The records of the Māhele ‘Āina are a significant source of firsthand accounts from native tenants of Honouliuli whose residency generally spanned the period from ca. 1800 to 1855. The records describe native Hawaiian residency and land use practices. They identify specific residents, types of land use, fishery and fishing rights, crops cultivated, and features on the landscape. The Māhele ‘Āina gave the hoa‘āina an opportunity to acquire a fee-simple property interest—lands awarded to the hoa‘āina became known as kuleana lands—in land on which they lived and actively cultivated, but the process required them to provide personal testimonies regarding their residency and land use practices.
All of the claims and resulting awards for kuleana across the islands were numbered, and the LCA numbers remain in use today to identify original owners of land in the islands. The work of the Land Commission was concluded on March 31, 1855. The program, directed by principles adopted on August 20, 18461 met with mixed results. In its statement to the king,2 the Commissioners to Quiet Land Titles summarized events that had transpired during the life of the commission:
The first award made by the Commission was that of John Voss [a foreigner] on the 31st March 1847.
The time originally granted to the Board for the hearing and settlement of all the land claims in the kingdom was two years, ending the fourteenth day of February, 1848.
Before the expiration of that term it became evident that a longer time would be required to perform the work… Accordingly, the Legislature on the 26th day of August 1847, passed an Act to extend the duration of the Board to the 14th of February, 1849, adding one year to the term first prescribed, not however, for the purpose of admitting fresh claims, but for the purposes of hearing, adjudicating and surveying those claims that should be presented by the 14th February, 1848. It became apparent to the Legislature of 1848 that the labors of the Land Commission had never been fully understood, nor the magnitude of the work assigned to them properly appreciated, and that it was necessary again to extend the duration of the Board. An act was accordingly passed, wisely extending the powers of the Commissioners “for such a period of time from the 14th day of February 1849, as shall be necessary for the full and faithful examination, settlement and award upon all such claims as may have been presented to said Board.” … [T]he Board appointed a number of Sub-Commissioners in various parts of the kingdom, chiefly gentlemen connected with the American Mission, who from their intelligence, knowledge of the Hawaiian language, and well-known desire to forward any work which they believed to be for the good of the people, were better calculated than any other class of men on the islands to be useful auxiliaries to the Board at Honolulu…
During the ten months that elapsed between the constitution of the Board and the end of the year 1846, only 371 claims were received at the office; during the year 1847 only 2,460, while 8,478 came in after the first day of January 1848. To these are to be added 2,100 claims, bearing supplementary numbers, chiefly consisting of claims which had been forwarded to the Board, but lost or destroyed on the way. In the year 1851, 105 new claims were admitted, for Kuleanas in the Fort Lands of Honolulu, by order of the Legislature. The total number of claims therefore, amounts to 13,514, of which 209 belonged to foreigners and their descendants. The original papers, as they were received at the office, were numbered and copied into the Registers of the Commission, which highly necessary part of the work entailed no small amount of labor…
The whole number of Awards perfected by the Board up to its dissolution is 9,337, leaving an apparent balance of claims Not Awarded of say 4,200. Of these, at least 1,500 may be ranked as duplicates, and of the remaining 2,700 perhaps 1,500 have been rejected as bad, while of the balance some have not been prosecuted by the parties interested; many have been relinquished and given up to the Konohikis, even after surveys were procured by the Board, and hundreds of claimants have died, leaving no legal representatives. It is probable also that on account of the dilatoriness of some claimants in prosecuting their rights before the Commission, there are even now, after the great length of time which has been afforded, some perfectly good claims on the Registers of the Board, the owners of which have never taken the trouble to prove them. If there are any such, they deserve no commiseration, for every pains has been taken by the Commissioners and their agents, by means of oft repeated public notices and renewed visits to the different districts of the Islands, to afford all and every of the claimants an opportunity of securing their rights.3
It has been reported that the lands awarded to hoa‘āina totaled approximately 28,658 acres [18:295].
In Honouliuli Ahupua‘a no hoa‘āina claims were recorded for lands within the Hoakalei program area. The claims nearest the program area were recorded in the ‘ili of Pu‘uloa—all of which were relinquished by the native tenants prior to issuing of awards. The major grouping of kuleana occurred in the area known as the Honouliuli Taro Lands, being situated several miles inland of shoreline, and near the Hō‘ae‘ae boundary with Honouliuli. Based on customary practice, it is reasonable to assume that the native tenants of ‘āina kalo (taro lands) shared familial ties with those people who once made the coastal lands of the One‘ula-Kuālaka‘i region home. It was a typical practice to travel between different areas to manage resources and practice what kūpuna describe as kuapo: the exchange of goods between the extended families and specialists in various fields of subsistence living.
1See ARTICLE IV of The Board Of Commissioners To Quiet Land Titles.
2George M. Robertson, March 31, 1855.
3Minister of Interior Report, 1856, p. 10–17.