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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:03 p.m., Monday, September 9, 2002

Coalition seeks to restore ceded-land revenue

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

A coalition of Native Hawaiian organizations has put state lawmakers on notice that they will be lobbying hard to restore the cash flow from ceded-lands revenue back into the coffers of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Legislators "have chosen to ignore their fiduciary and trust obligations" to OHA since July 1, 2001, when the state stopped paying money from ceded lands, said Haunani Apoliona, who chairs the OHA board of trustees.

Apoliona took the helm at today's announcement of the "Hawaiian Rights and Entitlements Education Campaign," but she was joined by representatives of several Hawaiian civic organizations, the 'Ilio'ulao kalani Coalition and other groups.

"We are few, but we represent many," Apoliona said. "Hawaiian people, statistics confirm, are the largest minority population in the state."

Ceded lands are nearly 2 million acres of former crown and government lands transferred to the state under the 1959 Admission Act, to be held in trust for public benefits, including improving the lot of Native Hawaiians.

In 1980, legislators set the new Office of Hawaiian Affairs' share of ceded land revenues at 20 percent, a formula codified in 1990 with the passage of Act 304. That law produced a $130 million settlement, but a court dispute over related claims followed.

The dispute culminated a year ago in the ruling by the Hawai'i Supreme Court that the act conflicts with federal laws. The court struck it down and ended the regular revenue stream.

A bill this year sought to restore the 20-percent payments but died in conference committee when conferees indicated they had no legal authority to negotiate the formula, Apoliona said.

OHA administrator Clyde Namuo said the trustees expect to spend under $100,000 on the public education campaign, described as primarily a "grassroots" effort.