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President Joe Biden traveled to Maui, Hawai‘i on Monday, two weeks after deadly wildfires broke out across multiple islands, destroying countless structures and killing more than 100 people.

“The American people stand with you,” he said, according to a statement from the White House, to survivors of the wildfire, standing alongside Democratic Hawai‘i Governor Josh Green, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen, and the Hawaii Congressional Delegation. “For as long as it takes, we’re going to be with you.”

Biden pointed to his left, where stood a 150-year-old banyan tree, which was there in the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, that has stood for generations as a sacred spot of exceptional significance. 

“Today, it’s burned, but it’s still standing. The tree survived for a reason. I believe it’s a powerful symbol of what we can and will do to get through this crisis. And for as long as it takes, we're going to be with you, the whole country will be with you,” Biden said. 

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“We will be respectful of these sacred grounds and the traditions that rebuild the way the people of Maui want to build, not the way others want to build.” 

But the Star-Advertiser warned Biden before he came to Maui that “a warm welcome may not be assured for Biden in some circles on Maui,” because of frustrations from survivors over applying for federal FEMA aid — many lost the government ID’s and paperwork FEMA requires for aid to the flames. 

State Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D) who co-chairs the Legislature’s Native Hawaiian Caucus, told the Star-Advertiser that the failure of the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands “to fulfill its obligation to build homes for the remaining 28,700 Native Hawaiians on the wait list” along with an apparent “lack of meaningful action since then-President Bill Clinton signed legislation in 1993 apologizing for the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom 100 years earlier,” both contribute to efforts on social media discouraging Native Hawaiians from applying for much-needed aid. “They’re trying to tap into that anger and frustration and stress,” he added.

Here’s what people in Hawai‘i are saying about Biden's recent trip to Maui:  

Lynwood Hale: Mahalo Akua for an Empathetic President.

Kalani Santana: Please President….Keep your words and continue to help as much as you can! Mahalo. 

Luka Kahele: Keep Lahaina lands in lahaina’s hands. 

Punawai: Mahalo President for coming to Maui. 

Mapuana Lee: People of Lahaina do not sell your property. Your land is worth more than your house. You will get to rebuild. I believe President Biden is good on his words. 

Robert Yokoyama: There is so much cynicism and negativity in politics. I just hope he is sincere in his promise to Maui. 

Komaki Masaaki Alahuapo’o: “Nobody wants to get sick from the compromised water supply filled to the brim with pfas forever chemicals.” He really doesn't have a clue at all. 

Biden acknowledged the long road ahead for the island but reiterated that the federal government will continue to assist in recovery, sheltering, and rebuilding efforts for a long time. 

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.