Hawai'i: The Mahele
Hawai'i's land Divisions and the Hawaiian Terms for them

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This website will introduce you to land division terminology in Hawaii. The Hawaiian people value land, making it very important to know your homeland. According to Hawaiian culture, the definition of one’s homeland is different and very detailed compared to the English definition. A person needs to identify their birthplace; the island (mokupuni), district (moku), small division (ahupua’a), and the sub-division (‘ili). This lesson will teach you to distinguish between the terms of mokupuni, moku, ahupua’a and ‘ili.

Land Tenure in Hawaii - Mahele

The definition is the change of land tenure from a communal tenure to private ownership. The definition of the word mahele is interpreted differently as “divide” and “to share” by the Western people and the Hawaiian people, respectively

Communal Tenure - Communal tenure gave all people access to the land, where the chief managed the land and the commoners worked the land. The idea of sharing resources was common under this type of tenure.

Private ownership - Private ownership of land was a foreign concept to Polynesian people, where chiefs and commoners privately owned title to the land.

There are various views of this Great Mahele of 1848. Seek further reading from Kuykendall, Kelly, Chinen, Cannelora, and Levy.