The Other Side of the Frontier: Economic Explorations into Native American History

By Linda Barrington | Go to book overview

10
The Political Economy of the Hawaiian Home Lands Program

SUMNER J. LA CROIX AND LOUIS A. ROSE

Captain James Cook's first contact with Hawaii in 1778 initiated a flood of fundamental changes for the Hawaiian people. The history of the nineteenth century is dominated by the tragic decrease in the Hawaiian population and sweeping changes in social, economic, and political institutions prompted by Hawaii's integration with the outside world. The rise of the sugar industry at midcentury led to increasing economic integration with the United States; in 1898 the United States annexed Hawaii. Political integration with the United States failed to halt the decline in the general welfare of the Hawaiian population, which faced increasing economic competition from Japanese and Chinese workers leaving the sugar plantations.

During World War I a movement arose among Hawaiians to rectify their declining situation. In 1921 Congress responded by passing the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA). Its ostensible goal was to return Native Hawaiians to the land, thereby facilitating the "rehabilitation" of the Hawaiian race (Hawaiian Homes Commission Act 1921, 108). 1 The HHCA set aside 203,300 of Hawaii's 4,112,128 acres for establishment of small farms and ranches by Native Hawaiians. Yet by 1996 the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC) had awarded only 40,452 acres to 6,350 Native Hawaiians. Farms and ranches awarded to Native Hawaiians achieved only limited success, and in 1923 the HHCA was amended to allow Native Hawaiians to lease improved residential lots. Long waiting lists for residential lots appeared in the 1940s and have persisted into the 1990s. Hawaiian groups have accused the State of Hawaii of violating its trust obligations to Native

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