On a Sunny Morning at 11:00 a.m., I conducted the blessing of the Grand Opening of the Waiohuli Hawaiian Homes in Kula. That was almost 17 years to the day when it was first awarded to people on the waiting list. This was the escalated awards that were made without improvements. I also received a lot for being on the Maui Island waiting list. It was my 2nd blessing of this area as I did the honor when the ground was broken about 5 years ago when roads, water and other improvements were funded.
Waiohuli had an interesting history because it was part of the Harold Rice Ranch or better known as Ka'ono'ulu Ranch. Growing up in Kula, I always thought that this land belonged to Harold "Papa" Rice. About 20 years ago, through research I had discovered that over 6 thousand acres were leased by Harold Rice for 50 years at 25 cents and acre. That Mr. Rice who was in the Territorial Legislature in the 30's and 40's passed legislation amending the Hawaiian Homes Act, to allow non-Hawaiians to lease Hawaiian Homes land. He and others began leasing land. The former Speaker of the House and Mayor of Maui, Elmer Cravalho leased 15 thousand acres in Kahikinui and used 30 thousand acres of Hawaiian Homes Lands up to the forest because there was no fence line. In fact there are presently wild cattle throughout the rainforest destroying the endangered species.
Freddy Rice, who sued the Office of Hawaiian Affairs because as a non-Hawaiian he could not vote. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and he won. O.H.A. was a constitutional amendment that created O.H.A. which gave Hawaiian the right to elect there own trustees and receive rent for the use of the Ceded Lands Trust that was suppose to be held for the benefit of Native Hawaiians which definition went back to the creation of the Hawaiian Homes Act in 1920. Because of the suit, anyone can vote and run for the Trusteeship. Because of this suit, many other suits have been filed and are attempting to do away with O.H.A. There ultimate goal is to make the Hawaiian Homes Act illegal.
What makes this story very ironic is that Harold Rice's father William Hyde Rice, who is a direct descendant of the original missionaries, was appointed a special commissioner by the Territorial Governor in 1918 to dedicate land to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. He made sure that the act had land which was the worst land, did not have water close by and was not being used for any agricultural purposes.
The Hawaiian Homes Commission lands were used misused and was a political football for every Governor that took office. From its inception it was meant to fail, because it did not have any funding and relied on appropriations from the Legislature every year for funding. Non Hawaiians leased the lands for pennies a year and people were living on Hawaiian Homes Lands without having one once Hawaiian blood. I have seen this with my own eyes on Molokai and here on Maui.
The U.S. Civil Rights Commission put out several reports between 1980 and 1990, called "Broken Trust, 70 years of mismanagement by the State of Hawaii and Federal Government of the Hawaiian Homes Act" (This report can be obtained from any federal office) This report which I helped put together as the Vice Chair for the Hawaii Committee to the U.S. Civil Right Commission, states all the history of the Hawaiian homes Commission Act. After the report was issued, the State Of Hawaii, settled a suit out of court agreeing to pay the Hawaiian Homes Act 600 million dollars and return land that would make the act whole again. Some of the Military land was giving back to Hawaiian Homes, however only 80 million was paid, the State of Hawaii owes the act over 500 million with interest. The State of Hawaii is poor and the political will to make good on their promise looks like will not happen in the near future. The sad situation of this whole matter is that there are 19,000 people still on the waiting list for land they could call their own and their grandparents have been waiting for almost a hundred years. I can see images of the hundreds of "aged Hawaiians" who came before our Civil Rights Commission asking and crying in fact for lands they were promised 50 years ago. They have long passed away.
I myself applied for a Hawaiian Home lot when I was 27 years old. Now that I am almost 65 years old. I got a lot in Waiohuli. I gave it to my son because if I was to borrow money, I would be in the nineties before I would pay them back. This way, at least he gets to live my dream.
That is why Waiohuli is important to us as Kanaka Maoli; it is putting our children back on the land. Land that we once owned (in a Hawaiian sense) we are now leasing for 99 years. We at least know that some of the Hawaiian Lands are in Hawaiian hands.