HONOLULU (KHON2) — A monumental settlement in a decades-long fight will give native Hawaiians hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Kalima case, a lawsuit filed 23 years ago, took the state to court for failing to award homestead from the Hawaiian Homelands waitlist in a timely manner.
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A court found in the class-action plaintiffs’ favor nearly two years ago, but on Tuesday, April 26 a $328 million settlement was announced.
That’s more than $120,000 per claimant on average.
The current waitlist is hundreds of pages long, filled with tens of thousands of names of Native Hawaiians hoping to receive a piece of land.
There were more than 2,700 original claimants in the lawsuit. About 967 them died in the time since it was filed.
“What’s difficult is to think about the people that we’ve known for these decades, who are no longer with us and won’t be able to enjoy the benefits or celebrate this important moment,” said Carl Varady, plaintiff’s attorney.
The money for deceased claimants goes to their family or any recipient designated in their will or trust.
Lead plaintiff Leona Kalima said, “We are happy that this long struggle is nearly over. This settlement has the potential to change thousands of lives for the better.”
For Liberty Hussey, this has been a life-long battle.
“I’m still on the waitlist and I am 78-years-old,” said Hussey. “I went into the office to put my application in when I was about 28 years old.”
“There was suffering, emotional suffering. The whole thought that they will get an award and passed away. It’s emotional for the family,” said Hussey.
In an afternoon hearing, a joint committee at the legislature advanced a measure funding claims against the state, including the Kalima funds. Lawmakers credited unprecedented state revenues this year for enabling the settlement.
“If you combine the two into $28 million settlement bill that was passed on Tuesday, April 26, along with the $600 million bill that we’re hopefully going to pass to this end of this week, we’re talking about almost a $1 billion finally going to those have been waiting for so long on the Hawaiian homes waitlist,” said Sen. Maile Shimabukuro.
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This necessary resolution fairly compensates the Hawaiian home lands beneficiaries … but it is not the end of the story. I remain committed to developing and delivering homes.
Governor David Ige