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2013-2014 Hawai’i, Mäori and Alaska fellows attend the First Nations’ Futures Institute at Stanford University. Photo: courtesy of Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Developing The Leader You Were Waiting For

June 30, 2014

Contributed by Shaundor Chillingworth

Recognizing a need to nourish and grow native leaders from within Hawaiian communities to steward natural and cultural resources into the future, the Kamehameha Schools Land Assets Division created a leadership program in 2006 called the First Nations’ Futures Program (FNFP).

The intent was to inspire and grow more individuals with culturally aligned land and resource management skill sets.

“We founded FNFP to cultivate the leadership necessary to achieve our strategic mandate to generate an optimal balance of cultural, economic, educational, environmental and community returns from our land,” said Neil Hannahs KSK’69, Kamehameha’s Land Assets Division director and one of the founders of FNFP.

The agricultural and conservation land management strategies that predominated decision-making over the past two centuries generated unbalanced and non-sustainable returns. Ultimately, the era of plantation agriculture faded from the landscape and a renewed commitment to sustainable land use has taken its place.

“The opportunity is at hand for us to promote long-term sustainability by restoring kinship with ‘äina and rekindling adaptive land management strategies. The clues for meeting that challenge are found in the historical records of the practices of our küpuna,” Hannahs said.

FNFP is now part of Kamehameha’s ‘Āina Based Education Department (ABED). Each year the program solicits applications and selects a cohort of emerging leaders with aspirations to become significant contributors in natural, cultural and land stewardship.

The aim is to forge a fellowship of individuals who have demonstrated servant leadership in their professional or community-based roles within the Native Hawaiian community. Fellows tend to be at inflection points in the early to middle stages of their careers.

The year-long program includes:

  • A three-day orientation at which fellows meet, receive an overview of the fellowship, commit to its purpose and work together to determine a name for their cohort that best reflects their unique attributes and collective mission
  • A two-week Institute at Stanford University expands the fellowship to include Mäori and Alaskan First Nations peers. The program features world-class faculty, mentors and resources who inspire development of technical skills and entrepreneurial spirit, as well as character traits necessary for effective resource stewardship and native leadership.
  • A two-week Hawai‘i Leadership Institute program called ‘Aha Nauā Lelepā that provides fellows with the opportunity to have intimate conversations with over a dozen indigenous leaders of Hawai‘i who share insights from their personal journeys
  • A year-long Hawai‘i project culminating with a two-week report writing session followed by presentations to program directors, KS leadership and invited guests. Past Hawai‘i projects have examined topics like growing the next generation of farmers, community-based marine stewardship, geothermal energy and cultural heritage tourism.

Through these learning experiences, fellows have the time and space to build their capabilities to affect change, be enterprising, engage through collaboration, constructively challenge and have foresight to see the future as a reality.

Over the course of the year, fellows commit between six to 10 weeks to the experience. KS assumes all program expenses (tuition, travel and lodging) in consideration of the value of the project deliverable and as an investment in future benefits to the Lähui. To facilitate their focused participation, applicants are encouraged to seek release time, as well as financial and other forms of support from their employers or other sources.

“Through FNFP, in combination with other experience, I was able to build my self-confidence and my self-awareness,” said Mahina Paishan Duarte KSK’94, principal of Hālau Kū Mana Charter School and a 2007-08 fellow.

“The program was an opportunity to research other models that are working in communities across the world and engage scholars from pretty renowned universities. Basically the culminating experience of all of that has helped me be a more confident servant of our people.”

FNFP is an international alliance between Kamehameha Schools, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu (New Zealand), Sealaska/First Alaskans Institute (Alaska), Stanford University and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

“FNFP forces you to interact with the world outside your own world,” said Mililani Browning KSK’02, a natural resources manager for Kamehameha Schools and a 2011-2012 fellow.

“The program lets you step out of a sense of comfort and complacency that can develop living life with people of a similar mindset to your own. You have to listen to perspectives which are different than yours and learn when to stand up and when to let go.

“Interacting with all these people allowed me to see a broader perspective on working towards the improvement of the Hawaiian people, and humanity itself, outside of my own views and life experiences. But more important than expanding your worldview, FNFP really allows you to see your own value within this huge world of geniuses, artists and experts.”

Current fellow and Kamehameha Schools Cultural Specialist Maka‘ala Rawlins KSK’97 decided to apply for FNFP because of the professional development opportunity it provides for students and working professionals alike to gain a broader understanding of cultural and natural resource issues affecting local and global communities.

“FNFP has allowed me to work with educators, entrepreneurs, and communities to help address these issues while exposing me to a broader network of professionals that I would otherwise not have the opportunity to engage with,” Rawlins said.

The program is now in its eighth cohort and has developed a network of fellows who are serving the Lāhui through a variety of capacities. From community resource managers and public policy advocates to a media station founder and a charter school principal, FNFP is now a shared experience which connects them all.

“The hope with FNFP was to create our own network, then nurture and grow it to a critical mass where we can really start shaking and moving things,” said William Awa, Jr. KSK’99, a Kamehameha Schools land legacy education specialist and one of FNFP’s directors.

