The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) has agreed to enact rules that will establish and define the process it will use when it considers DNA reports submitted to prove genealogy, and thereby blood quantum, to establish one’s eligibility for a homestead lease.
This agreement came after the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) was forced to sue the DHHL for its failure to accept DNA evidence to support an application for a leasehold. NHLC filed the suit on behalf of Leighton Pang Kee, who in his application for a Hawaiian homestead lease, submitted DNA evidence to establish the identity of his natural father and thereby prove blood quantum. According to the DHHL, it denied Mr. Pang Kee’s application because the DHHL “has not made the decision whether to accept DNA test results as evidence of Hawaiian ancestory, much less the degree of certainty the Department will accept as proof of Hawaiian ancestry through DNA testing, nor does the Department possess the expertise necessary to interpret and evaluate DNA test results.”
“Creating avoidable barriers for native Hawaiians to qualify for homestead leases defeats the purpose of the HHCA,” said NHLC staff attorney Ashley Obrey. “DHHL’s agreement to pass rules about the use and treatment of DNA test results is a step in the right direction, though, and, unfortunately, long overdue.”
In Mr. Pang KEe’s case, vital records demonstrated that his mother is over 81 percent Hawaiian. But Mr. Pang Kee’s original birth certificate does not identify his birth father, who died over 30 years ago. NHLC worked with Mr. Pang Kee to obtain DNA tests and testimony from family members to establish that Mr. Pang Kee met the blood quantum requirements to qualify for a leasehold.
Mr. Pang Kee appreciates DHHL’s willingness to establish rules that will provide a road map for it and it’s beneficiaries to follow in the future.