February 2, 2008
Ceded Lands in Hawaii
In 1893, the government of the Kingdom of Hawaii, a constitutional monarchy, was overthrown by a group of mostly American planters and businessmen, supported by a contingent of U.S. Marines. The revolutionaries subsequently established the Republic of Hawaii and entered into negotiations with the United States to seek Hawaii's annexation. When Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898, the Republic of Hawaii ceded the public lands of Hawaii to the United States. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, the United States conveyed more than a million acres of land this land to the new state, to hold in trust for five specified purposes, including "the benefit of native Hawaiians." This "Ceded Lands Trust" is analogous to the school lands trusts established in the admission acts of most states admitted to the Union after about 1820. Earlier this week, the Hawaii Supreme Court held that the State cannot convey lands from the Ceded Lands Trust to private parties until the claims of Native Hawaiians to these lands have been resolved. Newspaper articles on the case can be accessed here and here. The opinion itself, Office of Hawaiian Affairs v. Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii, can be accessed here (careful; the file is enormous).
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