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Pai Ohana faces eviction from National Park

By Bobby Command
West Hawaii Today
January 30, 1997

Members of a Native Hawaiian family who claim a section of a national parkin Kona is their ancestral land have been told by park officials to leavenow or be evicted.

The Pai Ohana was notified in writing by Stanley T. Albright, fielddirector for the Department of the Interior, "immediately" to leave Aiopio,southernmost portion of Kaloko-Honokohau National Cultural Park where theynow reside.

"If the Pai Ohana does not promptly an completely vacate federal land, thefamily will be evicted and their possessions will be removed," read ahand-delivered letter dated Jan.27.

Mahealani Pai, spokesman for the Pai Ohana, confirmed that the family hadreceived the eviction notice on Wednesday. However, he said the family hasreasserted its right to remain on land he says his ancestors have beencaretakers of since the I7OOs. "Why should we?" Pai said. "What would youdo?"

The eviction notice comes about six weeks after an agreement had seeminglybeen finalized by the Pai Ohana and state and federal government;officials. The pact had called for the family to he relocated on state landjust outside the park boundaries and adjacent to the area they now occupy.

In December, U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye announced that Bruce Babbitt,secretary of the interior, had agreed to put off the eviction while finalrelocation details were worked out with the state.

But Albright said Wednesday that the eviction notice was issued to thefamily because the Pai Ohana had abandoned the negotiations.

Because of the recent actions of the Pai Ohana, Inouye said he could not,in good conscience, ask Babbitt for any more special consideration. "WhileI am disappointed with the decision of the Pai Ohana, I wish Mahealani andhis family Godspeed."

Pai now says he has evidence that proves the United States is preventedfrom holding fee-simple title in the Hawaiian Islands by existing treaties.Pai said he would elaborate further this morning during a 10 a.m. pressconference at Aiopio.

The Pai Ohana and the Interior Department have been at an impasse about thefamily's right to remain at Aloplo since 1993, when a federal use permitexpired. The Pai family agreed to the permit in 1988, when Kaloko-Honokohauwas purchased by the U.S. government from the Greenwell family.

Pai has consistently argued that the family does not need permission tolive at Aloplo because it has an inextinguishable right to be on thefive-acre plot.

But National Park officials counter that the family is seeking exclusiveuse of public lands.

The Pai Ohana has already lost two federal court battles in its efforts toremain on the land, which is just north of the mouth of Honokohau SmallBoat Harbor.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the Interior Department theauthority to evict the Pai Ohana in May 1996. Park officials have calledoff seven eviction threats since the Pai Ohana's use permit expired.

According to Holly Bundock of the National Park Service's San Franciscoregional office, negotiations between the Pai Ohana and governmentofficials have broken down because the family will not keep its commitmentto relocate peacefully.

"The Pai's have stated in a letter to (President Clinton) that they holdexclusive title to nearly 60 acres of federal land within the park and thatany federal personnel who attempt to remove them 'will be heldaccountable,"' Bundock said.

Pai said his family remains stead-fast despite the National Park Service"banking on might makes right" to evict them. "The land of my ancestorscontinues to speak to me and give me and my family guidance through thislong struggle with the National Park Service," Pai said.

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