Maui News

Biden Appoints Native Hawaiian as Senior Advisor

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Summer Lee Haunani Sylva. PC: Courtesy

The US Department of Interior announced additional Biden-Harris appointees today, and among them is Native Hawaiian Attorney Summer Lee Haunani Sylva. Sylva will serve as the Senior Advisor for Native Hawaiian Affairs to US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

District 3 Council Member and Vice Chair Esther Kiaʻāina applauded Sylva’s appointment, noting “As the Biden Administration works to strengthen its ties with indigenous communities across the country, I know that Summer’s appointment will help them navigate the complexity of Native Hawaiian issues by working with our Hawaiian communities and federal officials to address quality of life issues and redress past wrongs related to land and self-governance.”

Sylva, born and raised in Hawaiʻi, is a long-time resident of Waimānalo and attended Sacred Hearts Academy as a youngster. After graduating from ʻIolani in 1993, she went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in political science from Barnard College-Columbia University and her J.D. from Cornell Law School.


Summer has more than a decade of experience litigating before federal and state courts in Hawaiʻi, New York and New Jersey. She most recently served as the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation where she led litigation efforts on Native Hawaiian rights issues, including water rights, state and federal government entitlement programs, and native land claims.

Reflecting on Sylva’s contributions to the community, NHLC’s Board President Kawika Patterson said, “While the board, staff, and clients of NHLC will certainly miss Summer’s diligence, leadership, and deep aloha for native rights advocacy, the lāhui will continue to benefit from her proven commitment to serving the Native Hawaiian community faithfully in her new role.”

Summer Lee Haunani Sylva. (second from left) PC: Courtesy


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