HomeNative HawaiianNative Hawaiians compensated $328 mill for delayed homestead awards

Native Hawaiians compensated $328 mill for delayed homestead awards

After over two decades of litigation, Native Hawaiians will finally be compensated for the state government’s mismanagement of trust lands, Kauaʻi Now reports.

Hawai‘i 1st Circuit Court Judge Lisa W. Cataldo gave final approval for a $328 million settlement with the state of Hawaiʻi in the Kalima, et al. v State of Hawai’i class action breach of trust lawsuit on Friday. The lawsuit was first filed in 1999 and was brought by 2,515 beneficiaries against the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for delays in homestead awards mandated under the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust.

“We and our clients are grateful that the court has approved our plan to move forward to finally and fairly end this dispute by distributing the payments to all class members who have valid claims,” Co-Counsel Carl Varady, according to Kauaʻi Now.

The Hawaiian Home Lands Trust (a.k.a. Hawaiian Homestead Commission Act) was established in 1923 by Congress to guarantee Native Hawaiians’ land rights, modeled after the reservations set aside for Native Americans, according to Enterprise Community Partners. The state of Hawai‘i assumed trust obligations as a condition of statehood in 1959 but has severely mismanaged it since by selling trust lands to private parties, leasing trust lands below market rate, removing trust lands for public use and not properly funding the trust, according to Kauaʻi Now.

Despite the plaintiffs’ success in court, the victory is bittersweet. In the 24 years since the suit was first filed, 1,100 class members have died without receiving any relief.

“Our appreciation is tempered by the knowledge that nearly half of the class members will not be with us to witness or celebrate the court’s ruling,” Varady said, according to Kauaʻi Now.

A unique probate process will be set up that will distribute approximately $100 million to the descendants of the deceased class members, Kauaʻi Now reports. Payments will begin distribution after Sept. 1. 

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