This blog is about Hawaii's status as an independent country under prolonged illegal occupation by the United States, and the history, culture, law & politics of the islands.

By Scott Crawford, Hana, Maui


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Settlement proposed on lands that were never ceded

Star-Advertiser reports that

The state and Office of Hawaiian Affairs are in discussions on an agreement to settle past due amounts owed to OHA from ceded lands payments.

The agreement, which would be subject to public meetings and legislative approval, would involve the state offering land in Kakaako to OHA.


Under terms of the settlement, the state and OHA would agree that $200 million represents a reasonable compromise to settle disputed claims, the governor’s office said in a news release. To satisfy the $200 million claim, the state is conveying “contiguous and adjacent parcels in Kakaako Makai” near Waterfront Park, including Fisherman’s Wharf. […]

In exchange, OHA will “release, waive and discharge and and all claims that it, and any other person or entity, might make to ceded lands receipts,” the news release said.

 Larry Geller at Disappear News blog makes some interesting observations, noting that “The property appears to be all, or almost all, in the tsunami inundation zone,” and that “…the state is once again proposing to give substandard land in settlement of Native Hawaiian claims.”

But the larger issue I’d like to remind folks of is that “ceded” lands is a complete misnomer and historical falsehood.

The “Annexation” of Hawaii and the Origin of “Ceded” Lands

Cession: the formal giving up of rights, property, or territory, esp. by a state

Cede: give up (power or territory)

The following clauses from United States Public Law 103-150 (the Apology Resolution, Nov. 23, 1993) describe the origin of the so-called “ceded” lands:

Whereas, through the Newlands Resolution, the self-declared Republic of Hawaii ceded sovereignty over the Hawaiian Islands to the United States; Whereas, the Republic of Hawaii also ceded 1,800,000 acres of crown, government and public lands of the Kingdom of Hawaii, without the consent of or compensation to the Native Hawaiian people of Hawaii or their sovereign government

No consent and no compensation = didn’t ask, didn’t pay = stole

A letter dated March 12, 1898, the year of purported annexation, from United States Senator Caffrey stated:

“The present government of Hawaii, which undertakes to cede territory to the United States, has no title to the island, for the reason that their title is derived from the revolution instigated and carried to consumation by the United States Minister, Mr. Stevens. The revolutionists are not the representatives of the wishes of the people of Hawaii, and can convey no title to the sovereignty of territory, the control of which they have usurped.”

There was never a legitimate, legal cession, and there really is no such thing as “ceded lands.” No land or sovereignty of Hawai`i was ever legally ceded to the United States.

Only a treaty can legally affect cession or annexation of territory, and no treaty of annexation was ever ratified for Hawai`i. The United States Congress, in it’s military eagerness in the midst of the Spanish-American War, and as an extension of the Manifest Destiny philosophy beyond the American Continent, passed a unilateral joint resolution of annexation and in effect stole Hawai`i, in blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution and international principles and laws.

This is the basis of the state of Hawai`i’s claim to these lands, and the United States’ claim to the entire archipelago. (For information on why the statehood process was invalid, see Is Hawaii Really a State of the Union?.) These so-called “ceded” lands have for decades been leased to various non-Hawaiian and foreign entities with virtually no benefit to the Native Hawaiian People.

In 1978 the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) was created in a state Constitutional Convention, to receive 20% of revenues from so-called ceded lands to benefit the Native Hawaiians. OHA has provided some beneficial programs for the Hawaiian people and land, but has also been criticized for ineffective management of funds. But OHA is itself a creation and part of the state government, so settling a claim between OHA and the state over so-called ceded lands is the state negotiating with itself over land that it has no legitimate title to in the first place.

These lands do not belong to the de facto state, they belong to the Hawaiian national population, and the further disenfrachisement of their birthright is just further perpetuation of the injustices which are acknowledged in the Apology Resolution, traced all the way back to the illegal 1893 intervention and 1898 start of the prolonged illegal occupation, the tangible impacts of which very much persist to this day.

2 comments to Settlement proposed on lands that were never ceded

  • kealii8

    A special note here, this land is most likely to used to build the new hawaiian capital building for the new domestic hawaiian nation. So big bucks going are going into it and no doubt back to the state to build it?

  • Ken Ng

    Ah, the old American way: steal then profit. Hawai’i was just the beginning. And so it goes.

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