In 1920, Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, Hawai‘i’s Republican delegate to Congress, drafted the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. In 1921, the federal government of the United States set aside as Hawaiian Homelands approximately 200,000‐acres in the Territory of Hawai‘i as a land trust for homesteading by native Hawaiians.
The avowed purpose of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act was returning native Hawaiians to the land in order to maintain traditional ties to the land.
The Hawai‘i State Legislature in 1960 created the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) for the purposes of administering the Hawaiian home lands program and managing the Hawaiian home lands trust.
The Department provides direct benefits to native Hawaiians in the form of homestead leases for residential, agricultural, or pastoral purposes. The intent of the homesteading program is to provide for economic self‐sufficiency of native Hawaiians through the provision of land.
“For more than a year the subject of the rehabilitation of the Hawaiian people has been prominently before the public. The legislature of 1921 provided for the appointment of a commission that went to Washington and secured the necessary federal assistance.”
“The idea of rehabilitation is not a new one; it has been the endeavor of a strong Hawaiian society, headed by the late Prince Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, to get the people out of the cities and place them on the soil, there to work out their own destiny.”
“The newspapers have been generous in their treatment of this important subject; it has been a topic of discussion in all sorts of gatherings; it has been injected into political argument and has become a political issue, the Republicans being in favor of the plan, the Democrats being largely opposed to the idea.” (Judd, The Friend, August 1922)
Prince Kūhiō died at the age of 50, on January 7, 1922. Six months after his passing, the first Hawaiian homesteaders would move to what was referred to as the Kalanianaʻole Colony (sometimes called Kalanianaʻole Settlement) on Molokai.
Twenty-three lots of approximately 25-acres each, adjoined by 2,000-acres of community pasture were carved out. Later residential lots were added.
“The Commission selected the promising land of Kalamaula, adjacent to the port of Kaunakakai. It has this advantage of closeness to a shipping point; the obvious privileges of proximity to a community possessing a church, or rather three churches, a social hall with the prospects of a library soon to be erected; a school and other features of modern life.”
“Not only has Kalamaula this fine location, but more important is the fact that it has the soil and the water to insure the success of this first experiment in assisted homesteading.”
“Not far from the “Ho‘opulapula” lots, a field of cane has recently produced sugar at the rate of twelve tons to the acre. Kalamaula has identical conditions with the land of Kaunakakai where the cane was grown.”
“The rich soil is at least four feet deep and at one time had a crop of sugarcane, when the American Sugar Company was actively engaged in the cultivation of this staple.”
“When that enterprise was abandoned more than twenty years ago, the kiawe forest sprang up, and for the past two decades this forest has sheltered cattle and pigs, attracted thither by the abundant crop of kiawe beans that fall every summer.” (Judd, The Friend, August 1922)
“Amongst the applicants that reached seventy in number, to go back to the homestead lands of Molokai, the Commissioner of Hawaiian Homes chose last week Wednesday, eight families as the first to go to live on the homestead lands of Kalamaula Kai, and the rest, they will go later, however, only between twenty and twenty-four families total will live at Kalamaula.”
“In the selection of the commission of those eight families, it was done with them choosing full-blooded Hawaiians, hapa Haole, and hapa Chinese. At the same time, considered were their ages and the children in their families.”
The first eight Hawaiians and their families which were selected by the commission to go to the ‘āina ho‘opulapula at Kalamaula Kai were: David K Kamai, Clarence K Kinney, Albert Kahinu, WA Aki, John Puaa, Harry Apo, George W Maioho and William Kamakaua.
“Of these eight families, only three will go first, because only three of the lots have been so far cleared by the commission to be farmed at once, and thereafter, other families will go when their lots are ready.” (Kuokoa, August 17, 1922) Kamai was the first.
“David K Kamai, a full-blooded Hawaiian who is 41 years old, his occupation is a contractor and a carpenter. He has a wife and they have 11 children, 6 boys and 5 girls.”
“He is a land owner and he has knowledge of taro cultivation, sweet potato, corn, cabbage, alfalfa grass and melons. He is prepared to go at once and live on the land when his application is approved.” (Kuokoa, August 17, 1922)
“This lot, like all the others, has a frontage of five hundred feet on the government road that leads up to Kalae. The second lot is the demonstration lot, as already stated. Then come two more lots, after which is the plot reserved for the school, the playground, the reservoir. It is on higher ground than the rest of the country.”
“Laborers are now clearing the lots. The kiawe trees are being pulled out by their roots and the wood cut into proper lengths, for shipment to Lāhainā and other places. The land will soon be ploughed and prepared for the homesteaders by the Commission.”
“Seed corn is now growing near Kalae and chickens are being raised for the “Ho‘opulapula.” Efforts are being made to secure suitable varieties of taro and sweet-potatoes for the use of the farmers.”
“Alfalfa will likely be a popular crop. It does exceptionally well at Kaunakakai where as many as thirteen crops have been cut in one year. This is said to be a world record.”
“The first eight farmers have now chosen their locations and are ready to live there as soon as the lands are cleared and their houses erected. There are many children in these pioneer families; between thirty and forty young people are looking forward to being located at Kalamaula in a short time.”
“The eight heads of households are industrious, self-reliant and progressive men of promise. The policy of the Commission is not to get incompetent people out of the tenements and send them to the country regardless of their fitness and ability to make a living from the soil.”
“The idea is rather to secure picked men to make this initial attempt a success and thereby create a momentum that will spell victory in other places where the Homes Commission may undertake work in the near future.” (Judd, The Friend, August 1922)