United States' History with the Native Hawaiian Community

Since the annexation of Hawaiʻi as a U.S. territory in 1898, the Department has had a continuing role in the stewardship of lands and resources in the islands as well as the political and trust relationship with the Native Hawaiian people. Congress, under its plenary authority over Indian affairs, enacted the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920 (HHCA)[1] to protect the welfare of and rehabilitate the Native Hawaiian people. The HHCA provides for the homestead leasing of Hawaiian home lands to beneficiaries by having placed approximately 200,000 acres of former crown lands into the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust. For nearly 100 years, the State of Hawai‘i (vested with the day-to-day administration of the Trust) and the Secretary of the Interior have provided oversight of the Trust. Congress also set aside various tracts of former crown lands for the establishment of National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges. In the enabling legislation for the Hawai‘i Parks, Congress acknowledged the importance of Native Hawaiian history and sought to assist the NHC in both preserving and perpetuating its traditional activities and culture.  It did so by affording the NHC the right to continue traditional fishing, gathering, and other customary practices, and provided opportunitiesfor preferential employment at certain Parks.[2]

Congress further recognized a special political and trust relationship with the NHC through more than 150 legislative enactments. Under laws such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act (NHHCIA), Congress charged Federal agencies to work with the NHC through Native Hawaiian organizations (NHO).[3]

Congress requires Federal Agencies to work with NHOs who are the informal representatives of the NHC. The requirement to work with NHOs is necessary because the NHC currently lacks a unified formal government. It is also respectful of the traditional way the NHC has governed itself since the 1840s when the United States and other western powers began to infiltrate the Kingdom of Hawai‘i’s central government.[4]


Resource: Consultation with Native Hawaiian Organizations In the Section 106 Review Process: A Handbook

The Office worked with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to create this handbook that provides tools, requirements, principles, and tips specifically geared toward helping Federal Agencies engage and reach successful outcomes when working with the NHC on actions triggering Section 106.

[1] 42 Stat. 108.

[2] See 92 Stat. 3499; 52 Stat. 784; 94 Stat. 3321, 3323.

[3] 81 Fed. Reg. 71,278 (Oct. 14, 2016) (And when enacting Native Hawaiian statutes, Congress expressly stated in accompanying legislative findings that it was exercising its plenary power over Indian affairs: ‘‘The authority of the Congress under the United States Constitution to legislate in matters affecting the aboriginal or indigenous peoples of the United States includes the authority to legislate in matters affecting the native peoples of Alaska and Hawaii.’’ Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act, 42 U.S.C. 11701(17); see H.R. Rep. No. 66–839, at 11 (1920) (finding constitutional precedent for the HHCA ‘‘in previous enactments granting Indians . . . special privileges in obtaining and using the public lands’’); see also Native Hawaiian Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 7512(12)(B)).

[4] Davianna Pōmaikaʻi McGregor, Nā Kuaʻāina: Living Hawaiian Culture (Honolulu: Univ of Hawaiʻi Press, 2007) pp. 3, 12-14, 55-59 (July petition to Kamehameha III by 1600 commoners concerning “the independence of the kingdom,” and prohibiting foreigners to own land); see also Silva, Aloha Betrayed, pp. 38-9; E.S. Craighill Handy and Mary Kawena Pūku‘i, The Polynesian Family System in Kaʻū, Hawaiʻi (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1976), pp. 5-6.


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