The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) is the only non-profit, public interest law firm, concentrating in the unique area of Native Hawaiian Rights law. NHLC provides legal assistance to families and communities engaged in perpetuating the culture and traditions of Hawai'i's indigenous people.

Founded by several grass roots leaders in 1974, NHLC was a volunteer-run referral service initially. But the high demand for direct help, especially from families who needed legal assistance in protecting their lands, transformed NHLC into a law firm that now provides low cost legal help to approximately 700 clients annually.



Through their practice of aloha `aina, Hawai`i’s original inhabitants ensured their continued existence in one of the most isolated and physically remote places on earth.  For them, aloha `aina became the foundational principle of their sovereignty.   This same principle continues to carry significant meaning for each of us and embraces much more than the western concept of “land” as a commodity because our capacity to reestablish that relationship with the `aina, or “that which feeds”, will decide the fullness of our life, our liberty, and our ultimate happiness. 

As the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation looks back this year on its’ last forty years of service as a guardian of the Native Hawaiian identity with a deep sense of pride and gratitude, we recommit ourselves to that kuleana and seek your continued kokua via a monetary donation to ensure our continuing capacity to seek and secure justice for the lands, resources, traditions, and customs of Hawai‘i's indigenous people.  Mahalo for your continuing support and commitment!

Moses Kalei Nahonoapi`ilani Haia III, Executive Director






In a 40-page decision issued late Friday afternoon, the court concluded, “the legislature has failed to appropriate sufficient sums to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for its administrative and operating budget in violation of its constitutional duty to do so. This failure includes every fiscal year since at least 1992.” In her ruling Judge Castagnetti noted that the “DHHL suffers from a lack of funding and staffing, which adversely affects beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust.”

Moses Haia, the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation applauded the decision. “This has been a long time coming. We are thankful that the Court has provided the State and the DHHL with a roadmap for making good on the State’s constitutional mandate and on both the State’s and the DHHL’s trust duties under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. We trust this ruling will ultimately result in a significant increase in the number of beneficiaries living on Hawaiian Home Lands.”  For more information, click here for the press release and here for the decision.



 DECISION - Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order




~ For more details, go to our Events page for the Invite and to purchase tickets ~ Mahalo!

Aloha mai kakou! On Saturday, October 24, 2015, from 5pm to 9pm at the Ko‘olau Ballrooms, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation will hold a fundraiser to celebrate its 41st anniversary. This year’s fundraiser, like last year’s, is entitled Ho‘omalu Ka Lehua I Ka Wao: The Lehua Shelters the Forest.

Forty-one years ago the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, originally known as the Hawaiian Coalition of Native Claims, was founded by a group of passionate, committed grassroots community leaders. Lehua if you will. At a time when the criticism heaped upon them was perhaps as hot as flowing lava, they nonetheless took a stand to protect, preserve, and perpetuate the Native Hawaiian identity, a quality synonymous with the very essence of Hawai`i. But for the stand taken by our founding brave lehua and the lehua we will be honoring at this fundraiser, Beadie Dawson and Pua Burgess, Native Hawaiian practices such as the hula, `olelo Hawai`i (the Hawaiian language), aloha `aina (love for the land), malama `aina (taking care of the land), and malama iwi (the proper care for and respect of Native Hawaiian human remains), may have been forever lost and forgotten. The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation owes its existence to these lehua. It is, as such, a privilege and an honor to be a part of such a wonderful legacy.

This important and rewarding work would not be possible without the support of all of you and so, on behalf of the staff, the board, and our current and future clients, mahalo nui loa for being our lehua through continuing to support our efforts to preserve the heart and soul of Hawai`i. Please come help us celebrate!

If you'd like to help please email or call (808) 521-2302.  Mahalo nui for your support!

All proceeds benefit the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.




 DECISION - Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment




Trial began Tuesday in Circuit Court as two Native Hawaiian plaintiffs (Ku Ching and Mary Maxine Kahaulelio) are suing the State over the military training on tens of thousands of acres on ceded lands.

Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL


KITV News4 - State Sued Over Military Training on Ceded Lands




Maunakea Supreme Court Hearing: August 27, 2015 | Story from Oiwi TV on Vimeo.





