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Pai Family Remains on U.S. Land, Talks Fail

By Bobby Command
West Hawaii Today
January 31, 1997

A spokesman for the Pai Ohana says talks with the National Park Servicebroke down when he discovered there was no guarantee the family would beable to stay on land where they were to be relocated.

Mahealani Pai also now asserts that the National Park Service (NPS) cannotevict his family from Kaloko-Honokohau National Cultural Park because thefederal government does not have clear title to property.

The Pai Ohana was notified by NPS on Wednesday that it was facing immediateeviction from Aiopio, a section of the National Park that contains a fishtrap and heiau, or temple. Pai maintains his family has in inextinguishableright to live there because he and his ancestors have overseen the care ofthe area for 14 generations.

On Thursday, Pai also presented documentation by Perfect Title Co. ofHonolulu that supports his position that the NPS's claim to Honokohauiki,the land division in which Aiopio is located, is null and void.

Stanley T. Albright, field director for the Department of the Interior,notified the Pai Ohana on Wednesday by hand-delivered letter to"immediately" vacate its compound just north of Honokohau Small Boat Harboror face eviction.

The notice came after an agreement had seemingly been reached between thePai Ohana, NPS, U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and a number of state agencies.It would have relocated the family onto state property adjacent to Aiopio.

However, Pai said he broke off negotiations when he discovered theagreement did not guarantee the family would be able to remain on the stateland if the pact's validity were challenged in court. Pai said it alsowould not them to return to their former home if they were removed from thestate parcel.

"It seems everything was rigged," Pai said. "If we were to move (ontostate property) and there was some kind of challenge, we would not be ableto live there, or return here."

But Bryan Harry, NPS regional director, said he believes the stateDepartment of Land and Natural Resources and the Office of Hawaiian Affairswere dealing in good faith and had worked out an agreement that wouldhave allowed the Pai Ohana to remain on the state parcel.

"It looked to me that they were offering him more than NPS," Harry said."They were saying that he could stay on the state property, and I thinkthat window is still open.

Pai says the dispute over NPS's title is a separate issue from thenegotiations, and came about after he responded to an advertisement byHonolulu from Perfect Title Co. in Ka Wai Ola 0 OHA, the newspaper of theOffice of Hawaiian Affairs.

Perfect Title Co. uses 19th Century Kingdom of Hawaii law to disputecurrent land titles. It argues that since the origin of current land titlesis based on the Great Mahele of 1848, the laws under which the Mahele wasestablished should govern those titles.

Donald Lewis, president of Perfect Title Co., said the ownership of theproperty became clouded when it was conveyed in 1895 by Francis Spencer tothe Republic of Hawaii, an act of treason under Kingdom law. Lewis saidthat means the property remains vested in the estate of Francis Spencer.

"Thus, the salient question," said Lewis, "'Can Mahealani Pai betrespassing on National Park Service land if the National Park Servicehas no title to Honokohauiki?' I think not."

Many in the real estate industry have dismissed Perfect Title's work asabsurd. Even so, the company's findings have started to cause problems inHawaii's real estate system.

Harry said the that if the Pai Ohana can make Perfect Title's claims stick,then every landowner in Hawaii stands to lose their property.

"This is a title that has been validated all the way up to a federalappeals court," Harry said.

Pai said he does not know when the NPS will try to evict his family, butadded that he believes they will stop at nothing to remove them fromAiopio. "They will do everything they can to provoke a situation," Paisaid.

Harry said that is not the case, and points out previous peaceful evictionsof other people who had lived at or near Aiopio. "The staff at Kaloko hasexercised enormous patience with the Pai's," Harry said. "Even in the faceof them demanding that maintenance people and rangers leave the park. Icouldn't imagine a more patient group of people."

Pai also said the situation has caused internal conflicts within the staffat Kaloko-Honokohau, and he has been told that local NPS workers will betemporarily be reassigned while "outsiders" are used to carry out theeviction.

Harry said that is untrue. "I don't believe that the NPS at Kaloko has thatmuch empathy for the Pai's," he said. "If we did go in, I wouldn't besurprised if we just moved their stuff onto state property."See followup article:

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