The OHA Ceded Lands Settlement

After decades of “negotiations,” OHA and the State have reached an agreement over the revenue from the so-called “Ceded lands.” (See my article from the Hawaiʻi Independent: Making Sense of the Ceded Lands: An Historical Assessment for an overview of these lands). There are a couple of ways to look at this settlement – one “inside” and one “outside.” Jon Osorio alluded to this in his article anticipating the settlement. An inside view looks at it from the perspective of OHA and other state insiders. From this perspective, the settlement has potential. The $200 million value of the lands may underestimate the potential value of these lands, as they are downtown and waterfront. It settles a long-standing claim for Hawaiians without affecting future claims, either to further revenue or to sovereignty itself (this is Abercrombie in his liberal mode – an article in a Big Issand newspaper questions which Abercrombie weʻre seeing at different moments). $200 million increases OHAs net worth by approximately 50% (a little more actually). Itʻs been said that OHA is now being forced into the role of land manager, but that began years ago with the acquisitions of Waimea Valley and Waokeleopuna on Hawaiʻi Island, a fact that seems to have been left out of the discourse surrounding this settlement. In my view, OHA, as the de facto (if not de jure) Hawaiian government should have land as a primary asset – after all, to be Hawaiian is to be of this land. While more radical Hawaiians make very valid arguments as to OHAʻs authority, and the fact that this is a transfer, basically, from the state to itself, the mainstream Hawaiians are moving ahead. In their view these are real gains for Hawaiians.

However, there is another view, which Iʻm calling “outside” only in the sense that most of those who hold them are outside of the corridors of power. In this view, OHAʻs legitimacy is undermined not just by the illegality of the overthrow itself, but of the US governmentʻs own recognition of this illegality. Some point out that the lands granted are, first of all, backfill. They are not a part of the original island of Oʻahu. One not-too-radical group called it “a dump.” Even Richard Fassler noted the environmental problems with the site, the costs of cleanup, and how the state is likely glad to be rid of it.

The bigger issue for outsiders is the giving up of the claim itself. Claims are always a tricky matter. In New Zealand, for instance, the question has arisen as to whether the settlement of claims ever actually satisfies the claim. Many Maori say claims are never fully satisfied. And that may be the case here – certainly it is the case for future claims, but considering that Hawaiʻi Courts already awarded OHA billions in revenue (which was never paid), it is hard to argue that $200 million settles it. It is, as with many such things, not least the Akaka Bill, better than nothing. And nothing is what Hawaiians have had for decades (under the Democrats, it should be noted) – nothing but a claim.


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7 responses to “The OHA Ceded Lands Settlement

  1. kealii8

    In my view, OHA, as the de facto (if not de jure) Hawaiian government should have land as a primary asset – after all, to be Hawaiian is to be of this land. = OHA is not a government its a branch of an existing government and to have land would constitute the definition of state which it does not why OHA has functioned operationally as both a government agency with a strong degree of autonomy, and as a trust.


  2. Michael krijnen

    Who valued these lands ……………. who valued the cleanup?


  3. Hanalei Fergerstrom

    This is all very nuts…real property exchange…land fill is not land or real..This area was well known as incinerators…it’s all toxic
    So OHA decides this is good..such ashame..but it surely is deceptive. From one State pocket to the other…. when do the Hawaiians get something.
    I guess one could say that now that the 50% ers get theirs..what about the majority of the Hawaiian who are 49%…..Hank


  4. Airalin

    Thank you for calling attention to this, I can’t believe it’s been so swept under the radar! This is happening to Santa Catalina Island, one of the Channel Islands (a protected string of islands off the coast of southern california), the only one with a city that one can live on, Avalon (and now the recent developement of Two Harbors) is the only incorpated city. It is Los Angeles County, California. It is a Conservancy, a HUGE Native American historical, burial, cultural, relics et al site, endemic species, Historic Art ( even Tile), a Marine Preserve, a Hollywood Historical Icon, involved in everything from the invention of seaplanes and aeronautics to the place where IWS has the most Bald Eagles and eagle cams. There isn’t anything that isn’t historical, iconical, unique, or endangered about this island, its flora, fauna and marine life (including domestic animals and Avalonians, year round residents, locals, and affiliated global groups and causes). The island was purchased in 1849 by The Banning Brothers creating the Santa Catalina Island Company. Later, due to the same kind of taxation and property and economy, the Wrigley (like the gum!) Family accquired ownership of it and built the foundation (literally creating a manmade Harbor Point for The Casino (never intended to be a gambling casino, merely a european salon, in fact, at one point Mrs. Wrigley banned alcohol from being served) which is both the Island’s and Avalon’s #1 Icon. The Casino, and the Wrigley’s, took inspiration from Newport Beach’s legendary mansions and William Randolph Hearst…(break to reference)


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