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KITV: Federal resolution would complete Prince Kuhio's vision

July 13, 2021

Leasehold land would be passed more easily to Native Hawaiian beneficiaries under a newly introduced federal resolution.
It would set in place federal standards for Native Hawaiian homesteads, and would enact an idea first proposed 100 years ago.

Land is very important to Native Hawaiians, and getting awarded a leasehold lot can be life changing.

"Having this lease in Papakolea is everything. This is really important for us, this land.
I wouldn't have been able to do half of the things I was able to do, without my grandmother passing down the land to me," stated Lilia Kapuniai, the Executive Director of the Papakolea Community Development Corporation.

While Kapuniai met the 1/4 Native Hawaiian blood quantum requirement, she worries about homesteads being unable to pass onto future generations.

"We have a number of families, where we are not able to succeed down because of inter-marriage. Children, like my own, who were born in Papakolea. I get anxiety that I won't be able to succeed down to them without the 1/32 quantum consent from Congress," added Kapuniai.

In 2017, the Hawaii State Legislature approved a bill that would reduce the blood requirement down to 1/32. Now the issue is being heard on the federal level. This proposed reduction was originally brought up a hundred years ago by Prince Kuhio.

"The intent, the vision of Prince Kuhio was 1/32. It was not 100% or even 25%, it was 1/32 blood quantum," stated US Congressman Kai Kahele, who introduced the joint resolution.

In those hundred years, nearly 10,000 homesteads have been developed.
But there remains nearly 29,000 more Native Hawaiians on the wait list for a lot.
Those lots are leased for 99 years, at $1 a year.

"The biggest barrier to getting into a home is qualifying for that home. If we have more opportunities, more financial instruments, more support by Hawaiian Home Lands and other organizations, we can get more people into homes," said Kahele.

He adds there also needs to be more spent on infrastructure to support the development of new communities, or take care of old ones, like Papakolea. That Oahu community has dozens of homestead lots sitting vacant, and other homes not lived in, because residents can't afford the costs to build or repair them.

"There is a lot that still needs to be done. We have a lot of families that need resources, we still need financial support," said Kapuniai.

Kahele hopes to pass the recently introduced joint resolution this legislative session, then focus on increasing federal spending for infrastructure on homeland communities. In the hopes even more Native Hawaiians will be able to end up with a place to call their own.

"There is no reason why Native Hawaiians are horseless, or living on beaches. Every Native Hawaiian should have the opportunity to have piece of land and live in a home," added Kahele.

According to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, construction will begin on 500 residential lots over the next year and a half, along with 32 agricultural lots on various islands across the state.