Indigenous Hawaiian activists facing eviction from ancestral lands
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Indigenous Hawaiian activists facing eviction from ancestral lands

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June 22, 2011

A group of Indigenous Hawaiian activists are facing eviction from ancestral lands along the pristine coastline of Kawa’a in the District of Ka’u, Hawai’i.

Last week, Ka’u District Judge Joseph P. Florendo Jr. issued the Hawaii County a preliminary ruling to ‘finally’ remove the group of Indigenous Hawaiians who are living within the disputed area, a 234-acre parcel of land on the Ka’u Coast.

One of the activists, Abel Simeone Lui, has been living in the area for decades. According to a new online petition, Abel’s great-great-grandfather, Timoteo Keawe, received the land in a royal grant (Helu 993 and 1530). Under that grant, says the petition, the land may be leased, but never sold.

Since moving there more than twenty years ago, Lui has been taking care of land: patrolling Kawaa Beach, removing trash and maintaining outhouses that he installed for visitors to the area. Lui says it’s his kuleana (responsibility) to steward this land.

However, two years ago, the Hawaii County purchased all 234 acres so they could include it in a new park–along with an adjacent 550-acre parcel of the land they are currently trying to purchase–from the Edmund Olson Trust. The county has to buy the land by the end of June or they could lose $2.5 million in federal and state funds for their park project.

As reported by West Hawaii Today, Lui says the deed to the 234 acres is invalid under Hawaiian law “because it’s not in conformance with the form set forth in the 19th century.”

Judge Florendo entirely dismissed Lui’s claim, stating in his ruling, “Even when construing the defendant’s pleadings liberally, and in light most favorable towards them, defendants fail to set forth a sufficient basis to find that title to the property is in question. First of all, the 1840 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii no longer governs the Hawaii State Legislature and the various constitutions of the Kingdom do not bind the government of the state of Hawaii. … Secondly, any defect in the process of conveyance pursuant to the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom were subject to review and objection in Okuna v. Apiki et al.” Judge Florendo added that the defendants failed to present any other facts to dispute the ownership claim.

Now that the County received the precise ruling it needed, final judgments and writs of possession will now be submitted for the judge to approve. After that, police can be called in to physically remove Abel Simeone Lui, his sister, and anyone else living in the area.

Not long after the eviction takes place, Lui’s home will be demolished like the hopes and dreams of so many other Indigenous Hawaiian’s who want to preserve the legacy of their ancestors.

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