Maui News

UH to Unveil New Volume on Native Hawaiian Law

October 6, 2015, 3:46 PM HST
* Updated October 6, 3:47 PM
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The University of Hawaiʻi this week unveils a new volume on Native Hawaiian law during a special book signing reception at the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court and UH Law School.

The 1,400-page volume entitled “Native Hawaiian Law: A Treatise” was compiled and edited by three members of the faculty at the William S. Richardson School of Law who specialize in Native Hawaiian law and is an update and continuation of the handbook, published in 1991.

Contributors include: editor-in-chief Professor Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie; executive editor Susan K. Serrano; and executive editor D. Kapuaʻala Sproat.

The University of Hawaiʻi issued a press release today detailing the project saying it took 15 years to finish and offers a comprehensive overview and historical background for Native Hawaiian law as it relates to US law and international law.

The Treatise, MacKenzie says, provides additional or new perspectives on legislative action, court cases and legal decision-making that have impacted the field over the past quarter century.


The University notes that it also provides detailed explanations of many aspects of law affecting Native Hawaiian cultural and natural resources.


Topics covered by the new volume include: The Public Land Trust; Water Rights; Traditional and Customary Access and Gathering Rights; Burial Rights; The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act; Judicial Methods for Securing Land Title; The Island of Kahoʻolawe; Konohiki Fishing Rights; Native Hawaiian Health; and Hawaiian Language and Education.

“In doing this new book we realized how much further Native Hawaiian law had been developed since its predecessor, the Native Hawaiian Rights Handbook,” said MacKenzie who serves as director of Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law at the Richardson Law School.  MacKenzie said the book will clarify many recurring issues that arise in Hawaiʻi.

Law School Dean Avi Soifer commented calling the book “a watershed moment for the Law School,” saying, “its reach will extend far beyond lawyers and scholars.”


MacKenzie notes that the 2000 US Supreme Court case, Rice v. Cayetano, “which left open the question of the US relationship with the Native Hawaiian community,” was one such “watershed moment.”

“It seemed critical that we relook at Native Hawaiian legal issues and ensure that our Native Hawaiian voice was heard,” said MacKenzie in the announcement. “What we did in the first book was examine the body of law that affects Native Hawaiians uniquely and needs to be acknowledged or recognized. The second book shows not only that there is this body of law, but also that it’s a substantial and robust body of law that our courts and legislature have taken very seriously. The newest book also situates Native Hawaiian law within the broader context of international human rights law and developments related to indigenous peoples.”

During work on the new volume, updates occurred frequently as new laws and court decisions occurred. MacKenzie said one such development relates to self-government and the possibility that the US Department of Interior may adopt a rule to reestablish a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.

The University notes that the volume is a joint project of Ke Huli Ao at the Richardson School of Law, and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, published by Kamehameha Publishing with support from a number of funders including the State Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, Kosasa Family Fund, Pōhaku Fund/Tides Foundation, Sukamto Foundation, Pūʻā Foundation, and Spoehr Family Fund.

The book is available in bookstores, through Apple iBooks, and on Kindle, and through Kamehameha Publishing, with the paperback version priced at $50, the electronic version at $30, and the boxed hardbound edition at $100.

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