The Māhele ‘Āina Claims and Awards

The Hoakalei Cultural Foundation (HCF) seeks to provide the public with access to the rich history of Honouliuli Ahupua‘a—bringing traditional and historical documentation that has time depth, and that is factual, to the attention of all who care for this land. The research is being conducted in a wide range of archival collections, and incorporates primary—first account—documentation from both Hawaiian- and English-language resources.

As a part of that research, Kepā Maly and Onaona Pomroy Maly completed a review of all the original land title records of the Hawaiian Kingdom recorded during the Māhele ‘Āina (Land Division) between the years 1847 and 1855. For the first time, all of the Māhele records have been compiled in one collection, and the original Hawaiian-language documents of the Native Register and Testimony collections were translated by Kepā Maly for this program. This work was conducted over a five-week period between July and August 2012. The results provide readers with significant documentation coming from those who lived on and knew the land in a traditional manner. The Māhele documents describe land use, residency, and the practices of the families of Honouliuli and its smaller land subdivisions. With this information, we are able better to understand the history and cultural landscape of Honouliuli. While much has changed in the last 170 years, the spirit of place, the named places, and lives of those who came before us are still present on the land. Their history adds value to our own lives and community.

All told, 436 Māhele documents were found for Honouliuli; no additional Māhele claims for Honouliuli are known to exist. This total can be broken down, as follows:

105 Native Register (NR) Claim records registered by 99 native tenants;
80 Native Testimony (NT) Claim records;
99 Foreign Testimony (FT) records;
77  Māhele Award Book records; and
75  Palapala Sila Nui (Royal Patent) records.

Of the 106 native tenant claims and one chiefly claim identified from Honouliuli, 74 were awarded to the claimants or their heirs and 33 were denied.

In compiling this collection of historical land and family records from Honouliuli, we have attempted to ensure the accuracy of all citations. The original records though, are challenging. Being all handwritten, the writing is at times illegible. At other times spelling of personal and land area names vary from one record to another. We have done our best to compare the various records and maintain the highest accuracy possible. The records are organized by Helu—the original numerical sequence assigned at the time of recording the information. Also, certain important classes of information such as place names, personal names, subsistence practices, types of features, and cultural and natural resources are called out in tables and summary form for easy access to the historical information.


Related Documents

The Buke Mahele (Division Book) of 1848, copy of 1864, documents the agreements among King Kamehameha III, family members, supporting chiefs, and others who supported Kamehameha I and his heirs in the period between the 1790s and the 1830s. The Buke Mahele also lists the lands granted by the king to the government land inventory—financial returns from sales and leases of such were dedicated to the support of government operations—and for conveyance through Royal Patent Grants to Hawaiians and other parties in leasehold and fee-simple interests. This book is also the primary source for identifying the Crown and Government land inventory now known as the Ceded Lands.

Pursuant to the Kuleana Act of 1850, the makaainana and foreigners who had sworn oaths of allegiance were granted the right to register claims for parcels from all of the lands listed in the Buke Mahele. In Honouliuli, including the ili of Pu‘uloa, only one chiefly claim was recorded for the ahupuaa: Mikahela Kekauonohi, a granddaughter of Kamehameha I, niece of Kamehameha III, and wife of Aarona Kealiiahonui, who was son of the last sovereign King of Kauai. The tables below show what the Buke Mahele reports of the division agreement.

Lands Relinquished to Kamehameha III
Na Aina Ahupuaa Kalana Mokupuni
Kapaloa Ili i Honolulu Kona Oahu
Puahia Ili i Waikiki Kona Oahu
Lands Retained by M. Kekauonohi
Na Aina Ahupuaa Kalana Mokupuni
Honouliuli Ahupuaa Ewa Oahu
Waimalu Aoao Komohana Ewa Oahu


In addition to naming traditional residents and noted places of Honouliuli, the records of the Mahele Aina also provide us with important information on residency, land use practices, physical features—today’s cultural sites, and some of the plants or resources which were tended as food crops by the people who lived on the land. While there do not appear to be any direct references to lands now within the boundaries of the Haseko Development or for the cultural resources which are under the stewardship of the Hoakalei Cultural Foundation, there are important descriptions of agricultural practices in neighboring coastal lands and similar environments. The descriptions help us form an image of how people lived on the land, and actually provide us with a template for interpretation of some resources in the three preservation areas.

