In 1920, the U.S. Congress enacted the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (“HHCA”) creating a land trust of nearly 200,000 acres in Hawaiʻi for native Hawaiian housing, farming, and ranching. Today, approximately 20,000-plus beneficiaries are waiting for a homestead lot award; some have waited for 40 years or longer and many have died on the waiting list. For families that have secured homestead leases they are entitled to under the HHCA, a variety of challenging legal issues can challenge their and their communityʻs ability to maintain those lands and thrive on them.
NHLC assists Hawaiian Homes beneficiaries with a wide range of problems including lost applications, arbitrary decreases in lot size, evictions, construction defects, successorship criteria, and community-based planning and economic development. The right to water resources is also a significant issue for Native Hawaiian homesteaders, who were often given land in arid areas.
NHLC also provides legal representation to individuals who want to amend their birth certificates to reflect their Native Hawaiian ancestry. These amendments are necessary to establish eligibility for DHHL awards or other Hawaiian programs.