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Hawai`i Legal Research: Cultural Rights

Links to online legal resources for researching Hawaii laws.

Researching Cultural Rights in Hawaii

Native Hawaiian traditional and cultural rights are secured by article XII, Section 7 of the Hawaii State Constitution. 

"The State reaffirms and shall protect all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes and possessed by ahupua‘a tenants who are descendants of native Hawaiians who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778, subject to the right of the State to regulate such rights."

HRS § 7-1. Building materials, water, etc.; landlords' titles subject to tenants' use.  This statute enumerates building materials that can be gathered for personal use.  "[F]irewood, house-timber, aho cord, thatch, or ki leaf . . . . The people shall also have a right to drinking water, and running water, and the right of way."
In determining whether rights have been customarily and traditionally exercised, the court looks to kama‘aina (native-born) testimony and affadavits describing the history and traditional practices of Native Hawaiians living in that geographic area.
  • Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Scholarship and Legal Resources
    There are numerous "primers" on this page about Native Hawaiian Cultural Practices.
  • Cases
    State v. Zimring, 58 Haw. 106 (Haw. 1977). “November 25, 1892 is the date by which ancient Hawaiian usage must have been established in practice.”
    Kalipi v. Hawaiian Trust Co., 66 Haw. 1 (Haw. 1982).
    Pele Defense Fund v. Paty, 73 Haw. 578 (Haw. 1992).
    Public Access Shoreline Hawaii (PASH) v. Haw. Cnty. Planning Com'n, 79 Haw. 425 (Haw. 1995).
    Ka Pa‘akai O Ka ‘Aina v. Land Use Com'n, 94 Haw. 31 (Haw. 2000).