Hale’s gotta go

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Signs addressing the beneficiary wait list stand along the Maunakea Access Road on Tuesday.
  • An unauthorized, unpermitted structure stands Tuesday along the Maunakea Access Road. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — They say they are Native Hawaiian beneficiaries looking after the aina.

But the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands says they are trespassing and that their unauthorized structure next to the Maunakea Access Road has to go.


“We have to be concerned about liability and what liability could mean for the trust,” said William Aila, DHHL deputy chairman.

The structure, known as Hale o Kuhio, was put in place on DHHL land on Prince Kuhio Day, March 26, by about two dozen people associated with a group called the Beneficiaries Trust Council. Some identified themselves as “Kanaka Rangers.”

They say they are trying to bring attention to the lengthy DHHL beneficiary wait list as well as promote self-sufficiency and self-determination. DHHL holds 56,000 acres in the area in trust, a portion of which is designated for pasture or homestead leases. Most of the land is set aside for forest and cultural uses for beneficiaries.

“We shouldn’t be waiting when lands should be distributed,” said Kepa Kaeo, of the BTC, regarding the homestead and pasture lands in the area.

At first, participants say they would ask vehicles to stop to keep track of where they were going and provide safety tips for those ascending Maunakea. They say they were doing that to collect data on traffic crossing DHHL lands, and continue to do so, but are no longer encouraging vehicles to pull over.

“Our data collection is a must because everyone needs management numbers,” Kaeo said.

Aila said DHHL is willing to dialogue with the group, but first they need to come into compliance.

That’s why cease and desist letters were issued in September. So far, the warnings have been ignored.

“I can say they are not in compliance,” Aila said. “We are giving them more time to remove the structure.”

Additional warnings have been posted on the structure, which have been painted over, he said.

Aila said the original structure was removed by a homesteader whom he described as being its owner. A slightly larger structure was then erected to replace it.

As for whether the participants could face penalties, he said that would be up to the Hawaiian Homes Commission.

Kaeo said he can’t remove the structure because he said it belongs to the people who donated funds to build it.

DHHL completed a plan for its Maunakea lands called the Aina Mauna Legacy Program in 2009. The lands hug the mountain mostly along Mana Road.

It identified 1,000 acres to be initially set aside for rural homestead development near Daniel K. Inouye Highway, more than 4,000 acres for pastureland, and most of the remaining land for forestry, conservation and gorse control.

Aila said there are two existing pasture leases.

No progress has been made in opening up homesteads, which could accommodate 100 to 200 leases, according to the plan. Aila said infrastructure costs remain a challenge, and there are other lands that are more feasible for homesteads.

“Everything boils down to resources,” he said.

DHHL is currently planning to establish sustainable agricultural lots in Honomu.

State Sen. Kai Kahele said he understands the frustration with the beneficiary wait list. His father, the late Sen. Gil Kahele, was on the wait list at the time of his death.

“We’re seeing where people basically, or organizations … take the land out of frustration,” he said.

Kahele, D-Hilo, noted DHHL is a complex state organization, which also has some federal oversight, and often lacks financial resources.

The U.S. Congress passed the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, spearheaded by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, in 1920. It was signed into law the following year.

There are about 27,000 applicants on the homestead wait list statewide, Aila said.


“To put people on the land, we need to become self-sustaining,” Kahele said. “We need to utilize our land assets to generate income so we don’t need to depend on the state’s general fund.”

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

  1. diverdave November 16, 2018 3:18 am

    This race based silliness would never pass the U.S. Congress today. It was supposed to be a FARMING program, NOT a housing program. The leases have NEVER produced a profit to go back into infrastructure for new leases. The program has always been a failure. Not only are most of the leases that are supposed to be farms NOT farming, but have become havens for illegal activities, people living on them that shouldn’t be, and are in arrears in lease and property taxes.
    This has been nothing but a scam on the other citizens of this State!

  2. Sara Steiner-jackson November 16, 2018 6:53 am

    27,000 waiting for almost a hundred years for homelands. It is super obvious that DHHL is NOT interested in the health or welfare of its constituents and will let them rot and die on the list before giving any land to any hawaiians.

    1. diverdave November 16, 2018 7:15 am

      Can you please explain how saddling tutu with a $350,000 mortgage(the average DHHL loan) on land that she will never own, in an area that is not of her own choosing, helps her “health and welfare”.

