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Lingle’s position on ceded lands

Gov. Linda Lingel

Gov. Linda Lingle


During her January radio show, Gov. Linda Lingle reiterated her position on the pending lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the state Supreme Courts’ decision about ceded lands in Hawaii. The following is a transcript of the governor’s remarks:

“I’d like to take a few minutes and explain the (ceded lands) issue because it’s so misunderstood by many people and the majority of people really don’t know anything about the subject at all.

Ceded lands is another name for public trust lands and these are lands that, when Hawaii became a state, were given to us by the federal government. They make up the land mass of what the state government owns and manages.

Thirty other states have joined us in this current lawsuit that is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court and the reason so many other states have filed with us is because they all received their land in the same way. At statehood, the federal government gave – or ceded to them – these public trust lands. This is a bigger issue than just Hawaii because it does involve so many other states.

When we became a state, these lands came over to us – and we’re talking about 1.2 million acres of land.

This land that our Department of Land and Natural Resources manages is land where the University of Hawaii sits, part of Honolulu International Airport, Hilo Hospital and many public facilities.

Our public housing projects sit on ceded lands oftentimes because ceded lands are by law for five different purposes. One of the purposes is for the betterment of native Hawaiian people, but the other four purposes are for all the people of Hawaii and these lands belong to all the people. They’re what was given to us by the federal government when we became a state. So these lands are owned by the people of Hawaii and that’s the issue before the court right now.

The simple issue is: does the state of Hawaii have clear title to these lands or not? Are they ours to sell or to lease or to give a license over or use for public purposes?

We have taken a position that is the same position that Gov. Cayetano took previously and that Gov. Waihee took previously. The irony of it is that this case came about because of Gov. John Waihee’s decision back in the 1990s to sell ceded lands.

This is not a position we took. We’re not out trying to sell ceded lands. We do use them for things like leasing land to Boy Scouts for their camping purposes.

Now 20 percent of all revenues that we get from ceded lands have to go to the native Hawaiian people and they are given to OHA. That is calculated every year and that is not impacted at all by this ongoing lawsuit. They will maintain the 20 percent share that they are required to have under the law.

Back in the 1990s, Gov. Waihee, who is a lawyer by background and he’s native Hawaiian, he made a decision to sell ceded lands – thousands of acres on Maui at the place called Lealii, which is in West Maui right before you get into Kaanapali area and at Laipoua on the Big Island near Kona. These were tracks of land of about 1,000 acres. He was responding at the time to a critical shortage of affordable housing in the state.

So his idea was to use these state lands, which ceded lands are state lands, to use them to provide affordable housing for all the people of Hawaii – not restrict it to any ethnic group. So he went to the Legislature, they gave him the money to move forward with these projects because they all believed under the law that ceded lands belonged to all the people. One of the five uses that these lands are supposed to be put to is housing for Hawaii’s people.

So they were given the funding to move forward. They approved the projects and there was a lawsuit filed at that time – back in the 1990s – and that stopped the projects and the case wound its way through the courts and the Circuit Court in 2002 found in the state’s favor.

Their ruling said these lands clearly were given to the state when we became a state and they can be sold or leased as long as it’s for these five purposes – and again, one of the purposes is for native Hawaiian betterment; and those funds go to OHA and that’s not affected at all by this current case.
So in 2002, the Circuit Court said the state was right – Gov. Waihee did have the right to sell those lands. So between 2002, the case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, and the state Supreme Court took six years to answer this issue.

They answered it last year and cited a federal resolution that had been passed by Congress known as the Apology Resolution, which was an expression of regret by the federal government for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and any involvement that some American agents may have had in that. They were apologizing to the Native Hawaiian people. It was a symbolic gesture on the part of the Congress.

The State Supreme Court ignored the law, and instead focused on that resolution and said because of it, there should be a suspension of any sale or lease of ceded lands and that we should just put a stop to every use of these government lands until those issues are resolved. That simply ignores the law. I don’t understand the Supreme Court’s reasoning, neither do most legal scholars. We just think it was a bad decision, so we appealed it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last year, we asked them to take this case and 30 other states joined in. As you know, very few cases are taken by the U.S. Supreme Court and very few non-criminal cases are taken. Yet, this case was taken. It will be argued in February – next month – at the U.S. Supreme Court and a decision will be reached this year.

I think it’s important to note that we don’t have any intention of going out and selling ceded lands. That’s not the purpose of this case. The purpose is to protect for all the people of Hawaii those lands that were given to us as a state back in 1959 and were set aside for these five purposes, including affordable housing, farming, public use, and the betterment of native Hawaiian people.

So that’s the nature of the ceded lands. The Supreme Court of Hawaii made a wrong decision in our opinion and we’re exercising our obligation to protect these lands for all the people.

I think it’s important to note again, we’re really protecting an action that was taken by Gov. Waihee back in the 1990s. It was defended by his administration, it was then defended by the Cayetano Administration and we are simply continuing to defend the people of Hawaii against this lawsuit.”

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Gov. Linda Lingle:

One Response to “Lingle’s position on ceded lands”

  1. Paula Kakaio says:

    Does the word overthrow you so carelessly throw around mean nothing to you people. You COMMITTED A CRIME! and illegally imprisoned Hawai’i’s Queen. You took what never belonged to you basically you squatted and stold Hawai’i. The ALOHA spirit in the Hawaiian people was no match for the guns and numbered forces in which the US illegally entered Hawai’i with intent to harm. I do not see us owning Iran or Irac after our intrusive invasion to their countries so why was it allowed here in Hawai’i? Ceded lands bull! it was never the US governments to take and then give back to parties other then the Hawaiians when they took Hawai’i. I am not of Hawaiian descent but am thoroughly ashamed of my US citizenship, land of the free my ass. The US government is nothing but a bunch of crooks that are worse than murderers as they have killed the aloha spirit of a unique people. I am sorry I ever voted for Linda Lingle she is not for Hawai’i at all and she used to buy Marijuana by the ounces for herself on Moloka’i. The Hawaiians should not be fighting for something that should have but was taken illegally from them. Your greed will get you in the end!!!


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