This chapter summarizes some of the most important ways in which Native Hawaiians have been affected by U.S. law. It begins by recounting the violation of Hawaiian sovereignty that occurred with the illegal overthrow of the monarchy in 1893, and goes on to describe subsequent attempts to ameliorate that injustice. The chapter then discusses the legal cases in which the policies of various Hawaiian agencies, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Hawaiian Homes Commission, and the Kamehameha Schools, have been challenged on the grounds that they are discriminatory against non-Hawaiians. Some of these challenges have succeeded to at least some degree, but most have failed on jurisdictional grounds.
Next this chapter compares the legal status of Native Hawaiians with that of Native Americans, indicating some of the most significant differences. Although the federal government has recognized Native Hawaiians as the indigenous people of a once sovereign nation, there is no “government-to-government” relationship between a government representing Native Hawaiian interests and the U.S. government. Thus, the special political and trust relationship between the U.S. and the Native Hawaiian community has not been fully implemented.
The chapter concludes by describing efforts on a federal and state level to reestablish a Native Hawaiian government and fully implement the special political and trust relationship.
“Native Hawaiians and U.S. Law” is Chapter 5 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.