      1. diverdave November 16, 2018 5:08 pm

        As usual, no response.

    2. Sara Steiner-jackson November 16, 2018 12:38 pm

      There are DHHL subdivisions at Mak’u’u and Kalapana hardly have anyone in them. They expect low income tenants to pay for hooking up to water and power and farm bare rock???obviously its too expensive and does not benefit the Hawaiians at all, or those homesteads would be homes

      1. diverdave November 16, 2018 1:20 pm

        Why would you readily assume they are “low income”? The notion that because they are over 50% Polynesian-Hawaiian they must be “low income” is simply stereotyping them, and putting them down.
        The facts are that the program was to “save a dying race” and not only are they NOT dying out (just the opposite) but are about as well off as any race in Hawaii.

        1. Sara Steiner-jackson November 17, 2018 8:10 am

          The fact is the land is supposed to be a gift to the Hawaiians for the whiteys stealing their land. You don’t give a gift and then expect the recipient to pay!

          1. diverdave November 17, 2018 12:12 pm

            Completely false. That was made clear by Prince Kuhio when he gave testimony before Congress.
            Sara research a lot more before you speak a little, and you might not make such racist statements.
            FYI, the largest owners of private lands in this State are Polynesians and Asians, NOT “whiteys”!

        2. Sara Steiner-jackson November 17, 2018 8:16 am

          The reason I assume they are low-income is the fact that not many took advantage of DHHL’s “generosity” meaning the land is still sitting there because DHHL placed too many overburdenome requirements on it.

          And by the way, I am low-income, and anyone, including Hawaiians who are low-income are still viable people and they are not victimized by people calling them low-income, they are victimized by the very DHHL and Hawaii government that is supposed to provide equal levels of service.

    3. diverdave November 17, 2018 1:40 pm

      The gross misunderstanding with the current implementation of the homesteading program designed by John Wise and Prince Kuhio(Hawaii’s Territorial Rep. to U.S.
      Congress) is that its premise at the time was (1) to “save a dying
      race”, (2) to accomplish this by taking away homesteading by everyone and
      allowing only Polynesian-Hawaiians to homestead, (3) putting them back on the
      land to farm. While the act has been sneakily amended since then, the original act of 1920 Sec. 207 clearly said: “The commission is authorized to lease to
      native Hawaiians the right to use and occupancy of a tract of Hawaiian
      homelands within the following acreage limits: (1) Not less than twenty nor
      more than eighty acres of agricultural lands; or (2) Not less than one hundred
      nor more than five hundred acres of first-class pastoral lands; or (3) Not less
      than two hundred and fifty nor more than one thousand acres of second-class
      pastoral lands”. Does that sound like a “buy a Polynesian a condo in
      Kona” program? Now almost a hundred years later the Polynesian-Hawaiian
      race has not “died”, and the “Rehabilitation Act” as it was
      commonly called at the time, has gone so far a field from its original intent
      that it has reached a point that it cannot be realistically implemented.

  3. KonaDude November 16, 2018 8:35 am

    Wind or solar farms ??

    1. diverdave November 16, 2018 4:48 pm

      Actually, KonaDude, you are a genius. Casinos would be good, but solar farms and wind farms on those slopes would be sooo green!
      Oh, I forgot. It’s “sacred land.”

  4. diverdave November 16, 2018 4:11 pm

    The sign in the picture says, “only 9000 homesteads awarded since 1920”.

    That’s a lot. If you care to read the “Rehabilitation Act” as it was commonly called at the time, it was well known that there was not enough land for everyone that would qualify. But, it was decided that it would be enough, if the program worked as argued by Prince Kuhio, and John Wise, to “save a dying race”. There is evidence now that the good Polynesian Prince, who had been elected many times over as our Delegate to the U.S. Congress, knew that to be untrue and in fact the Polynesians had started a population rebound since the revolution of 1893. However, homesteading by only the Polynesians would solve the “Japanese problem”. The Japanese had been homesteading land at an alarming rate, and it was feared that they would set their sights on the rich bottom land that was due to come off long term leases to the sugar plantations given out during the King David Kalakaua Dynasty.

  5. blunt TrUth November 17, 2018 3:51 am

    the DHHL creates an important trickle-down economy of bulk pet foods and Humane Society jobs.

  6. Russell Gillespie November 17, 2018 9:44 am

    Racial heritage can be easily verified via DNA(saliva) testing.

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