He ōpū aliʻi nō ʻoe – You are indeed a benevolent chief, Kūhiō
In commemoration of the Centennial anniversary of the signing of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA), the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) hosted a socially distanced ceremony at its Hale Kalanianaʻole Office Building in Kapolei on July 9, 2021.
The event marked the beginning of the Act’s 100th year.
On July 9, 2021, President Warren G. Harding signed the HHCA into law. Its passage amended the Organic Act of 1900 and set aside approximately 203,000 acres of former crown and government lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom for homesteading by Hawaiians of at least half native Hawaiian ancestry.
Beneficiaries of the Act are provided a homestead parcel as a 99-year lease for $1 per year.
The ceremony, live-streamed on DHHL’s website, began with a keynote speech by Professor Davianna Pōmaikaʻi McGregor. She discussed the health conditions of Native Hawaiians in the early part of the 20th century and explained the Act’s journey from a grassroots resolution to the halls of Congress, and finally to the President’s desk.
Government officials, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, who recently became the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Gov. David Ige joined DHHL in honoring the legacy of Prince Kūhiō and acknowledged recent efforts made to provide increased funding for the homesteading program.
Former Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC) Chairpersons, current members of the HHC, various Homestead Association leaders, as well as representatives from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools, and the U.S. Department of the Interior also joined in commemorating the anniversary of the Act’s signing.
Following remarks by HHC Chair William J. Ailā, Jr., attendees were invited to present hoʻokupu. Gifts of lei, fruits, and plants from homesteads throughout the state adorned and surrounded a portrait of Prince Kūhiō.
Kalo plants from the grounds of Hale Kalanianaʻole planted and harvested by Chair Ailā, along with freshwater from a source near Prince Kūhiō’s birthplace collected by a DHHL Land Agent Kaipo Duncan, the great-grandson of Rudolf Duncan – a member of the first HHC – were presented in tribute.
Alongside the Kapolei ceremony, Deputy Tyler Iokepa Gomes spent the day filled with events held in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the Act. His visit included a press conference, a visit to the office occupied by Pince Kūhiō when he was a delegate, a viewing of the original Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, and meetings with government leaders.
DHHL intends to hold a series of events over the next 12 months highlighting the efforts of the first HHC and the early homesteaders whose success allowed the program to become fully instituted.
To view a replay of the ceremony or for more information about the Centennial, visit dhhl.hawaii.gov/hhca100.