(BIVN) – Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele, with only weeks remaining as a U.S. Representative for Hawaiʻi, has introduced the Hawaiian Home Lands Preservation Act, a bill to amend the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, reducing the blood quantum requirement for successorship to 1/32nd.
Kahele said his proposed legislation will “fulfill the original objective of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, as intended by Delegate Kūhiō.”
Here is what Rep. Kahele said on the floor of the U.S. House:
Colleagues, I rise today to speak on a critical issue for indigenous people of the United States. Specifically, kanaka maoli. Native Hawaiians.
Yesterday in this Auguste body, I introduced H.R. 9614 to amend the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, legislation critical to the preservation, the protection and restoration of the sovereign rights of the Native Hawaiian people.
Madam speaker, 129 years ago – on January 17, 1893 – thirteen white men, with the support of U.S troops of the USS Boston, illegally overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. In the years that would follow, the Kingdom’s beloved Monarch, Queen Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned. Millions of acres of sovereign royal lands were stolen. ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiian language, was prohibited to be taught or spoken in public schools. The United States illegally annexed Hawaiʻi via a simple majority Joint Resolution, after failing to gain treaty ratification in the United States Senate. And by 1920, Native Hawaiians – decimated by Western diseases, the loss of their land, culture, and identity – were on the brink of extinction.
Realizing the plight of his people, Hawaiʻi’s second Native Hawaiian and territorial delegate to the Congress, Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole – 102 years ago – authored one of the most important pieces of federal legislation for Hawaiians: the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920.
The Act would set aside 203,000 acres to restore land and dignity to Native Hawaiians of 1/32nd blood quantum, giving them leasing opportunities for homesteading, farming, ranching and mercantile purposes. However, delegate Kūhiō ran into fierce opposition, and was forced to compromise with Western, powerful, sugar and business interests, by accepting a blood quantum requirement of 50% percent to qualify for a lease.
This requirement would serve as a poison pill in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, dividing Native Hawaiians. A divide that remains to this day.
Inadequately funded and managed by the United States from 1921 to 1959, the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and its day-to-day management was punted to the new State of Hawaiʻi as a condition and a requirement of statehood in 1959. Realizing that native Hawaiians were being quickly displaced from their land due to interracial marriages, the state of Hawaiʻi and the United States lowered the blood quantum requirement for qualified beneficiary successors to 25% percent.
100 years later, due to interracial marriages and blended families, many descendants of beneficiaries do not meet the 25% requirement for successorship. In addition, the failure of both the state of Hawaiʻi and the United States to meet its fiduciary execution, management, and oversight of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act has resulted in less than 10,000 native Hawaiians being awarded a lease, while an applicant wait list of almost 29,000 exist to this day.
As the applicant waitlist grows, the median average age of an applicant grows, creating a sense of urgency, as thousands have died on the waitlist. Thousands more will die on the waitlist, never fulfilling the true vision of Prince Kūhiō to ʻāina hoʻopulapula, or return Native Hawaiians to their land.
This bill, H.R 9614, will reduce the blood quantum requirement to delegate kūhiō’s original intent of 1/32nd for the successors that have – while also addressing the inequity of those that don’t have – by lowering the 50% blood quantum requirement for successorship to 1/32nd for the thousands of applicants and their successors on the DHHL applicant waitlist.
With the 117th Congress coming to an end in just 13 days, it is my sincere hope that the 118th Congress will address this important issue, and that an emerging new generation of Native Hawaiian political leaders in Hawaiʻi will elevate this and the myriad of other issues that continue to suppress and harm the Native Hawaiian community. Madam speaker, I’m confident that if we do that, we can effectuate sustainable and positive change across Hawaiʻi and our nation, where all of our people thrive, not just a privileged few.