ʻĀpuka ʻĀina Dress - Slate
Visionary chief Kauikeaouli gave to his people vested rights in the land of Hawaiʻi, codified in the 1840 constitution, the 1846 Principles of the Land Commission, and carried through in the Kuleana Act of 1850. Where and when applicable, the phrase "Ua koe ke kuleana o nā kānaka" ensures one's right to access cultural and natural resources on "private" lands. What else might this phrase offer to our understanding of land rights? Some scholars are exploring the notion that the interest of native tenants remains in all lands. If so, then makaʻāinana may still have vested interests in Hawaiʻi's lands. Meanwhile, advocacy for Hawaiians under Hawaiʻi state law is critical to protecting our rights today and defending against the loss of our ancestral lands. This incredibly important kuleana has been the work of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) since 1974. Leilani Kapuni coined the term ʻāpuka ʻāina (to swindle or cheat someone out of their land) for adverse possession in 1986, when a party used it to gain title to her family's kuleana lands in Kaluaʻaha, Molokaʻi (those parcel shapes inspired this design). While the Kapuni ʻohana ultimately lost those family parcels, their efforts resulted in a very important outcome: to quiet the title to a parcel of land one must take certain steps to identify and contact anyone with an interest in that land; a tiny notice buried deep in the classifieds falls woefully short of this due process requirement. Thanks to NHLC and the Kapuni ʻohana, Hawaiians must receive proper notice of any attempt to extinguish interest they may have in ancestral lands.