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Sharla Manley

  • Hosted by Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation
  • Sponsored by Disaster Resilience Program
  • Service location Maui, Hawaii
  • Law school University of Southern California Gould School of Law
  • Issue area Disaster Recovery, Disaster Response and Preparedness
  • Fellowship class year 2023
  • Program Disaster Resilience Program

The Project

Sharla Manley (she/her/hers) will be assisting with the Indigenous Resilience Project at the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation which employs the delivery of native rights legal services to prevent any further dispossession of Native Hawaiian individuals and families in West Maui resulting from the August 8, 2023, wildfire and to reform natural resource management policies and practices that contributed to the disaster through impact litigation and community engagement.

This Fellowship is aimed at addressing dispossession of Native Hawaiians as a result of the Lahaina 2023 wildfire and the mismanagement of natural resources that contributed to the disaster. Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation started as an anti-eviction law firm aimed at addressing the crisis of Native Hawaiians increasingly being evicted to make way for residential and industrial developments. The disaster resulting from the August 2023 wildfires on Maui threatens to dispossess Native Hawaiians again in a place that was once the capital of the Hawaiian nation. It is reported that over 25% of Lahaina households have left the island. Thousands of Lahaina survivors still do not have a permanent place to stay. This population collapse, like other such collapses before it in the colonization of Hawai`i, threatens Native Hawaiian self-determination. This project also will address the underlying policies and practices that contributed to the disaster in Lahaina which was as much a man-made disaster as it was a natural one. Indigenous land and water management practices have been replaced by land banking and a corporate monopoly over water resources. Balance must be restored. 

Fellowship Plans 

Sharla’s project has three components. First, an anti-displacement and native lands defense component including providing mortgage foreclosure defense. Second, building capacity and institutions to retain land for the community. Third, restoring ahupua`a resiliency through impact litigation and community engagement aimed at reforming the mismanagement of natural resources in West Maui and restoring the integrity of the watersheds in and adjacent to Lahaina.

The Lahaina wildfire was a by-product of land banking and a corporate monopoly over water. These land and water management decisions have been driven by profit-seeking, rather than indigenous values like mālama ʻāina and the attendant ingenious practices that made these islands habitable for centuries. As such, disaster resilience in Hawaiʻi requires a native rights approach.

Sharla Manley /
2023 Fellow in the Disaster Resilience Program

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