Where is the Revenue from ‘Ceded Lands’ owed to our Beneficiaries?


Leina‘ala Ahu Isa, Ph.D., Trustee, At-Large

Question: Should this be the Trustees’ major duty as the trust’s fiduciary to fight for?

As you know, in Hawaiʻi, the term ‘ceded lands’ refers to 1.8 million acres of land that were the crown lands of the Hawaiian monarchy prior to January 17, 1893. The government of the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown by anti-monarchial residents of Hawaiʻi. This in turn, led to the formation of a Provisional Government and to the Republic of Hawai‘i which was the government that achieved the so-called ‘annexation.’

Now known as the Territory of Hawaiʻi, the former Crown lands were given (“ceded”) to the United States Federal government! So when the Hawaiʻi Admission Act made Hawaiʻi a U.S. state, the lands were transferred to the State of Hawai‘i. The Federal Act authorizing the transfer required that the lands be held in ‘Trust’ and that the revenue from the land be used for five (5) purposes:

  1. Support of public education,
  2. Betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians as defined in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 (this Act did not exist in 1893),
  3. Development of home ownership,
  4. Public improvements, and;
  5. Provision of lands for public use.

The Hawaiʻi State Constitutional Convention of 1978’s delegates felt that the 2nd purpose had been largely ignored, and amended the state constitution to create OHA as a means whereby Native Hawaiians could make their own decisions as to investment of ceded lands and collect revenue generated by those lands to fund programs for their people.

So what happened to the revenue from lands that our airports sit on? After attending a seminar where former CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, Mark Dunkerly, was the keynote speaker, I learned that the public thinks OHA collects revenue from these airport ‘ceded’ lands! ‘A‘ole!

So the question: What happened? This is what happened:

“DOT-Airports: On October 27, 1997, President Bill Clinton signed H.R. 2169 known as the Fiscal Year 1998 Transportation Appropriations bill, which contains the OHA forgiveness legislation. Section 340(c) “Prohibition on Further Diversion” states that …“There Shall Be No Further Payment of Airport Revenues from claims related to ceded lands, whether characterized as operating expenses, rent, or otherwise, and whether related to claims for periods of time prior to or after the date of enactment of this Act.” –files.hawaii.gov/dlnr/reports-to-the-Legislature/2009.

So based on this Federal legislation, the Airports Division is NOT responsible for ANY PAYMENTS to OHA! At present, a number of military facilities (including airports) sit on ceded lands. So there, now you have the answer…

On January 31, 2008, the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court ruled that the State of Hawaiʻi must resolve the claims of Native Hawaiians before selling ceded lands…

And now the issue of Mauna Kea… where’s the revenue from these Ceded Lands?

A hui hou until next month,

Trustee Leinaʻala