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  • these Committees consult and involve Native Hawaiians to the greatest extent possible in the resolution of these claims, and that any proposed restitution be subject to formal acceptance by Native Hawaiians; and
  • pending resolution of these claims that the Congress take the appropriate action to assure that all lands controlled by the federal government in the State of Hawai'i maintain their current use and status, and that the archipelagic waters of Hawai'i enjoy the same security.

Congressional consideration of restitution to Native Hawaiians for illegal American actions leading to the overthrow of the Kingdom will, in all likelihood, include an examination of existing trust relationships between the United States and Native Hawaiians. These trust relationships are distinct, albeit not separate, from the claims for compensable losses and damages.

In order to help clarify the nature of the claims, however, a review of the trust relationships is a part of the groundwork necessary for determining restitution.

The Ceded Lands Trust. The public, crown, and government lands of the Kingdom totalled approximately 1.9 million acres -- nearly half the domain of the Islands. Under the control of the Republic of Hawai'i, 200,000 acres of these once-inalienable lands were transferred to private ownership.

At the time of American annexation of Hawai'i, then, the anchestral lands of Native Hawaiians encompassed 1.7 million acres of Hawai'i, much of it planted in sugar and pineapple by the terms of royal leases. These leases were undisturbed by the Republic and remained in force under the United States.

In the Joint Resolution of Annexation adopted by the Congress and passed by the Legislature of the Republic, the sovereignty and all "public, crown, or government lands" were ceded to the United States. This cession -- appropriate under international law -- was conducted without the consent of the people of Hawai'i and without compensation to Native Hawaiians.

The terms of this transfer, their later discussion in numerous Congressional hearings on statehood for the Territory of Hawai'i, and the eventual ratification of the Admission Act, substantiate these findings:

  • the public, crown and government lands ceded to the United States were transferred as a trust to be maintained and managed for the benefit of all the "inhabitants" of Hawai'i;
  • this trust imposed fiduciary responsibilities on the United States and constrained the use, management and proceeds generated from the trust to public purposes;
  • the bulk of these lands were returned in fee to the State of Hawai'i in the Admission Act, with explicit trust impositions and the naming of two possible beneficiary classes: Native Hawaiians, as defined in the Hawaiian Homes Act, and the general public;
  • the broad public purposes enunciated as consistent with the trust could be fulfilled at the discretion of the State; however, any purpose outside those named would result in a breach of trust.