In rememberance of our great Aliʻi Nui Kamehameha, still beloved for his great care of our people, on a day that honors him, and in this year of the Hawaiian, recently mandated by the Hawaii State Legislature, I write to ask for support for land for a new Native Hawaiian Homeland.

As our Hawaiian ancestors have lived in Hawaii for the past 100 generations, connection to Ancestral land is the most important aspect of Hawaiian identity. The kuleana of Mālama ʻĀina is the cornerstone of Native Hawaiian culture, and the practice of “Caring for the Land” has been shown to heal the hurt of colonization.

However, itʻs hard to actually Mālama the land, when one doesn’t have any land to Mālama, and lucky if even 1 percent of Hawaiians today own any beach front, from which we as great ocean voyagers used to Mālama the ocean.

So, the challenge today for Native Hawaiians is to find land in Hawaii for us to Mālama. Itʻs quite difficult. As the result of colonization, houses on Oahu, even in Palolo valley, as recently reported, are selling for $1 million each.

Sand Island Aerial photo.
These Oahu mountain valleys are just a few of the 1,600 Ahupuaʻa in Hawaii. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

This is why in the last census of 2010, we learned that 48 percent of Native Hawaiians have had to leave our beloved Hawaii, and move to North America in order to live, and to have a home. No doubt in the 2020 census, we will find that 58 percent of us have had to leave.

It seems as though every week, another cousin has reluctantly left for Vegas, or Seattle, or somewhere else in America. Itʻs heartbreaking to move away, but it is better than being homeless in your own homeland where one-third of the homeless are Hawaiian.

All of my cousins want to move home. And for Native Hawaiians who do manage to live here in Hawaii, many are only one paycheck away from being homeless. Many others live three or four families in one house with each family squeezing into a single bedroom.

Now, perhaps some would suggest that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands could solve the problem, but that is actually a fallacy. At present we Native Hawaiians number 500,000 in the world, and the 200,000 acres in the DHHL inventory is simply not enough land.

Moreover, there are still another 24,000 Native Hawaiians trying to get on that land, and some have been waiting 30 years. Almost none of the Hawaiian Homes inventory is beach front, except for Waimanālo Beach Park, that has been confiscated by the State, and the 1,300 acres of Bellows, also in Waimānalo, currently occupied by the U.S. military.

My University of Hawaii colleagues are predicting that by 2030, there will be 1 million Native Hawaiians in the world. Clearly, 200,000 acres will not be enough.

From our research at the UHM Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, we know that there are 1,600 Ahupuaʻa (usually valley shaped land divisions) in the Hawaiian archipelago. I suggest that some land in each of these 1,600 Ahupuaʻa be set aside for a new state-sponsored Native Hawaiian Homeland for Native Hawaiians of any blood quantum, and leave the DHHL lands for the Native Hawaiians of 50 percent blood. As Native Hawaiians we define our Lāhui Hawaiʻi, our extended family, as someone having any Native Hawaiian Ancestor, beginning with Haumea (a.k.a. Papa) our Hawaiian Earth mother.

Let us have land in each of the 1,600 Ahupuaʻa, from the mountain top down to where privately owned lands begin. In the old days in Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi, we always said that if you are lucky enough to own land in Hawaii, that is not the land we want.

If Native Hawaiians could have the mauka (mountain) lands in each of the 1,600 Ahupuaʻa, then we could Mālama ʻĀina, and grow food to feed everybody. Since we currently import 90 percent of our food into Hawaii, the 1,600 Ahupuaʻa Native Hawaiian Homeland would benefit everyone.

We could build Hawaiian style housing near our gardens, and the Native Hawaiians who lived in that housing would Mālama ʻĀina, paying no more than $500 a month in rent for a family of four. We already have Native Hawaiians designing such affordable housing.

Of course, it would be impossible for Native Hawaiians to Mālama all 1,600 Ahupuaʻa tomorrow, but letʻs make a plan to reserve these lands for the new State-Sponsored Native Hawaiian Homeland, for now and in the future.

Perhaps we should begin with a demonstration project, say one Ahupuaʻa in each of the six Moku districts on the island of Oahu, where a majority of all Native Hawaiians in the world live.

Most of the mauka lands on Oahu are currently controlled by the State of Hawaii, and some are already leased to Native Hawaiian nonprofits, as in Kalihi Valley. In Heʻeʻia, we have wonderful examples of brilliant young Native Hawaiians who have made nonprofit organizations to practice Mālama ʻĀina, in the upland gardens of Waipao, in the Kalo fields of Hoi, and in the 88-acre fishpond managed by Paepae o Heʻeʻia. These efforts are made possible by the generosity of the Kamehameha Schools who owns the Ahupuaʻa of Heʻeʻia.

Since the state currently leases Mauna Kea for only $1 a year, itʻs only fair that each Ahupuaʻa should cost only $1 a year. And I will be glad to put up the first $1,600 needed to begin!

Letʻs all support the 1,600 Ahupuaʻa Native Hawaiian Homeland so that Native Hawaiians may live in the land of our Ancestors forever, our cousins can move home, and we all can continue to Mālama Honua for the next 100 generations. That would be the truest sign of aloha for Native Hawaiians!

As for the wonderful folks at Puʻuhonua o Waiʻanae, who have brilliantly organized themselves to resolve their houseless situation and take care of their children and kūpuna, let’s give them a 50-year lease, along with access to fresh water, like we did for Bumpy Kanahele in Waimānalo. His community is flourishing too! Aloha nui!

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