The HHCA – 100 Years


Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Photo: Robin Puanani Danner

Mahalo OHA for partnering with SCHHA via this new column to share the work of homestead leaders, both on the waitlist and on the land set aside under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 (HHCA). The SCHHA is 33 years old, founded in 1987 by native Hawaiians from every moku. Mahalo, too, to former DHHL Director Hoaliku Drake, to former Governor John Waiheʻe, and to the first two leaders to be elected by homesteaders to the SCHHA Chairmanship, Kamaki Kanahele and Tony Sang, for setting the foundation to unite, to share, and to work together.

Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations2020 marks 100 years since the enactment of the HHCA, a landmark federal law championed by Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole. It established a federal land trust to allocate land to Hawaiians for homes, farms, ranches, and mercantile businesses. In 1959, at Statehood, Congress delegated the day-to-day administration of the HHCA to the new State of Hawaiʻi, which in turn, established the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL). 2020 also marks 61 years of state government administration of HHCA.

At SCHHA’s 2019 Annual Homestead Summit last April, homestead leaders produced a single policy priority—an update to the HHCA called the Hawaiian Lands in Hawaiian Hands Act of 2020. This beneficiary-led legislative initiative consists of common-sense technical amendments to the HHCA:

  1. State Agency Governance. Separate the DHHL Director from also being the Hawaiian Homes Commission Chair. This position should report and be accountable to the Commission, not set the agenda or control the Commission. The current situation is likened to the Chief of Police also being the Chair of the Police Commission, or a Mayor also being the Chair of the County Council. Easy fix, amazing functionality results.
  2. Foreclosure Parity. Update the HHCA to ensure Hawaiians are afforded the same successful loan loss mitigations of all other citizens before a homestead lease can be cancelled and a home asset seized. Parity with all Hawaiʻi citizens.
  3. Land Disposition. Provide clarity to honor the HHCA intent of issuing land to Hawaiians, before all others, before the general public or foreign corporations and individuals. Our trust lands were never intended to generate revenue for a state agency to operate, as was made clear in the Nelson Case. Back to the basics, issue land to Hawaiians. Prosperity will follow.

These priorities are within the purview of the Hawaiʻi State Legislature and will bring success to DHHL and Hawaiian families.

A national policy advocate for Native self-governance, Danner is the elected Chair of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, the oldest and largest coalition of native Hawaiians on or waiting for Hawaiian Home Lands. Born on Kauaʻi, Danner grew up in Niumalu, and the homelands of the Navajo, Hopi and Inuit peoples. She and her husband raised four children on homesteads in Anahola, Kauaʻi where they continue to reside today.