“The opportunity now is in getting the cohorts to know and collaborate with each other around issues that are in common. Fellows from different cohorts can work together on problem-solving opportunities, whether through the development of policy or getting together to address critical issues.”

The impacts from this investment have also been realized. Fellows have experienced individual growth.

Cohorts have impacted Kamehameha Schools as an organization in its management of lands and introduced new community networks and partnerships. FNFP has helped to develop an indigenous network with connections to Aotearoa and Alaska with linkages that can be called upon for kōkua. The skills learned from participating have been applied to benefit others in the larger community.

“Many of our fellows have been selected from our land management staff or our collaborators. We’ve seen them enhance their skills and affect profound change on our land and in our community,” Hannahs said.

“Consider our second cohort, Papa Wiliwili. You have the wonderful fishpond restoration and community building work that Noelani Lee Yamashita is doing on Moloka‘i through Ka Honua Momona. The leadership that Mahina Duarte is providing to Hālau Kū Mana. The academic growth of Mehana Blaich Vaughan who earned her Ph.D. at Stanford and is now on the faculty at the University of Hawai‘i. Nālani Blane Kealaiki’s appointment to a corporate position at HMSA that places her in the critical arena of healthcare reform. The tremendous contribution that Hokuao Pellegrino is making to both ‘āina-based education and land management at KS. And finally, think of the opportunity to affect change that Esther Kia‘aina is positioned to make through her nomination to an administrative post with the U.S. Department of Interior.”

In recent years, the program has incorporated social entrepreneurship concepts and a focus on value proposition. This was intended to enable fellows to lead the migration of enterprises from total grant dependency to hybrid business models with earned revenue that fosters greater self-determination.

Perhaps the most significant impact of the program has come from reinforcing a positive and enabling state of mind that builds on strengths rather than deficits, assets rather than loss.

In recalling the moment of settlement of their claim under the Treaty of Waitangi, Ngai Tahu tribal leader Sir Tipene O’Regan confided, “For eight generations we had defined ourselves by our grievance. Upon settlement, the challenge was to now define ourselves by our vision.”

“We’ve hardwired Sir Tipene’s poignant counsel into the philosophical framework of this program as well as the confidence that we are the leaders we are waiting for. We need not sit back and hope that there is somebody smarter, somebody more passionate, somebody better equipped to solve our problems or to fulfill our opportunities than ourselves.

“It is our right, our duty and our destiny to step up and be the leader we are waiting for. Supporting that shift in mindset and equipping our lāhui with the tools to do it, aligns with Pauahi’s mission.”

For more information on the program, visit, call (808) 541-5346 or email


Past Hawaii fellows include:

2006-2007 – Papa Kalo
Leslie Kimura KSK’96
Noa Lincoln KSK’99

Jamie Anne Kawailehua Makasobe
Daniel Naho‘opi‘i KSK’84
Layne Richards KSK’95

2007-2008 – Papa Wiliwili
Nālani Blane KSK’94
Mahinapoepoe Paishon KSK’94
Esther Puakela KSK’81

Noelani Lee
Hōkūao Pellegrino
Mehana Blaich-Vaughan

2008-2009 – Papa ‘Ōhi‘a Lehua
Kamakani Dancil KSK’93
Jocelyn M Doane
Nick Francisco KSK’00
Jason Jeremiah KSK’00
Keola Nakanishi KSK’92

2009-2010 – Papa Hulihonua
Ka‘iulani Kauihou KSK’98
Jody Kaulukukui KSK’89

Kanakolu Noa
Charles E.K. Robinson
Kelley Uyeoka KSK’00
Kanoe Suganuma Wilson KSK’91

2010-2011 – Papa Kalu‘ulu
Emerald Adams KSK’99
Pua Fernandez
Keoni Lee KSK’96
Ka‘iulani Murphy KSK’96
Kapā Oliveira KSK’92

Lori Tango

2011-2012 – Papa Pōhaku
Mililani Browning KSK’02
Keith Chang KSK’89
Dre Kalili KSK’99

Kamuela Meheula-Naihe
Nani Pai KSK’68
Davis Price
Shanna Willing KSK’98

2012 – 2013 - Papa Lāhiki Kū
Scott Abrigo KSK’89
Thomas Anuheali‘i KSK’98

Kimi Makaiau
Holly Coleman KSK’02
Malia Ellis
Umi Jensen KSK’01
Ke‘ōpū Reelitz KSK’02

Keahi Warfield

2013-2014 – Papa Pilina
Marion Ano
Julie Cachola KSK’80
Mark Ellis
Ke‘ala Hook Fukuda KSK’01
Pōhai Kukea Shultz KSK’93
Maka‘ala Rawlins KSK’97

2013-2014 Hawai’i fellows Papa Pilina – Ke’ala Fukuda, Pöhai Schultz, Maka’ala Rawlins, Mark Ellis, Marion Ano and Julie-Ann Cachola.

2011-2012 fellows (Papa Pöhaku) – Nani Pai, Keith Chang, Kamuela Meheula-Naihe, Dre Kalili, Mililani Browning, Davis Price and Shanna Willing in Waipio Valley on Hawai’i island.

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