The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) is the only non-profit, public interest law firm, concentrating in the unique area of Native Hawaiian Rights law. NHLC provides legal assistance to families and communities engaged in perpetuating the culture and traditions of Hawai'i's indigenous people.

Founded by several grass roots leaders in 1974, NHLC was a volunteer-run referral service initially. But the high demand for direct help, especially from families who needed legal assistance in protecting their lands, transformed NHLC into a law firm that now provides low cost legal help to approximately 700 clients annually.





   The Future of the Hanapēpē Salt Ponds

A panel discussion at Waiwai Collective with Malia Nobrega-Olivera, Kuʻulei Santos and Alan Murakami

Join us next Friday, September 27 at Waiwai Collective for a free panel discussion featuring Malia Nobrega-Olivera and Kuʻulei Santos of Protect Paʻakai and Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation Attorney Alan Murakami as they share manaʻo on the future of the Hanapēpē Salt Ponds. The event begins at 6:15 p.m. and doors open at 5 p.m. with live music to follow.






For Immediate Release: 08/23/2019


(Honolulu, HI) The Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that the State breached its constitutional trust duties to protect and preserve state ceded lands at Pohakuloa eased to the Army for military training. The Court issued its decision in a case filed by Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation on behalf of two Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, Clarence Ching and Maxine Kahaulelio, who sued to ensure that the public trust ceded lands at Pohakuloa would not suffer the same tragic fate that Kaho`olawe, Makua, and Waikāne endured.

The Supreme Court found that the State has a constitutional trust duty to reasonably monitor lands at the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) used by the Army for live-fire military training to prevent them from "falling into ruin." Despite this duty, the State failed to conduct regular monitoring and inspections of the PTA land to ensure that the Army was complying with the terms of its lease, even though the State was aware "of the United States' history of failing to prevent environmental damage and clean up the remnants of military exercises on other State-owned land that it leases[.]"

In August 1964, the federal government and the State of Hawai'i signed a 65-year lease allowing the Army to use 22,971 acres of state ceded land at Pohakuloa for one dollar. The lease required the Army to "make every reasonable effort to. . . remove or deactivate all live or blank ammunition upon completion of a training exercise or prior to entry by the said public, whichever is sooner" and to "remove or bury all trash, garbage or other waste materials." In April 2014, Ching and Kahaulelio sued the department of land and natural resources for its failure to monitor whether the United States complied with the terms of the Lease. At a trial in 2015, Ching and Kahaulelio demonstrated that military debris, including unexploded ordnance, litters the PTA landscape unchecked.

The Supreme Court held that the State's duties to protect and preserve the leased PTA land are "derived in part from the properties' status as 'ceded land'-- which are lands that were held by the civil government or the monarchy of the Hawaiian Kingdom at the time of the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy."  Hawai‘i’s laws have long-recognized that ceded lands must be held in trust by the State for the benefit of Native Hawaiians and the general public, and the State therefore has an obligation to "take an active role in preserving [ceded land]."

As a result of today's decision, the State is required to "develop and execute a plan to conduct regular, periodic monitoring and inspection" for the lands at Pohakuloa and to "take an active role in preserving trust property and may not passively allow [trust lands] to fall into ruin."

Ching celebrated the Court's decision for affirming that, "The state has a trust duty to mālama `aina. The department of land and natural resources failed to live up to this most basic duty at Pohakuloa." Kahaulelio added, "Enough already. The Army and the State have got to clean up the land and stop the destruction. Now."






Clarabal v. Department of Education, State of Hawai‘i

 Supreme Court Decision


The Supreme Court of the State of Hawai‘i ruled that the Department of Education must provide "reasonable access to a Hawaiian immersion program" to students on Lāna‘i.


View the Hawai`i News Now Video:










        Click here or on Kupuna's image to read more about them











Court protects Hawaiian religious practice of inmates







The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation has decided to represent the Abigail K. K. Kawananakoa Foundation in the current trust proceeding brought on by the medical problem suffered by Ms. Kawananakoa in June of 2017. In the first attached pdf statement, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation and the Foundation explain their shared perspective on the reason(s) for their participation in this matter.

