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News Release

Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations

At the December 3, 2021 board meeting of the nonprofit Homestead Community Development Corporation (HCDC), board members directed resources be spent to explore a homestead legal defense fund. Board members, all enrolled members of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA), aim to resolve the long standing need to access legal assistance by homestead and waitlist families in addressing basic transactions involving their homestead allotment of land under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) whether residential, farming or ranching.

“This is a critical need across Hawaiian Home Lands, on every island”, said elder Kammy Purdy, an Homestead Community Development Corporation board member representing Molokai. “We’ve documented too many cases where families don’t have ready access to legal expertise, or the legal vocabulary and forms sometimes on very basic issues that could otherwise be resolved quickly.”

Members of the board engaged in a lengthy discussion on several examples where a legal advocate could play a significant role in protecting family assets, accessing consistent information or resolving simple misunderstandings with the state government administrator, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL).

“It’s not about the need for litigation, as much as it’s about families having access to a legal advocate to obtain the information necessary to make important decisions,” Purdy continued. “An advocate is going to be up on legal processes, state and federal laws related to our land trust, in order to better engage with state government officials and in some cases the judicial system.”

As a directive of the governing board of the nonprofit, the Homestead Community Development Corporation management team has amended the FY2022 nonprofit budget as of the end of December to set up the funds from unrestricted resources, and has reached out to legal experts in the field to discuss the priorities of homestead families. Homestead Community Development Corporation intends to direct the resources to its sister nonprofit, Hawaiian Lending & Investments (HLI), a community development financial institution and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development counseling agency to implement any legal service expansion serving Hawaiians on tribal lands. Hawaiian Lending & Investments elected Maunakea Trask, a Native Hawaiian attorney to its board in mid January 2022.

“A homestead legal defense program is definitely within our governance structure,” said Sybil Lopez, Vice Chairwoman of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations. “Our leaders founded two nonprofits to address the needs of our families, and with this board directive, our team can start mapping out potential partners, and program parameters most efficient to add access to legal expertise, either directly or facilitating it to existing public interest or conventional law firms. It’s doable.”

Board members identified foreclosure prevention, the state’s contested case hearing process, estate planning and successorship transactions, as well as processing basic lease transfers within the tenets of the HHCA as priorities.

“A legal advocate can save families and DHHL a lot of time in seemingly mundane areas that if not well understood or using common vocabulary, could result in unnecessary loss of generational assets,” said Iwalani MacBrayer, Chair of the Homestead Community Development Corporation board and homesteader from Oahu. “Adding legal services to our work is a benefit to our families and to the management of our land trust by DHHL. I mahalo my fellow board members for dedicating resources to it.”

About Homestead Community Development Corporation

An initiative founded by the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA) in 2009, the Homestead Community Development Corporation (HCDC) is an autonomous 501c3 tax exempt nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and affordable housing on or near tribal lands in Hawaii, known as Hawaiian Home Lands. Contact info@hawaiianhomesteads.org for more information.

About Hawaiian Lending & Investments

An initiative founded by the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA) in 2019, Hawaiian Lending & Investments is an autonomous 501c3 tax exempt nonprofit dedicated to capitalizing prosperity on or near tribal lands in Hawaii, known as Hawaiian Home Lands. Hawaiian Lending & Investments is a Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Certified Housing Counseling Agency. Contact hli@hawaiianhomesteads.org for more information.

About Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations

Founded in 1987, the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA) is the largest statewide Homestead Association registered with the U.S. Department of Interior, and is a Coalition of homestead communities exercising sovereignty on tribal lands set aside by the U.S. Congress through enactment of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920. Contact policy@hawaiianhomesteads.org for more information.

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