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Honoring ʻŌiwi Leaders


Honoring ʻŌiwi Leaders

By The NHCC Board of Directors, for Ka Wai Ola November 2022

He pūkoʻa kani ʻāina. A coral reef that grows into an island. (A person beginning in a small way gains steadily until they become firmly established.) – Mary Kawena Pukui, ʻŌlelo Noʻeau 932.

Like many kānaka, Dr. Naleen Andrade, John De Fries and Marlene Sai got their start in small and humble ways. With hard work, perseverance and a heart to better their people, they grew into established ʻōiwi leaders that have and continue to inspire others. The Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce honored these kānaka at the 45th Annual ʻŌʻō Awards in October. 

This yearʻs theme centered on, ʻŌiwi Leadership! As Kānaka, we are born into a heritage of powerful, wise, and compassionate Wāhine and Kāne leaders with a tradition of passing on the kuleana of leadership from one generation to the next. With the resilient and innovative mindset of our kūpuna as the standard, we recognize kānaka of today who exemplify what has been passed on by so many before. These leaders dedicate themselves to perfecting their craft and contributing time and talent to the benefit of the lāhui. With a knack for perseverance and thriving through adversity, ʻōiwi leaders are keepers of both tradition and innovation.

Naleen Naupaka Andrade, MD is the Executive Vice President of Native Hawaiian Health and Chief Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice (DEIJ) Officer at The Queen’s Health System (QHS). Dr. Andrade leads Queen’s transformative work within its Native Hawaiian Health and DEIJ programs, and she will spearhead organization-wide implementation of Queen’s initiatives in these key areas. In her role, Dr. Andrade works in collaboration with other health care and community-based organizations to improve the health and well-being of Native Hawaiians and all the people of Hawai‘i.

During his tenure at the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, John De Fries led the state’s pivot toward regenerative tourism, which seeks to balance the economics of tourism with the wellbeing of our communities and natural resources. He took over leadership of HTA in September 2020, only six months into the global COVID pandemic. Born in Waikīkī before it became the economic center of Hawaiʻi tourism, De Fries was raised by family elders steeped in Hawaiian culture. He has five decades of professional experience in tourism and resort development.

Marlene Sai, an actress, vocalist and music executive, is popularly known as a grand dame of Hawaiian music, whose signature songs “Kainoa” and “Waikīkī,” and portrayal of Lili‘uokalani in the PBS documentary “Betrayal” won her fame and many awards. More than just a musical treasure, Marlene worked in administration at Kamehameha Schools and built its alumni department, while continuing to perform select “gigs.”

The work continues. Hawaiian businesses and the Hawaiian community at large need you. We need your talent, your time and your voice. Join us, and letʻs grow together!