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Federal legislation seeks to lower the blood quantum requirement for Hawaiian Home Lands

Department of Hawaiian Home Lands
Department of Hawaiian Home Lands

Native Hawaiian beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands program have faced obstacles to passing on their homestead to their descendants due to current qualifications. Mainly the 25% blood quantum — a requirement U.S. Representative Kaialiʻi Kahele wants to change.

"Native Hawaiians deserve the right to protect their ancestral homes, farms and ranches by securing their heirship and providing for their family legacy through generational asset building," he said.

The Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole Protecting Family Legacies Act would lower the blood quantum for successors from one-quarter to one-thirty-second.

The act, which was heard Tuesday by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples, will go a long way to help the more than 10,000 Native Hawaiians already on homestead land.

But tackling the waitlist of more than 28,000 Native Hawaiian beneficiaries will require resources, says Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Deputy Director Tyler ʻIokepa Gomes.

The state agency received historic level funding last year, but he says "resources" doesn’t always mean funding.

"Some of the pieces you’ll see in our legislative package this year reflect our need for example for independent counsel. That allows for accountability and ensures their attorneys are making the decision that’s in the best interest of the trust, which may not always align with the interests of the state," Gomes said.

The legislative proposal for independent legal counsel is one of 10 measures sent to Gov. David Ige for consideration. Other proposals aim to address water rights, county infrastructure, adoption, and historic preservation.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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