Claims to the Crown Lands
With the Great Māhele, Kamehameha III divided the lands and reserved for himself lands for his personal use (“Crown” lands) and the larger portion he gave ‘to the Chiefs and people’ (“Government” lands.) Queen Emma and Lili‘uokalani made claim to the Crown Lands as private property (Emma for her dower rights and Lili‘uokalani as her personal property.) The Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled, “These lands are … for the good of the Hawaiian Government, and to promote the dignity of the Hawaiian Crown.”
An 1865 law noted the Crown Lands “shall be henceforth inalienable, and shall descend to the heirs and successors of the Hawaiian Crown forever”. The US Court of Claims noted, “it is very unusual, even in cases of conquest, for the conqueror to do more than to displace the sovereign and assume dominion over the country.” We now generally refer to the Crown and Government Lands as ‘ceded’ lands. Under the Admission Act, about 1.2-million acres are to “be held by (the) State as a public trust” – they remain in the ‘public domain’ for the public good.