(Honolulu, HI) – On June 29, 2015 starting at 8:30 a.m., circuit judge Jeannette Castagnetti will hear evidence regarding whether the State of Hawai‘i has failed to fulfill its constitutional mandate to provide the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands with sufficient funding for its operations. In 2007, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, on behalf of six Native Hawaiian beneficiaries, sued the State of Hawaiʻi over its failure to sufficiently fund the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), and the DHHL for its failure to seek sufficient funding from the State. By the time the lawsuit, known as Nelson v. Hawaiian Homes Commission, reached the Hawai‘i Supreme Court in 2012, two of the original six plaintiffs had passed away. “In 1978 the waiting list was at 5,700. By the end of 2013, it was over 26,000. Without adequate funding, the DHHL is unable to fulfill its purpose: to return Native Hawaiians to the land.” said Moses Haia, Executive Director for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. Haia continued “Our clients and the community have been waiting a long time for the State to fulfill its responsibility, the time is now.” Judge Castagnetti’s courtroom is on the fifth floor of Kauikeaouli Hale, 1111 Alakea Street.



Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation Announces Three New Board Members

The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) has added three members to its board of directors: Mālia Ka'aihue, Gina Lobaco and Mark Kawika Patterson.


“We’re excited to have Mālia, Gina and Mark join the leadership of our organization because each one brings their own tremendous personal and professional experience and skill to the table and strengthens and diversifies the make-up of our board,” said Moses Haia, executive director of NHLC. “This is critical for NHLC's continuing evolution as an organization committed to the effective and efficient protection and preservation of the rights of Native Hawaiians.”

Ka'aihue, Ph.D., is a partner and vice president at DTL, a Hawaiian strategy studio, where she is responsible for daily operations and client service. Ka'aihue formerly served as director of community planning at WCIT Architecture, founding editor of MANA Magazine and chief knowledge officer at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Ka'aihue also taught and directed programs at the University of Hawaii System for 12 years.

Lobaco, who has more than 20 years of experience in fund development, serves as associate director of philanthropy at The Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i where she is responsible for funding of the Palmyra Program. Her career includes senior development positions with both Hawaii- and California-based organizations including Para Los Niños, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Bet Tzedek Legal Services and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.

Patterson’s career spans nearly 30 years working in various capacities within corrections facilities in Hawaii and Nevada. He currently is administrator of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, responsible for management and operations. Patterson’s career also includes senior positions at Hawaii Women’s Community Correctional Center and the Halawa Correctional Facility.

NHLC’s board also includes:

· Puanani Burgess (NHLC Board President), a community development consultant;

· Roy Catalani (NHLC Board Vice President-External Affairs), an attorney and vice president at Young Brothers;

· Walter Mehe'ula Heen, a retired attorney and Associate Judge of the Hawai'i Intermediate Court of Appeals from 1981 to 1994;

· Mike Hodson, a retired County of Hawai‘i police officer and current farmer on Hawaiian Homestead lands;

· Jon Matsuoka, CEO of the Consuelo Foundation;

· Robert Merce, (NHLC Board Vice-President-Internal Affairs), a retired attorney; and

· Teresa Tico, an attorney and filmmaker.



Long-awaited Hearing on East Maui Water Rights Underway


State Has Failed to Protect Ceded Lands at Pohakuloa

On Friday, December 12, 2014 at 3:00 PM, Circuit Court Judge Gary Chang will consider arguments in his courtroom regarding the State's failure to protect public trust ceded lands at Pōhakuloa. Clarence Ching and Mary Maxine Kahaulelio, represented by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, filed a motion for summary judgment asking the Court to conclude that the State breached its trust obligations by failing to ensure that the military complies with the conditions of its lease at Pōhakuloa. They also ask the Court to bar the State from negotiating the extension of the existing lease, which expires in 2029, or entering into a new lease until the State ensures that the terms of the existing lease have been satisfactorily fulfilled.

In 1964, the State agreed to lease three parcels of land at Pōhakuloa to the Federal government for military purposes. Lease conditions, however, require the military "make every reasonable effort to . . . remove or deactivate all live or blank ammunition" and to "remove or bury all trash, garbage or other waste materials." The State has done nothing to ensure that the military has complied with its promises.

To read the motion for summary judgment, click here.



2014 Native Hawaiian Community Advocate Award - Judge Walter Heen

Click here to read more about this year's Native Hawaiian Community Advocate Awardee Judge Walter Meheula Heen!

Moses Haia, Judge Heen, and his grandson Christian at the CNHA Convention on October 2, 2014.






Donation Button


Our AUW Designation Number is 72280, designate a pledge today!