On December 13, 1847, Nahuawai, a native tenant of Puuloa, Honouliuli, wrote a description of agricultural practices and features he claimed at Keahi, in the ili of Puuloa, near the Pearl Harbor entrance. The record, in Hawaiian, states

I ka poe hanohano na Luna Hoona Kumu Kuleana aina o ko Hawaii nei pae aina. Aloha oukou. Ke hai aku nei au ia oukou i ko‘u kuleana hale, a kula hui. Me keia ka hui ana, aole i ike pono ia ke kuauna elike me ka loi kalo, i ka poopoo pohaku e kanu ai kekahi, i kahi kaheka kekahi, lele wale aku no i kela wahi i keia wahi.

Eia kou hale ma Keahi i Puuloa, Ewa, Mokupuni Oahu. Eia kona mau palena, ma ka Akau he kula e ku ana i kau haha paakai, ma ka Hikina ko Naunau ana puni, ma ka Hema ke kai, ka ke Komohana ke ana puni o Mahiole.

16 makahiki kou noho ana i keia kuleana hale. O wau no me ka mahalo kau kauwa hoolohe.

Na Nahuawai.

The translation of the record is below.

To the Honorable Commissioners who Quiet Land Claims. Aloha to you. I hereby tell you of my house and combined kula parcel claim. The combined boundaries are not known like those of the banked walls of loi kalo (taro pond fields), the planting is done in hollows of rocks, and in kaheka (small brackish water ponds) and are scattered about at various places.

Here is my house at Keahi in Puuloa, Ewa, Island of Oahu. Here are its boundaries: towards the North, a kula parcel where my haha paakai (salt gathering beds) are situated; towards the East, surrounded by Naunau; towards the South, the sea; towards the West, surrounded by Mahiole.

My residency at this house claim has been for 16 years. I am with appreciation, your obedient servant.

By Nahuawai2

1Native Register, Vol. 5, Number 6132, Puuloa, Ewa, December 13, 1847, p. 243–244.

2Translated by Maly.

The records of the Mahele are the earliest and most detailed records of Honouliuli, in their documentation of native residents—those people who were the survivors of their ancestors, and those whose iwi (remains) were buried upon the plains (kulaıwi). Following a detailed review of all the Mahele records from Honouliuli Ahupuaa, at least 208 resident names were found. These names, often modernized surnames, are the people who lived upon, cared for, and were sustained by the aina and kai lawaia of Honouliuli. Some of the names are still in use and are familiar in the island community in the present day. These families may in fact search their histories to see if their name descends from one of the original residents of Honouliuli. The voices of these families might speak for the land; under Historic Preservation regulations they hold a privileged position in planning for treatment of cultural properties and familial resources.

It is noted here that Kupuna Arline Wainaha Puulei Brede Eaton, founding president of the Hoakalei Cultural Foundation, was raised at Keahi in the ili of Pu‘uloa, Honouliuli Ahupua‘a, by her own kupuna, Kaniela and Malia Kealoha. The Kealoha line from which Kaniela Kealoha descended was at one time a konohiki of Honouliuli Ahupuaa, and a teacher in the ahupuaa schools under the chiefs Kekauonohi and Kealiiahonui.

Below is a list of all the hoaaina names that could be clearly documented as residents of Honouliuli. In addition to the hoaaina, chiefs who were granted residency rights, or who were associated with Honouliuli in this period were Kinau (k), Kinauwahine (w), Mikahela Kekauonohi (w), Aarona Kealiiahonui (k), Mataio Kekuanaoa (k), Kekumanoha (k), Kuihelani (k), Kalaimoku (k), and John Adams Kuakini (k).

