Native Hawaiians celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA), a bill that set aside 203,000 acres of Hawaiian land for its indigenous inhabitants, on Friday, KITV reports. Many Native Hawaiians, however, are still waiting for their land.
Signed by President Warren Harding into law in July 1921, the Act is considered a landmark step in Native Hawaiians’ struggle to reclaim their homeland. It was championed by Hawaii’s territorial representative Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, a former prince of the Hawaiian Kingdom, as a way to revitalize the then-depleted indigenous population.
Since its passage, according to KITV, it has distributed over 10,000 land parcels, known as “homestead lots,” to Hawaiian families.
“Whether it’s improving Native Hawaiian housing, healthcare, or education — Prince Kūhiō’s work, his legacy of justice for Native Hawaiians lives on,” said Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz.
That legacy, however, is yet to be fully realized: over 28,000 Hawaiians remain on the waitlist to receive land. The law’s bumpy rollout has also resulted in legal action, Hawaiʻi Public Radio reported. Land beneficiaries have previously filed lawsuits against the state for insufficiently funding the Act.
Attorney Carl Varady has co-signed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Hawaiians on the waitlist, alleging lost opportunities and breaches of trust.
“What a difference this could make for them generationally if they are able to get a developed lot on which they can build housing,” Varady told Hawaiʻi Public Radio. “Then they have the ability to save or create a future for their children to pay for educational needs, higher education, just simple things like health care.”
Native Hawaiian organizations are also fighting for their communities and protesting against injustices on other fronts, as they did on July 4 to condemn a state land bill.
According to Gene Ross Davis, a Hawaiian who lives on the same property that his grandfather received in 1923, the land is indeed key to his people’s “rehabilitation.”
“People need the connection to the land just to practice their culture, their lifestyle,” Davis told Hawaiʻi Public Radio, “and it still applies to our people today.”
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