MARCH 7, 1848


Traditionally, land in Hawai’i was owned by the gods and had never been sold. Further, the 1840 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, which established a constitutional monarchy, stated that the land belonged to its people and to be managed by the king. By 1841, however, Kamehameha III felt the pressure to offer foreigners long-term leases of land. When this did not satisfy their interests, the king, in 1845, created a “Land Commission”–a 5-member committee appointed to study the land claims of both Hawaiians & foreigners. The result was the Great Māhele, which began January 27, 1848 and ended on March 7, 1848. The Great Māhele, divided Hawaiian lands into 3 categories: Hawaiian crown lands; chiefs and managers; and commoners. The law required land claims to be filed within 2 years under the Kuleana Act of 1850. Many Hawaiians made no claim. Eventually most of the land was sold by the government of the Republic to settlers from the continental U.S. or auctioned to corporations.

  “Land Ownership--The Great Māhele,” The Hawaiian Monarchy.  Retrieved, 7/23/2022, The Great Mahele - The Hawaiian Monarchy (
Act:  Kingdom of Hawaii, 1/1848. Māhele Book. Public Domain.  

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