Residents of Honouliuli Ahupua‘a identified in the Mahele Aina
Aemaikai Kaneaola Lauhuki
Aikakane Kanehekili (Kahekili) Leleiaupa (Leleaupa)
Aila Kaneiahuea Liliu
Alauka Kaneiakama Limakauai
Aoao (Samuela Aoao) Kaneikawaiola (Kanekawaiola) Luana
Haae Kaniau Luika (Louisa Kaulu)
Haakue Kanoho Maakuia
Hano Kaohai (Ohai) Maeaea
Hapai Kaoliko (Kaoliko Kaulu) Mahae
Hapauea Kaopala (Opala) Mahina
Healani Kaope Mahiole
Heleaniau (Kaheleaniau) Kapiioho Mahoe
Hilea Kapoli Maiao (Maio)
Hilinae Kapule (Pule) Makaioelani
Hinaa Kauakahilau Makaualii
Hinauka Kaualua Makaula
Honaunau (Hoonaunau, Naunau) Kauamoa Makue
Hoolana Kauhailepa Manaole
Hopenui (also a land name) Kauhane Manuwa (Manua)
Huluhulumoku Kauhi Mauele (Mauwale)
Inoaole Kauhikaula Mili
Kaaiawaawa (Kaaiavaava, Aiawaawa) Kauinui Moano
Kaalauahi (Kekaalauahi) Kaule Mokumakuaole
Kaanaana (Kaanaana Kaulu) Kauliikaula Molea
Kaauhau (Kaakau) Kaulu Naholowaa
Kaehunui Kaumaumaholo Nahuawai
Kaekuna Kaunahi Naiwi
Kaewa Kauouo Nakai (Aarona Nakai)
Kahakai Kauwahine Nakukui
Kahakuliilii Kawaa Namauu
Kahalana Kawahaea Nanaole
Kahalewai Kawahala Napahi
Kahananui Kawahamana Napoo (Poo)
Kahauolono Kawaokele Napukaa
Kahawai Kawaole Naulu
Kaheananui Kealoha Nawahineelua
Kahikiula Keano Nawiliwili (Weliweli)
Kahimaikai Keaona Nihua
Kahoekele Keinohananui Nika
Kaholo Kekai Nioi
Kahue Kekapa Nohunohu
Kahulu Kekiaha Nunu (Kanunu)
Kaihikapu Kekiowai Nuuanu
Kaikai Kekua (Kua, Keakua) Oni
Kailinaoa Kekuahaliu Opunui
Kaimuena (Kaumuena) Kekuahilo (Kuahilo) Paahana
Kainaina Kekuhaiola Paekane (Pekane, Perekane)
Kalama Kekukahiko (Kukahiko, Davida Kekukahiko) Paele
Kalanihopu (Kalaihopu, Kaleihopu) Kelemana Pihana
Kalaoa Keliiaa (Solomona Keliiaa) Pine
Kalauani Keliipulu Pio (Kapio)
Kalauhala Kihewa Piopio (Opiopio)
Kalauli (Kalaulii / Laulii) Kikala Poopuu (Opoopuu)
Kalehu Kinolua Puali
Kalola Koakanu Puanani
Kaluahiai (Kaluahiai Kaulu) Koi Pue
Kaluhua Kou (S. Kou) Puehu (Kapuehu)
Kama Kua Puhipaka
Kamaala Kuhau Punahoa (Kapunahoa)
Kamakaa Kuahine Puniawa (Puniwai)
Kamakau Kuailau (Kaailau) Punielua
Kamalae Kuakahia Pupuka
Kamalua Kuhemu Uia (Uwia)
Kamanu Kuhiana (Kuhiena) Upai
Kamau Kukae Wahine
Kamii Kukaikoi Wahinenui
Kamoonohu Kuku Waikele
Kanahuna Kukuiaina Wiwi
Kanakaole (Kanakaole Kaulu) Kumupopo  
Kane Laamaikahiki  


The native tenant land claims from the Native Register for lands in Honouliuli can be found here. The claim number or helu is given, followed by the name of the claimant, and the name of the land area. The Native Register contains the claims submitted by the person who occupies the land. This includes a description of the location of the land, as well as what has been developed on the land—houses, taro patches, gardens, etc. The native testimony and foreign testimony contain statements from residents in the area which verify the statements of the claimant made in the Native Register. A few of the claims were not awarded. Click the Category link for Land Commission Award below to see the claims for Honouliuli.

