East Hawaii News

Native Hawaiian Law Volume Unveiled by UH

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Native Hawaiian law is the focus of a 1,400-page volume released by the University of Hawai’i this week.

The volume, “Native Hawaiian Law: A Treatise,” was put together through the efforts of three UH faculty members at the William S. Richardson School of Law who specialize in Native Hawaiian Law: Professor Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie, editor-in-chief; Susan K. Serrano, executive editor; and D. Kapua’ala Sproat, executive director.

UH officials said Tuesday that the volume is a work 15 years in the making, and that it offers a comprehensive overview, as well as historical background, for Native Hawaiian law as it relates to the United States and international law. Officials say the volume also provides detailed explanations of many aspects of law affecting Native Hawaiian cultural and natural resources.

“In doing this new book, we realized how much further Native Hawaiian law had been developed since its predecessor, the Native Hawaiian Rights Handbook,” MacKenzie said. “The book will clarify many recurring issues that arise in Hawai‘i.


“There’s been an explosion in laws that affect the Native Hawaiian community. There has been a substantial increase in the case law, and the federal and state regulatory regimes that affect Native Hawaiians particularly, and Native Hawaiian cultural and natural resources.  In the first book, we couldn’t include some important areas and now we’ve covered them.”

Law School Dean Avi Soifer says the volume is an “extraordinary scholarly accomplishment” and that it is also an invaluable tool to aid understanding of the intersection of western law and Native Hawaiian cultural practices.

“There are multiple reasons to be excited by and proud of what Professor MacKenzie and her team accomplished,” Dean Soifer said. “In fact, this book is a watershed moment for the Law School and its reach will extend far beyond lawyers and scholars.”


The volume updates the previous handbook, published in 1991, which was also edited by MacKenzie. In addition, the new volume provides additional and new perspectives on legislative action, court cases, and legal decision-making that have impacted the field in recent decades, according to UH officials.

“Our state courts have been very supportive and expansive in their interpretation of Hawaiian tradition and custom, and in relation to the trust issues surrounding the national lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom,” said MacKenzie. “We wanted to make sure that these important areas of law were well explained.”

MacKenzie says the question of the U.S. relationship with the Native Hawaiian community as a result of the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court case, Rice v. Cayetano, was a “watershed moment.”


“It seemed critical that we re-look at Native Hawaiian legal issues and ensure that our Native Hawaiian voice was heard,” MacKenzie said.  “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.”

The volume is available in bookstores, through Apple iBooks, on Kindle, and through Kamehameha Publishing.

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