Cultural Intellectual Property, Traditional Knowledge, & Data Sovereignty

Empowering Cultural Stewards and Knowledge Keepers

As indigenous people, Native Hawaiian protection of culture, knowledge, and data is within the scope of Indigenous Peoples’ human rights as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The Native Hawaiian community has asserted its needs and concerns regarding stewardship, protection, and abuses of Native Hawaiian cultural intellectual property, traditional knowledge, and data sovereignty, including with the historic adoption of the Paoakalani Declaration in 2003. The community spoke again in a strong voice on these issues through a historic coalition of kumu hula in the Huamakahikina Declaration in 2021, which NHLC was proud to assist with as legal advisors.

As a result of steadfast, multi-year Hawaiian advocacy, the Hawaii State Legislature passed a joint resolution in 2023 calling on the Governor to stand up a Native Hawaiian Intellectual Property Working Group to “create and develop solutions to prevent Native Hawaiian intellectual property from being incorrectly appropriated” in a report to the legislature prior to its 2025 session. Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation was included among the Native Hawaiian organizations to nominate members to the working group.

Cultural practitioners and traditional knowledge stewards, including Native Hawaiian serving organizations, can request NHLC’s assistance with intellectual property concerns regarding protection or abuse by contacting NHLC’s office at (808) 521-2302 or contact us using our Contact Form.


Makalika Naholowaa

Executive Director

Devin Kamealoha Forrest

Staff Attorney & Research Specialist


News + Insights