The accompanying images are of two kinds. The first kind is the notes of survey which formed the records of the Mahele Award Books. They include metes and bounds and plot plans of the parcels surveyed for native tenants. The specific land names and parcels, plot plan maps, and, if provided, additional notes (e.g. names of people and places, or descriptions of features) which supplement the register and testimony volumes are cited.

The second kind of images included are the Royal Patents issued on Mahele Aina Awards. Upon agreement of the land areas to be awarded, surveys were conducted and recorded. The king issued Royal Patents in confirmation of the land areas to awardees. The original documents are presented. The figure captions include the royal patent number (Palapala Sila Nui Helu), the LCA number (Kuleana Helu), the awardee, land area and description, date, signatory parties, and source. The documents are not transcribed, but may be read from the original patents. In some instances, additional place names which were not identified in the earlier records were also cited in the claims; those place names are cited in the land description from each patent. Click the Category link for Royal Patent to see those issued for Honouliuli.

The notes of survey and Royal Patent associated with a Land Commission Award can be navigated to through links under Related Images on each Land Commission Award page.

Another important facet of the records compiled as a part of the Mahele Aina are the place names of Honouliuli. Some 182 place names were cited in the claims, testimonies, and surveys of native tenants lands in Honouliuli. The names are often descriptive of i) the terrain, ii) an event in history, iii) the kind of resources a particular place was noted for, or iv) the kind of land use which occurred in the area so named. Sometimes an earlier resident of a given land area was also commemorated by place names.

The named localities extend from the shore to the mountain slopes. In some instances the place names identify a specific site on the land, while others describe regions or strips of land such as in the name Honouliuli, which comprises some 43,250 acres. Other parcels of land identified in the records include ili, kula, moo aina, loi, or kihapai. These parcels of land were established as smaller subdivisions or management parcels which might include a quarter-acre parcel for a single house site or garden plot, or which might include thousands of acres like the ili of Puuloa, which contained 2,610 acres.

While the list of place names identified in the claims of native tenants of Honouliuli provides us with a rich collection of notable places on the landscape, it will be seen that some notable place names are found along the south-facing shore of Honouliuli, the area where the Hoakalei Cultural Foundation is directly based. No identifiable reference to Oneula, Kalaeloa, Kaolina (Koolina), or the nearshore kula lands was recorded. Along the coast, the nearest references are found in the ili of Puuloa at Keahi, and in the ili of Waimanalo. The lack of cited place names is reflective of the impacts on the Hawaiian population and environment following western Contact. The exact locations of many places which are found in traditions and historical accounts cannot be accurately identified in historic surveys mapping work.

