Hawaiians protest land office
A group suing over Hawaiian Homes policy says the agency is unconstitutional
A group of six Native Hawaiians told federal judges that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is a race-based and unconstitutional agency that should be abolished.
The plaintiffs, who represented themselves Friday before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, want the state to give up control of the lands.
"My equal rights under the constitution have been violated," said plaintiff Patrick Kahawaiolaa. "Is it constitutional that I and my fellow Native Hawaiians here today can live on this public trust land and you, the honorable judges ... are barred by race from living next to me?"
This group has been peacefully protesting Hawaiian Homes policies since 1993. They believe the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act promised beneficiaries free water, exemption from certain taxes and a fixed interest on home loans.
The judges were generally silent as they heard the case, giving little indication of their opinion on sovereignty issues.
The Hawaiians -- Kahawaiolaa, Samson Brown, Richard Kela, Norman Macomber, Steven Angay and Harold Jim -- want the lands to be surrendered by the state and returned to a territorial commission overseen by the federal government.
But Deputy Attorney General Clayton Lee Crowell said that even if the state law creating the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands were overturned, those lands would not be returned to the federal government.
"If would have no effect on resuscitating the old Territorial Commission -- it wouldn't get you there -- and it would have no effect on sending the authority of the Hawaiian Home Lands Commission back to the federal government," Crowell said. "That's a different matter altogether."
The group is also suing over unauthorized tenants living on Hawaiian Home Lands property at King's Landing.
Members of the sovereignty group, Malama Ka Aina Hana Ka Aina Inc., were granted a permit to oversee the property until developers can begin managing the property. They say they are the only residents legally allowed to live there.