Congressman eyes blood quantum rules for Hawaiian homelands

  • Contributed U.S. Rep. Kaialii Kahele

HONOLULU — A Native Hawaiian congressman has introduced legislation to change requirements for passing down Hawaiian homestead leases to relatives.

Under federal law, about 200,000 acres across Hawaii are reserved for Native Hawaiian people who have at least 50% Hawaiian blood.

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Families who have obtained leases to those acres may pass them on to spouses, children, grandchildren and siblings who have at least 1/4 Hawaiian blood.

U.S. Rep. Kaiali‘i Kahele’s proposal would lower this blood quantum requirement for passing down leases to 1/32.

The circumstances of Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, the president of the Keaukaha Community Association, which is the oldest Hawaiian homestead community on the Big Island, illustrate the challenges facing families.

Under the current law, Kahawaiola‘a’s children may inherit his lease. But if his children don’t marry Native Hawaiians, his grandkids may not qualify.

The blood quantum policy in the 1921 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act is a divisive issue in the Native Hawaiian community, Cedric Duarte, spokesman for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, told Hawaii Public Radio.

The 50% amount was a compromise by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole, who spearheaded efforts to create the program.

“It was never Kuhio’s intent to apply any sort of limit or blood quantum,” Duarte said.

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Ranchers and sugar plantation interests lobbied to limit the program to full-blooded Hawaiians, while Kuhio insisted on a blood quantum of 1/32.

File cabinets at the department contain birth certificates and other vital records that can help applicants prove they are at least 50% Native Hawaiian.

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