Place names of Honouliuli recorded in the Mahele Aina
Aihonu Kaneakiha Loloulu
Aimea Kanehoa Lopanui
Ainaio Kanenelu Mahuna
Alae Kanuoopu (Kanuoopa) Maiau
Haalelenui Kanuwahine Makaii
Hakelo Kohepalaoa at Puuloa Makawela (at Honouliluli)
Halawa Kapahupahu Makawela at Puuloa
Haleokane Kapahupu Makawela iki
Hiwa Kapaihi Manawahua*
Hiwalalo Kapailima Manawaielelu*
Hiwaluna Kapalaha Maniau
Holeinui Kapapapuhi Mauakapuaa
Honouliuli Stream Kapi at Puuloa Maui
Hopeiki Kauakahimoeola Maunakapu*
Hopenui Kauakahiwalalo Moakapuaa
I Kauhikuakua Mokumeha
Iao Kauhimakahou Mooiki
Kaaimano Kauhipuna Mookapu*
Kaakau Kauilahanau Mooloihi
Kaamaikeaha Kaulaula Namooelua (Namoolua)
Kaaumakua Kaumaka (Kamaka) Naopala
Kaauwewai Kauwahine Napoele
Kahapapa* Kawaieli* Napupu
Kahakumaka Kawaipapa Niukee
Kahawai Keahi at Puuloa Ohikiili
Kahoopauli Kekee Ohuaniho
Kahuka* Kenahupu Okea (Kea) at Puuloa
Kahui Keolama Okiokiolepe at Puuloa
Kahuilalo Kepoe Oneula*
Kaiapilau Kihewamakawalu Opunaha Stream
Kaiaulaula Komoawaa Paakai
Kaihuopalaai Komomoku at Puuloa Paeokiha
Kailikahi Koula Palaau
Kalahale Kuaia Palahemo
Kalaipuawa Kuaihee Palakai
Kalakiki Kuaihoe Panahaha
Kalawaha Kuaiopelu Paneenui
Kalawahaiki Kuaipuaa Papaanae
Kaloiiki Kuaka Papawaa
Kaloiliilii Kuamoo Pi
Kaloiloa Kuemanuiki Pili o Kahe*
Kalokoeli (Lokoeli) Kuhiwale Poaiwaikele
Kalokoloa Kumuhahune Poepoe
Kalole Kumuhau Pohakea
Kaluamano Kumuniu Pohaku palahalaha*
Kaluamoo Kumupali Poina
Kaluanohu at Puuloa Kumuulu Polapola
Kaluanonomaka Kupalii Poliwai*
Kalulu Laeloa* Poohilo
Kamaieleele Lihue Puaaluu
Kamaihiili Loko Aimea Puehuehu
Kamaipipipi Loko Kahui Pumaialau
Kamalua Loko Kalahu Puukuua
Kamilomilo Loko Kaluakanaka Puuloa
Kamoku Loko Kuaimano Ulanaao
Kamookahi (Mookahi) Loko Nihola (Nihola) Waa
Kamooloa Loko Omoomoki Waimanalo
Kamoomoku (Kamoomuku) Loko Panahaha Waimanana
Kamumuku Loko Panainui (Paneenui) Waioha
Kanahu Loko Waianu Waioipu at Puuloa

*Boundary location.
Place and person.
Cited in boundary.

By the time of the Mahele Aina (Land Division) of 1848, which granted chiefs, native tenants, and a number of foreigners fee-simple title to land, major changes in the Hawaiian way of life—residency and subsistence practices—were occurring across the islands. Among the notable changes in Honouliuli was that the southern, ocean-facing shore of Honouliuli was all but abandoned by the native tenants. The one exception was along the inland shores of Puuloa, where foreigners gained control of the land and engaged native Hawaiians as employees of newly developing businesses. The other native tenants of the Honouliuli coastal lands who survived the numerous bouts of infectious diseases chose to relocate to areas where fresh water and larger communities had been established inland. As a result, there were no native tenant claims recorded for the lands that encompass the Hoakalei Preservation areas.

The historic papers published in Hawai‘i in the 1830s to mid-1900s contain many entries identifying residents of Honouliuli Ahupuaa and neighboring lands. From a review of both Hawaiian- and English-language publications are found names of individuals who resided on the land and descriptions of their land-use practices.

The following plants and other resources are noted in Mahele claims.

Akaakai bulrushes.
Hala  the pandanus tree.
Huluhulu (pupulu) cotton.
Kalo taro.
Kou  the Cordia tree.
Laau kalakala (Laau lapalapa)  the prickly pear cactus/panini.
Mahiki   coastal grass.
Paakai salt.
Pa waina   grape vineyard.
Uala   sweet potatoes.  
Ulu   breadfruit tree.
Ulu niu coconut grove.

In addition, there are various land features and land use terms in the claims.

