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State Of Hawaii's Responses To Native Hawaiians' Unique Needs

The State of Hawaii has undertaken a number of steps to meet the unique needs of native Hawaiians. These include acquisition and disposition of revenue pursuant to Section 5(f) of the Statehood Admission Act (48 U.S.C. prec. §491 (P.L. 86-3)); establishment of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (Act 273, 1980 Legislative Session, codified at Haw. (Rev. Stat. §10- 13.5); and establishment of State programs specifically for native Hawaiians through other departments of the State government.


In 1959, Hawaii was admitted to the union as a state. 1/ The special status of Hawaii's public lands was recognized and the intent to return those lands to Hawaii made clear in Hawaii's Admission Act. These lands, formerly the Crown and Government lands, had been ceded to the United States at annexation. In an unprecedented action, the Federal Government relinquished title to most of the ceded lands held at the time of statehood. 2/

Section 5 of the Admission Act provides the key to understanding Hawaii's ceded lands and the State's responsibilities in relation to those lands. Section 5(a) names the State as successor in title to lands and properties held by the territory. 3/ Section 5(b) then declares that:

...[e]xcept as provided in subsection (c) and (d) of this section, the United States grants to the State of Hawaii, effective upon its admission into the Union, the United States' title to all the public lands and other property, and to all lands defined as "available lands" by section 203 of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, as amended, within the boundaries of the State of Hawaii, title to which is held by the United States immediately prior to its admission into the Union. 4/

Section 5(g) of the Act defines public lands and other public property as the "lands and properties that were ceded to the United States by the Republic of Hawaii under the joint resolution of annexation...or that have been acquired in exchange for lands or properties so ceded." 5/

Specifically excepted from the section 5(b) grant were ceded lands that had been set aside for federal use pursuant to an act of Congress, executive order, presidential proclamation, or gubernatorial proclamation. 6/ Section 5(c) of the Admission Act provided that such lands should remain the property of the United States.

*/ Material for this section is taken directly from Melody MacKenzie, Sovereignty and Land: Honoring the Hawaiian Native Claim, pp. 45-53. Footnotes have been renumbered and where necessary specify earlier references. They are otherwise unchanged. Some comments received by the Commission stated that the Native Hawaiians Study Commission Draft Report did not address the ceded lands matter; this chapter, which remains unchanged from the Draft Report, fully responds to those comments.


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