After facing criticism, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has dropped the “quiet title and partition” lawsuits he had brought on more than 300 people—living and passed on—with ancestral links to the land.
In a January 27 letter to The Garden Island, Mark Zuckerberg said: “We’ve heard from many in the community and learned more about the cultural and historical significance of this land. Over the past week, we’ve spoken with community leaders and shared that our intention is to achieve an outcome that preserves the environment, respects local traditions, and is fair to those with kuleana lands.”
Kuleana lands refer to land acquired by Hawaii citizens through passage of The Kuleana Act of 1850, which allowed private ownership of land. The lands often pass down through generations without documentation. The Honolulu Star Advertiser noted that the quiet title law can be used to establish legal title to kuleana lands, but it doesn’t happen often because it is expensive.
“To find a better path forward, we are dropping our quiet title actions and will work together with the community on a new approach,” Mark Zuckerberg said in his letter. “We understand that for native Hawaiians, kuleana are sacred and the quiet title process can be difficult. We want to make this right, talk with the community, and find a better approach.”
Mark Zuckerberg bought 700 acres of beachfront property on the North Shore of Kauai in 2014. But that property has kuleana lands dotting it, so Native Hawaiians have access to portions of Zuckerberg’s property.
“The land is made up of a few properties in Waipake, Pila’a, and several kuleana within them. As this community knows, the history of this land is complex. Many of you have shared your families stories, and we want to honor their history,” Mark Zuckerberg said in his letter. “Upon reflection, I regret that I did not take the time to fully understand the quiet title process and its history before we moved ahead. Now that I understand the issues better, it’s clear we made a mistake.”
Many are happy with his decision to stop the lawsuits.
“I am humbled. Thousands of everyday people stood up and spoke out against one of the most influential billionaires, the best PR professionals, and the best attorneys in the world, and we won,” state representative Kaniela Ing told BBC News.