Aina Nahelehele   overgrown land, fallow land.
Alanui  trail or roadway in modern context.
Alahele  trail.
Alanui Aupuni  Government Road.
Apana  parcel, portion, section of land.
Auwai irrigation channel.
Awaawa (awawa)  a gulch or ravine, wet or dry.
Hale halawai  meeting house.
Hale kula schoolhouse.
Hale pule church (Hale pule Katolika – Catholic Church).
Ili a section of land, usually running maukamakai, within an ahupua‘aIli usually had smaller land divisions, tended by the people within them.
Kahawai  stream or gulch, may be a wet or dry valley.
Kahakai beach or shoreline.
Kaheka  brackish or anchialine ponds.
Kahua hale/Pahale  house sites and house lots.
Kai ocean, salt water or fishery.
Kihapai  a garden, agricultural patch, may be wetland or dry land.
Kio liilii small pond in which juvenile fish or kalo might be raised.
Kio pua  small pond in which fingerling fish were kept, usually mullet.
Kio pua hooholo  small pond in which pua, juvenile fish, were released.
Kio wai  a freshwater pond.
Koele a small tract of land which was cultivated for the chief.
Konohiki the chief or overseers of a given land.
Kula traditionally, a flat open land area, also a dry land agricultural parcel. In the late 1800s, the term kula became synonymous with a pasture area. In most cases the Honouliuli claims which reference kula are describing an agricultural parcel.
Kula alialia  salt beds.
Kula mahiai a cultivated kula parcel.
Kula nohu  a dry land section of land on which nohu plants grew.
Loi  pond fields.
Loi akaakai ponds in which bulrushes were grown. The ‘aka‘akai was used as thatching for houses and in weaving.
Loko ia  fishpond.
Lokkalo  a brackish water fishpond in which kalo was also grown.
Moo aina (moo)  a strip of land usually running maukamakai, and used as an agricultural parcel.
Muliwai estuary.
Pa  wall or fence, also a lot or enclosed area for a house or planted area.
Paahao as a land term, the paahao lots were those which were worked by prisoners or others who were repaying some debt to society. The produce usually went to the support of the government or konohiki of a given land. Paahao lots were retained as government property.
Pa aina  land division walls.
Pa aina a ke Aupuni  land division wall made by the government, marking off parcels of land in which the government held an interest.
Pa pohaku  stone wall.
Pali cliff.
Pa puaa a pig enclosure.
Pa uala  sweet potato field.
Poalima literally “Friday.” By Kingdom law, certain Fridays were set aside for people to work on parcels of land for the king. The produce of the labor went to support the king and his household.
Puuone a dune-banked fishpond; such ponds were found in areas where sandy banks formed.

By the 1840s, the makaainana began making pleas to the king, asking that he not allow foreigners the right to possess land and hold positions in government. A series of petitions from across the islands on this matter went unheeded. With lands from his personal inventory, the king set up a mechanism to lease out and eventually sell large tracts of land for the development of businesses, which, it was hoped, would also benefit the kingdom. On December 10, 1845, Kamehameha III signed into law a joint resolution establishing and outlining the responsibilities of the Board of Commissioners to Quiet Land Titles, setting in motion the Mahele Aina or division of lands and natural resources between the king and his subjects. Among the actions called for, and laws to be implemented were

ARTICLE IV. Of The Board Of Commissioners To Quiet Land Titles

SECTION I His Majesty shall appoint through the minister of the interior, and upon consultation with the privy council, five commissioners, one of whom shall be the attorney general of this kingdom, to be a board for the investigation and final ascertainment or rejection of all claims of private individuals, whether natives or foreigners, to any landed property acquired anterior to the passage of this act; the awards of which board, unless appealed from as hereinafter allowed, shall be binding upon the minister of the interior and upon the applicant...

SECTION VII The decisions of said board shall be in accordance with the principles established by the civil code of this kingdom in regard to prescription, occupancy, fixtures, native usages in regard to landed tenures, water privileges and rights of piscary, the rights of women, the rights of absentees, tenancy and subtenancy, —primogeniture and rights of adoption; which decisions being of a majority in number of said board, shall be only subject to appeal to the supreme court, and when such appeal shall not have been taken, they shall be final…

SECTION XIII The titles of all lands claimed of the Hawaiian government anterior to the passage of this act, upon being confirmed as aforesaid, in whole or in part by the board of commissioners, shall be deemed to be forever settled, as awarded by said board, unless appeal be taken to the supreme court, as already prescribed. And all claims rejected by said board, unless appeal be taken as aforesaid, shall be deemed to be forever barred and foreclosed, from the expiration of the time allowed for such appeal.1

The Mahele defined the land interests of Kauikeaouli (King Kamehameha III), some 252 high-ranking alii and konohiki—including several foreigners who had been befriended by members of the Kamehameha line—and the government. As a result of the Mahele, all lands in the Kingdom of Hawaii—and associated fisheries as described in the laws above—came to be placed in one of three categories: i) Crown lands for the occupant of the throne; ii) Government lands; and iii) Konohiki lands. The “Enabling” or “Kuleana Act” of the Mahele, dated December 21, 1849, further defined the framework by which hoa‘aina could apply for and be granted fee-simple interest in kuleana lands.2 The Kuleana Act reconfirmed the rights of hoaaina to access the land and collect resources from mountains to the shore. Though not specifically stated in this act, the rights of piscary (to fisheries and fishing) had already been granted and were protected by preceding laws.

1In The Polynesian, January 3, 1846, p. 140.

2cf. Kamakau in Ke Au Okoa, July 8 & 15, 1869; 1961, p. 403.

The Kuleana Act remains the foundation of law pertaining to native tenant rights and prescribed the following.

August 6, 1850

An Act confirming certain resolutions of the King and Privy Council passed on the 21st day of December 1849, granting to the common people allodial titles for their own lands and house lots, and certain other privileges.

Be it enacted by the Nobles and Representatives of the People of the Hawaiian Islands in Legislative Council assembled;

That the following sections which were passed by the King in Privy Council on the 21st day of December A.D. 1849 when the Legislature was not in session, be, and are hereby confirmed, and that certain other provisions be inserted, as follows:

Section 1 Resolved. That fee simple titles, free of commutation, be and are hereby granted to all native tenants, who occupy and improve any portion of any Government land, for the land they so occupy and improve, and whose claims to said lands shall be recognized as genuine by the Land Commission; Provided, however, that the Resolution shall not extend to Konohikis or other persons having the care of Government lands or to the house lots and other lands, in which the Government have an interest, in the Districts of Honolulu, Lahaina and Hilo.

Section 2 By and with the consent of the King and Chiefs in Privy Council assembled, it is hereby resolved, that fee simple titles free of commutation, be and are hereby granted to all native tenants who occupy and improve any lands other than those mentioned in the preceding Resolution, held by the King or any chief or Konohiki for the land they so occupy and improve. Provided however, this Resolution shall not extend to house lots or other lands situated in the Districts of Honolulu, Lahaina and Hilo.

Section 3 Resolved that the Board of Commissioners to quiet Land titles be, and is hereby empowered to award fee simple titles in accordance with the foregoing Resolutions; to define and separate the portions belonging to different individuals; and to provide for an equitable exchange of such different portions where it can be done, so that each man’s land may be by itself.

Section 4 Resolved that a certain portion of the Government lands in each Island shall be set apart, and placed in the hands of special agents to be disposed of in lots of from one to fifty acres in fee simple to such natives as may not be otherwise furnished with sufficient lands at a minimum price of fifty cents per acre.

Section 5  In granting to the People, their House lots in fee simple, such as are separate and distinct from their cultivated lands, the amount of land in each of said House lots shall not exceed one quarter of an acre.

Section 6 In granting to the people their cultivated grounds, or Kalo lands, they shall only be entitled to what they have really cultivated, and which lie in the form of cultivated lands; and not such as the people may have cultivated in different spots, with the seeming intention of enlarging their lots; nor shall they be entitled to the waste lands. [Generally wetlands, ponds, and fallow fields. See citations later in this section.]

Section 7 When the Landlords have taken allodial titles to their lands the people on each of their lands shall not be deprived of the right to take firewood, aho cord, thatch, or ti leaf from the land on which they live, for their own private use, should they need them, but they shall not have a right to take such articles to sell for profit. They shall also inform the Landlord or his agent, and proceed with his consent. The people shall also have a right to drinking water, and running water, and the right of way. The springs of water, and running water, and roads shall be free to all should they need them, on all lands granted in fee simple. Provided, that this shall not be applicable to wells and water courses which individuals have made for their own use.

Done and passed at the Council House, Honolulu this 6th day of August 1850.1

1Copied from original handwritten “Enabling Act,” Hawaii State Archives, DLNR, 2–4. See also Kanawai Hoopai Karaima no ko Hawaii Pae Aina (Penal Code) 1850.

In pre-western contact Hawaii, all ainakai lawaia, and natural resources extending from the mountaintops to the depths of the ocean were held in “trust” by the high chiefs—moialii ai moku, or alii ai ahupuaa. The right to use plots of land, fisheries, and natural resources was given to the hoaaina at the prerogative of the alii and their representatives or land agents, often referred to as konohiki or haku aina. Following a strict code of conduct, which was based on ceremonial and ritual observances, the people of the land were generally able to collect all of the natural resources— terrestrial and aquatic—for their own sustenance and to pay tribute to the class of chiefs and priests who oversaw them and ensured the prosperity of the natural environment through their divine mana.1

As western concepts of property rights began to infiltrate the Hawaiian system shortly after the arrival of foreigners in the islands, Kamehameha I, who had secured rule over all of the islands in the early 1800s, granted perpetual interest in select lands and fisheries to some foreign residents, but he and the chiefs under him generally remained in control of all resources. After Kamehameha I died in 1819 and the Protestant missionaries arrived in 1820, the concepts of property rights, including rights to fisheries, evolved and were codified under Kamehameha II and his younger brother, Kauikeaouli, who ruled as Kamehameha III.

Missionary William Richards wrote this early observation on the nature of Hawaiian resource management—rights to resources from both land and sea—in 1825:

The right, by which a man may claim fish caught by others in the sea, may, indeed, be questioned by those enlightened in the principles of jurisprudence; but the chiefs of the Sandwich Island, make no questions on the subject. They lay equal claim to the sea and land, as their property. The sea is divided into different portions; and those who own a tract of land on the sea shore, own also the sea that fronts it. The common rule observed by the chiefs is, to give about one half of the fish to the fishermen, and take the other half to themselves.2

The inexorable move to Western style fee-simple property rights in the Hawaiian Kingdom resulted in the Mahele Aina of 1848, which divided ownership among the king, his chiefs, the government, and commoners. The Mahele Aina records and associated Helu or LCA Numbers that identified the original holders of title to lands throughout the Hawaiian Islands remain in use today. The story of the Mahele Aina reveals much about residency, land use, and land tenure, but also leaves much unanswered.

It is important to remember that by the time of the Mahele Aina, the population of the Hawaiian Islands, including the ahupuaa of Honouliuli, had been in decline for several decades. Many once populated areas along the Honouliuli shoreline were abandoned, and the decrease of population continued through the years of the Mahele. In several instances, applicants died between the time a claim was registered in 1847 and when testimonies were offered in 1848 to support the claim.

1It is of interest to note the fact that the Hawaiian system of land ownership, virtually identical to feudalism in medieval Europe in the ninth to fifteenth centuries, could evolve in total isolation, and is the subject of much speculation among scholars. However, there are some who disagree with the characterization of the Hawaiian land ownership system as feudalism [cf. 30].

2Letter of William Richards dated August 9, 1825, Missionary Herald, June 1826, p. 174–175.