Celebrating 40 Years of Keeping the Tradition Alive
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.
MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Through their practice of aloha `aina, Hawai`i’s original inhabitants ensured their continued existence in one of the most isolated and physically remote places on earth. For them, aloha `aina became the foundational principle of their sovereignty. This same principle continues to carry significant meaning for each of us and embraces much more than the western concept of “land” as a commodity because our capacity to reestablish that relationship with the `aina, or “that which feeds”, will decide the fullness of our life, our liberty, and our ultimate happiness.
As the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation looks back this year on its’ last forty years of service as a guardian of the Native Hawaiian identity with a deep sense of pride and gratitude, we recommit ourselves to that kuleana and seek your continued kokua via a monetary donation to ensure our continuing capacity to seek and secure justice for the lands, resources, traditions, and customs of Hawai‘i's indigenous people. Mahalo for your continuing support and commitment!
A cultural practitioner and a Hawaiian Home Lands lessee sued the Department of Land and Natural Resources and William Aila today over their failure to protect trust lands at Pōhakuloa. Clarence Ching and Mary Kahaulelio, represented by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, claim that Aila and the department have duties as trustees to prevent ceded lands from being harmed.
In 1964, the State agreed to lease three parcels of land at Pōhakuloa to the federal government for military purposes. Lease conditions, however, require that the Army “make every reasonable effort to . . . remove or deactivate all live or blank ammunition” and to “remove or bury all trash, garbage or other waste materials.” According to Ching, who has cultural ties to the land, “The State has taken no steps to investigate, or monitor whether the Army is complying with the terms of the lease. But State records show that it knows that unexploded ordnance litters the landscape.” Kahaulelio, who lives on Hawaiian Home land in Waimea, added, “The State has done nothing to make sure that the Army complies with the terms of the lease. It can’t just sit on its ōkole while trust lands are damaged. It has to mālama `āina.”
According to the complaint filed in circuit court today, Aila is “aware that military training activities have caused great damage to public land, natural resources and cultural sites in Hawai`i,” but has taken no steps to protect the lands at Pōhakuloa. Ching and Kahaulelio are asking the court to order the State to fulfill its trust duties and to block the State from negotiating an extension of lease with the Army as long as the terms of the lease are being violated. The Pōhakuloa lease expires on August 16, 2029.
Lawsuit allowing Native Hawaiian inmates to engage in traditional & cultural faith practices gets green light to proceed!
A federal judge cleared the way for a religious rights lawsuit brought by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation on behalf of eight Native Hawaiian prisoners incarcerated in Arizona.
The federal court ruled yesterday that there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial on the prisoners' claims that the State of Hawai'i Department of Public Safety and its contractor, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), discriminated against them by preventing them from engaging in the exercise of their Native Hawaiian religious practices. In particular, NHLC produced evidence establishing that while CCA provided prisoners of other religious faiths with opportunities to participate in group worship and access to sacred objects, it denied these same opportunities to Native Hawaiians.
NHLC Staff Attorney Sharla Manley said, "We are encouraged that these men will have their day in court. Now, the Department of Public Safety and CCA must answer for violating the rights of this state's host people in off-shore private prisons."
The impact of the case could be far-reaching. The State of Hawai'i has been sending inmates to prisons on the U.S. continent since December 1995. Native Hawaiian prisoners are the most highly represented ethnic group from Hawai'i in Arizona prisons. A blue-ribbon task force, convened at the request of the Legislature, concluded that the Department of Public Safety should ensure that inmates are allowed to engage in their religious practices. The plight of Native Hawaiian prisoners was highlighted in a report made to the U.N. Human Rights Committee last fall.
Manley said, "This case is about the men and women behind bars who heal and gain strength from their traditional religion. Expressing those spiritual beliefs is a road to redemption."
To read the 95 page decision, click here.
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Ho'omalu ka Lehua i ka Wao
Honoring the late Jon Van Dyke