The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HCCA), passed in 1921, set aside approximately 203,500 acres of land in a homesteading program for Native Hawaiian beneficiaries, defined in the HHCA as those of not less than 50 percent Hawaiian ancestry. The intention of the act was to assist Native Hawaiians, whose numbers were seriously declining, by providing them with land and financial support for farming and ranching. However, a combination of insufficient funding, administrative problems, and political obstacles resulted in the frequent leasing of much of this land to outside parties at the expense of the beneficiaries. This chapter describes both the difficulties encountered in fulfilling the HHCA’s purpose and the efforts made to rectify the homestead program’s failings.
Waiting lists for homesteads are many years long. Many of the tracts eventually leased to Native Hawaiian beneficiaries possess poor soil and inadequate water resources. Most of the recipients are awarded residential leases only, despite the HHCA’s initial focus on promoting agricultural and pastoral subsistence. The federal and state governments have transferred thousands of acres through conveyances and exchanges not authorized by the HHCA and have used those lands for public purposes with little or no compensation to the trust. All of this mismanagement is increasingly under challenge.
This chapter provides detailed accounts of the state and federal actions that have been taken to improve the homestead program’s effectiveness and to resolve past breaches of trust. It also discusses several issues regarding judicial enforcement of the HHCA, including the ways in which courts have dealt with equal protection lawsuits. The chapter urges more rigorous oversight and monitoring of the homestead program and the passage of clearly defined legislation to further the HHCA’s goals.
“Hawaiian Homes Commission Act” is Chapter 4 of Native Hawaiian Law: A Treatise, a volume that updates and expands on the seminal work of the 1991 Native Hawaiian Rights Handbook. The publication is a collaborative effort of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law – University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and Kamehameha Publishing.