Also attached, is a statement by Dr. Lilikala Kameeleihiwa which shares how she has come to understand and appreciate Ms. Kawananakoa’s commitment to the Lāhui Hawai‘i and her kuleana to kānaka. Dr. Kameeleihiwa also offers her apology for any pain her prior words have caused Ms. Kawananakoa and those close to her.


Click here or the image below for the Statement 


Click here or the image below for the Statement 








We are both pleased and humbled that Kealopiko has released its first design in their Makamaka I Collection. In this first collaboration with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, Kealopiko uses its design skill and cultural knowledge and experience to highlight the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation’s work which has inspired the creation of three beautiful Kealopiko designs during this season of Kū. The first design in Makamaka I is a tribute to our basic foundation, the ʻiēwe, ka honua mua. After the ʻiewe (placenta) nurtures us in the womb, it is returned to honua upon our birth. As the origin of our islands holds great genealogical importance to us, the essential part the ʻiewe (placenta and afterbirth) plays in our coming to be is, likewise, of great genealogical significance.

The ʻiēwe collection was just released and is available online at or visit Kealopiko at the Ward Village, Honolulu.

This design entitled He Makamaka Aloha is modeled by NHLC staff attorney, Camille Kalama.

In addition to telling our stories, Kealopiko supports the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation by donating a portion of the proceeds from its sale of these designs.






~ Book Reading By Author Dana Naone Hall ~

Please join us on Saturday, May 5, 2018, at 4:00 pm, Dana Naone Hall will appear at the Hawaii Book and Music Festival, to perform readings from her book, “Life of the Land:  Articulations of a Native Writer”.   The Book and Music Festival is held on the Frank F. Fast Civic grounds next to Honolulu Hale at the corner of South King Street and Punchbowl.  Dana’s reading will take place at the Alana Hawaiian Culture Pavilion.  We hope to see you there.

“Life of the Land:  Articulations of a Native Writer” ~ Soft Cover 264 pages
Dana Naone Hall continues to advocate for the protection of coastal resources and shoreline access, as well as the preservation of historic and cultural sites.  She lives in Ha‘ikū, Maui.

This volume explores the inexhaustible relationship of the Hawaiian people to their native land.  Dana Naone Hall’s writings cover more than three decades of her political and cultural engagement in public, federal, state, and county processes.  As an activist with poetic sensibilities, Naone Hall demonstrates how meticulous analysis coupled with the power of the imagination can unlock new ways of seeing and relating to places that may not be immediately recognized as retaining profound Hawaiian elements.

This book will serve as a companion and guide to those engaged in protecting the sustained presence of Native Hawaiians on and in the land.

“Life of the Land:  Articulations of a Native Writer” by Dana Naone Hall is published by Ai Pōhaku Press and distributed by Native Books/Na Mea Hawai‘i and can be purchased online at the following link:

Mahalo for your support!






~ Honopou, East Maui~

On a site visit in 2004 in Honopou, East Maui, we witnessed Aunty Beatrice Kekahuna climbing the waterfall Hawaiian style, strong and barefooted. Our kupuna are amazing! In 2010 we presented her with the Native Hawaiian Advocate of the Year Award recognizing and honoring her for her exemplary achievements in the Hawaiian community. Click here to read more about Aunty Beatrice Kekahuna.






By Māhealani Wendt



For more than two decades, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation has been involved in returning stream water back to East Maui farmers, fishermen and Native Hawaiian practitioners. Today, NHLC’s East Maui clients who are kalo farmers are enjoying an unprecedented rejuvenation since the streams were first diverted for commercial gain and profit over a century ago. In the article below, Māhealani Wendt captures eloquently what the passage of time has meant for those directly involved in the case. It is a story of hope, recovery and resiliency. NHLC’s clients will continue to advocate for the “end users” to ensure the survival of native habitats, fisheries, and shoreline ecosystems. Ultimately this is also a story of communities re-building their abilities to provide for themselves and beyond.

This has been an extraordinary time of ho`ohuli, of returning, reformation and reconciliation; of a circling back to our great traditions and wisdoms of the past. On the global stage, there has been no greater Hawai`i example than that of Hōkūle`a and its historic voyage, Mālama Hōnua. Our wa`a embarked on an epic journey and came home safely!

Ho`ohuli is also an apt word for the story of taro restoration in East Maui, for its literal root word, huli, is also the name of the taro plantling. This past year, in an historic development, the spirit of returning, of ho`ohuli, pervaded as wai was finally returned to Ko`olau Moku, Maui Hikina, Ke`anae-Wailuanui after more than a century of diversions to feed the thirsty sugar barons of Central Maui.
As a result, Mālama Hāloa -- caring for Hāloa or kalo -- has also seen an historic resurgence in our community. This portends well for communities like Ke`anae-Wailuanui whose inhabitants possess the `i`ini, the strong desire, to perpetuate traditions that will keep our people vibrant and healthy.

“They’re working with young people who don’t carry the same burden and memory they do; who just see all the fertile land, the water flows, the kupuna ready to teach them, and nothing but boundless possibilities that connect all of them to the past and the future and to feeding their communities.” - Summer Sylva, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation

It has taken East Maui taro farmers organized as Na Moku Aupuni o Ko`olau Hui ("Na Moku"), with the help of  attorneys from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, nearly two decades of legal battles and many more decades of struggle to accomplish this historic return.

While a decision on exactly how much wai those who, for centuries, have gorged and profited from it will have to restore, the unprecedented return of wai to East Maui in the interim has signaled a new beginning and great optimism for the future, as new generations of farmers return to land that once dried and cracked, is momona once more.

While we embark upon these new beginnings, many obstacles and challenges must overcome the wounds and trauma the diversion of billions of gallons of water annually inflicted on generations of Hawaiians:
• the loss of many kūpuna practitioners with their deep knowledge of the `āina and traditional farming, fishing and gathering practices;
• the opportunity lost to several generations who came into adulthood when farming was no longer viable due to lack of water;
• devastation caused by the thick overgrowth and proliferation of invasive plants and animals throughout the East Maui watershed during the decades when there weren't a sufficient number of farmers to carry out maintenance on a regular basis;
• severe degradation of the historic lo`i (taro patches) and auwai (traditional ditch) systems caused by invasives as well as unchecked erosion, segments of which are many miles in length along steep cliff sides along the Hana coastline.

In facing these challenges and obstacles, one of the greatest blessings to the farmers has been the partnership with the Hana-based non-profit, Ma Ka Hana Ka `Ike, and its affiliate organizations, Mālama Hāloa and Māhele Farms. Participants in the Mālama Hāloa (Ku`i) Program have cleared lo`i and planted thousands of huli in the Wailuanui taro complex under the direction of long-time kalo farmer Ed Wendt.  Their restorative efforts and maintenance throughout the Wailuanui lo`i complex have benefitted many of the farmers; in addition, the program shares Na Moku's commitment to restoring the streams and the lo`i they supply.  Restorative efforts include planting as well as many of the arduous tasks required to clear and maintain a lo`i complex spanning hundreds of acres.

The Mālama Hāloa program hosts Ku`i Thursdays at Hana School from noon through late afternoon and, according to its website, sometimes into the evening. This past year, they steamed nearly 10,000 pounds of kalo, and hosted an estimated 500 participants from keiki to kūpuna, including community members. The students ku`i (pound) kalo and have the opportunity to share the pa`i `ai with kupuna unable to come ku`i for themselves.

Up until now, kalo for Ku`i Thursdays has been supplied from outside East Maui, but East Maui farmers have great hopes that their contribution, the ‘āina’s bounty will be far more substantial in the future.
As we look forward to the bright promise of this coming year, i ke Akua ka ho`omau `ana i kana ho`opōmaika`i iā kākou a pau -- May God bless us all.





~ Oral Argument, Supreme Court ~ February 7, 2018 ~

To each and every person who attended today’s oral argument at the Hawaii Supreme Court on the issue of the duty of the State to provide a Hawaiian language education program on Lanai, mahalo nui for your overwhelming and greatly appreciated show of support for our client’s, the Clarabals, and all who will benefit from their courageous stand!

Moses K. N. Haia, III
Executive Director







A circuit court judge today (12/15/16) invalidated a 2014 Board of Land & Natural Resources (BLNR) decision approving a sublease between the University of Hawai‘i and the developer of the TMT telescope on Mauna Kea.  "Today, Mr. Kalani Flores and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) received a key ruling in the on-going struggle over the fate of Mauna Kea,” said NHLC attorney David Kauila Kopper. 


Click here or the image below for the Press Release