missing or displaced. Devastating the historic town of Lāhainā, thousands of structures have been destroyed, and the cost of damages is already projected to be billions of dollars. Staggering as these numbers are, it may be weeks before we can account for all the lives lost and the material impact of the wildfires – and these numbers cannot capture the tremendous grief of Native Hawaiians for whom Lāhainā is a sacred ʻāina (land) with deep cultural and historical significance. Lāhainā was a former capital of the Kingdom of Hawai’i and a residence of King Kamehameha, who unified Hawai’i under a single kingdom. It is the burial site of many early members of the royal Kamehameha dynasty. National CAPACD extends our care and compassion to the Native Hawaiian community mourning the land and the many cultural institutions destroyed or damaged in the wildfires.

Most of the structures destroyed by the wildfires were homes to residents, exacerbating Hawai’i’s already dire housing crisis caused by gentrification and an extractive tourism industry – a crisis disproportionately impacting multigenerational Native Hawaiian families who have lost their homes and lands for centuries due to colonial greed and militaristic interest. With costs of living far ahead of anywhere else in the continental U.S. and soaring housing prices, more than half the Native Hawaiian population is rent and mortgage burdened (which means they spend more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage payments). Rebuilding and recovery efforts must not accelerate the displacement of Native Hawaiians from their ancestral lands; speculative developers have already started to target vulnerable residents who are desperate for immediate relief to sell their land. Sign this petition by Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action to demand that decision makers prevent predatory land grabs.

Our members in Hawai’i, such as Hawaiian Community Assets (HCA), are working tirelessly to address the full spectrum of housing needs – helping families access relief from emergency programs, securing housing, preventing foreclosures, navigating insurance, and offering matched financial assistance and loans directly to households to mitigate the immediate financial impacts and rebuild their homes.

National CAPACD will support our ‘ohana in Hawai’i in their efforts to shepherd a long-term rebuilding process that stymies displacement, centers local voices, and honors the cultural and historical significance of Lāhainā. We encourage you all to embrace your aloha spirit and continue to support local relief efforts: