Washington Law Review


The issue of aboriginal land rights raises significant legal and moral questions. The starting point for discussion of Native Hawaiian land rights is the Kuleana Act of 1850. This Act enabled Hawaiian commoners, for the first time in Hawaiian history, to acquire fee simple title to land. The Act did not, however, contain provisions simultaneously terminating their traditional rights in land. What these traditional rights consist of, and to whom they apply, remain relevant issues. The author examines the Act in the context of its surrounding history, laws, and judicial interpretations, and concludes that the Kuleana Act introduced a system of rights parallel to traditional Hawaiian land rights, not in derogation of them. Consequently, the author argues, traditional land rights remain available, under the law, to descendants of the commoners of 1850.

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