HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A bill that would lower the blood quantum requirement for family members looking to take over Hawaiian Homestead leases could pit potential successors against thousands of others on the agency's waiting list.
The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 required lease successors to be at least 1/4 Hawaiian in order to take over a lease. Nearly 100 years later, a proposal heard Tuesday at the state capitol aimed to lower that requirement to 1/32.
"I have four adult children and 10 grand children, and not one of my grandchildren would qualify as a successor under the current law," said Maui resident Blossom Feiteira.
"It's all about the perpetuation of our race and our people," added homesteader DeMont Conner.
Conner lives on the Nanakuli Homestead, where his family has been part of that community for decades. Under the current federal law, his children have the blood quantum required to be successors of the homestead lease. His grandchildren, however, do not.
"At some point, I'd like to be able to have the opportunity to have my grandkids come home and have a place to come home to," Conner said.
Supporters of the measure, like the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, say it will allow families to stay on land that they've already held for generations.
"They dream about being able to live on their land, being able to grow on their land, being able to raise their children and their grandchildren on this land," said Feiteira, who is also president of the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands.
But there are concerns that this measure could upset the 26,000 people who are already on the agency's waiting list. Opponents of the measure say the wait list applicants, who are at least 50-percent Hawaiian, may never get a lease because homesteads won't open up.
Some argue that waitlisters deserve priority over those who are only 1/32 Hawaiian.
"That wasn't fair. These people should really be giving up the land so that other people on the wait list can have an equal opportunity on Hawaiian home lands," said Wailuku resident Bertha Pang Drayson, who is Hawaiian.
"The kuleana of making sure you get your share should not be put on the backs of your beneficiaries," said Feiteira.
Even if the proposal makes it through the legislature and the Governor's office, it will most likely need congressional approval.
"I would rather start and have it positioned in D.C., so that if the opportunity ever presented itself, our delegation can move quickly," Department of Hawaiian Home Lands chair Jobie Masagatani says.
Many agree that getting that level of support will require Hawaiians to present a united front.
"Hawaiians shouldn't be pitted against each other. Blood quantum doesn't matter. What matters is you're willing to help perpetuate our culture," said State Rep. Kaniela Ing, (D) South Maui.