Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands
The Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands (AHHL) join the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA) in congratulating the first Native American to lead the Department of the Interior (DOI), where the federal agency has a direct duty of protection and oversight of all native Hawaiians defined under a 100-year-old federal law. The trust relationship was established in 1920 when the U.S. Congress enacted the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA), similar to other allotment acts for American Indians and Alaska Natives in the same policy era.
“Together, our homestead associations represent the interests of nearly 10,000 native Hawaiians that have received a land award and 28,000 still waiting on a waitlist,” said Mike Kahikina, AHHL Waitlist Chairman. “We are the people defined under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, and it is our responsibility to engage with the federal government to work together to make sure the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act is implemented.”
Kahikina, a life-long advocate of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act is also a retired Air Force veteran, a former state legislator, a former Hawaiian Homes Commissioner, and an elder that has lived his entire life in one of the largest Hawaiian homestead regions in the state, Nanakuli/Waianae. In his retirement years, he has dedicated himself to leading the only waitlist association registered under the federal code of regulations where such organizations are specifically defined (43 CFR) representing the interest of 28,000 Hawaiians, like him, that are on a waiting list.
“I’m hopeful with President Biden’s Department of the Interior cabinet member at the Department of the Interior,” Kahikina said. “Because she knows the history and struggles for land of her Indian people, she will know ours too. We are dual citizens on homesteads – citizens of the United States and citizens of our long-standing homestead associations. We embrace the rights and responsibilities of both, we reject neither.”
Kahikina has been an activist for more than 6 decades. He says there are some that confuse the rights Hawaiian Homes Commission Act Hawaiians exercise as enrolled members under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act land trust, as Native Americans, with those that denounce the United States.
“That’s okay, I fought in a war to protect everyone’s right to speak their own minds,” Kahikina remarked. “Those that denounce being Native and being American, do not denounce mine, nor my responsibility to protect the 28,000 native Hawaiians on that waitlist. We speak for ourselves; we know who we are, we know our standing within our self-governing organizations called homestead associations, and we are experts on our land trust, more than any other – we’ve had to become experts. Yes of course we are Native Americans, defined under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, and under the U.S. Constitution, we will exercise every right we have, especially regarding our Hawaiian Homes Commission Act land trust law. Our beloved Queen called on us to do so.”
In March 2021, AHHL and SCHHA issued an invitation to Interior Secretary Haaland, to visit Hawaiian Home Lands, to speak to the elders and families and to hear directly from native Hawaiians defined under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, about their solutions and ideas to improve federal and state government administration. For example, currently, the Office of Native Hawaiian Relations at the Department of the Interior responsible for the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, reports to the Assistant Secretary overseeing back-office functions like accounting and technology at Department of the Interior.
“We are recommending that our office, very similar to the Indian Affairs division at Department of the Interior, benefit from the expertise and experience in Indian land trust management,” said elder Liberta Albao, an AHHL waitlist leader. “For us, with kuleana to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, we know this kind of improvement will serve the thousands on the waitlist like me, and not repeat the thousands that have already died waiting. I have waited 43 years and we know what the solutions are at Department of the Interior. I believe Secretary Haaland will know too; I pray for that.”