The history of Native Hawaiian land ownership is legally complex, including significant land grants following the Māhele of 1848 and under the Kuleana Act of 1850, as well as dispossession of land at scale by plantation, ranch, and other large land owners using various legal instruments, including adverse possession claims in quiet title actions.
Though these quiet title actions may have peaked in scale and volume in the 1970s and 80s, Native Hawaiians continue to battle threats to their family lands in quiet title actions. Native Hawaiian families are often vulnerable in these matters, because they are generally expensive disputes, take months and even years to resolve, and usually require costly experts including surveys and real estate appraisals.
Nevertheless, keeping Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian families is important to preserving Hawaiian identity and culture. NHLC’s origin story includes support for Native Hawaiian families defending against claims to their land in quiet title cases, first as an attorney referral service, and then by taking on cases in the 1980s. NHLC has represented at least 2,300 individuals in more than 400 quiet title cases. In that time, NHLC has preserved hundreds of acres of Native Hawaiian ancestral land. We encourage families to contact us if they are named in a quiet title action or threatened with a quiet title claim.