Miwa Tamanaha considers herself a “recovering economist” — holding undergraduate and graduate degrees in Economics from the University of Southern California. For over 20 years, she has worked in environmental policy and environmental justice advocacy in communities from urban Los Angeles to rural parts of Tanzania. Miwa’s ancestors first came to Hawaiʻi from Okinawa in the late 1800s to work sugar plantations; she is the fifth generation of her family to call Hawaiʻi home. Prior to her work at KUA, Miwa served as the Policy and Communications Director for the Santa Monica Bay Commission (National Estuary Program, EPA) and Executive Director of KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, a grassroots advocacy non-profit committed to indigenous land rights and environmental protections. From 2011 – 2021, Miwa served as a co-founder and co-leader of Kua‘āina Ulu ‘Auamo (KUA).
As a network weaver, Miwa has studied in facilitation with revered elder Aunty Puanani Burgess, and also draws from training in Facilitative Leadership. She also credits Eric Enos, Kamuela Enos, the late Uncle Henry Chang Wo, Jr., Halau Ohia, Aunty Lynette Paglinawan, and Dr. Debbie Gowensmith (among many others!) as important teachers. She is an experienced community organizer, process designer and organization builder.
In her time at KUA, Miwa raised millions of dollars in support of community-based natural resource management initiatives, and was instrumental in designing KUA’s foundational program philosophy, program design, organizational structure, and moral compass. Those who know her have come to both love and fear that long pause that sometimes comes before she speaks (haha). She continues to be beloved as a mentor, collaborator and thought partner. Our Mahalo & A Hui Hou Tribute for her time spent in leadership at KUA can be read here: The Invisible Magic of Miwa.