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Man sues to prove lineage through DNA

Kee says his Native Hawaiian ancestry is sufficient to gain access to homelands

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

LAST UPDATED: 02:43 a.m. HST, Sep 27, 2012

A Molokai man has filed a lawsuit seeking to use DNA to prove his ancestry so he can qualify for the Hawaiian homelands program.

The program provides Native Hawaiians with 99-year leases at $1 per year. To qualify, an applicant must prove 50 percent Native Hawaiian ancestry. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands allows for birth certificates and other documents such as marriage and death certificates to be used as proof.

Leighton Pang Kee's lawsuit, filed this week against the department in Circuit Court, says he was adopted and that his birth certificate doesn't list his biological father.

The lawsuit contends the rules on what can be considered "documented proof" are unclear.

The department had no immediate comment.

The lawsuit "is focused on the need for DHHL to create a policy that allows for a beneficiary to submit DNA evidence to show their genealogy," said Camille Kalama, one of Kee's attorneys with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. "It's one more way of proving who your mother or father is."

Kalama said Wednesday other applicants have reached out for help when they've been denied benefits because they lack proper documentation, usually because they were born out of wedlock and their birth certificates don't list a father's name. But as far as she knows, this is the first lawsuit that seeks to use DNA.

According to the lawsuit, Kee was born in 1960 in Honolulu to a mother who is at least 81.25 percent Native Hawaiian and a father whose birth certificate shows his parents were Native Hawaiian. His father died in 1983.

Kee grew up knowing about his bloodline, Kalama said.

After Kee was deemed ineligible for homelands benefits, he found his father's brother living on homestead land in Nanakuli and obtained DNA from him. The DNA showed a 96.35 percent probability that Kee and the man were related, the lawsuit said.

Kalama noted that Kamehameha Schools allows for DNA to show ancestry. The private schools on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island give admissions preference to Native Hawaiians.

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quint34 wrote:
Awesome! Many Hawaiians have same problem.
on September 27,2012 | 05:23AM
cojef wrote:
What else is needed? What is better than a DNA evidence, it's better than birth documents that can be doctored by bribes and other emolluments.
on September 27,2012 | 06:05AM
allie wrote:
It has come down to cashing in on the phony issue of "blood" sad stuff
on September 27,2012 | 06:42AM
8082062424 wrote:
what makes you native american? could it be your blood line?
on September 27,2012 | 08:01AM
elijahhawaii3 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on September 27,2012 | 03:44PM
MoTown808 wrote:
stop it! you're insulting mahus.
on September 27,2012 | 04:29PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Many haoles that come to Hawaii from the mainland are jealous of benefits afforded to Hawaiians only. They talk about the constitution and say how unfair and racist it is to give hawaiians preference to anything.The truth is... they are the racists,really just hawaiian haters that won't be satisfied until Hawaiians have nothing left and everything has been taken from them.. Most people born and raised in Hawaii, whether hawaiian blood or not understand and support OHA and DHHL policies to help native hawaiians because they know it's the right thing to do, the least we can do after what the US has done to them.
on September 27,2012 | 05:24PM
LanaUlulani wrote:

Kudos to the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. This may set a precedent for mixed breeds like me and considering that DHHL is now a commercial real estate land developer instead of what they are legally mandated to this move is very promising. MAHALO.

on September 27,2012 | 08:06AM
MoTown808 wrote:
what's the relevance between mixed breeds and DHHL's commercial leasing to provide program funds?
on September 27,2012 | 04:30PM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Just go to Kamehameha Schools and see how bad it can get. If you see their student body, you would swear that many of them are actually white and do not show much Hawaiian in them. While many Hawaiian children struggle to get in to this school a lot of Asians and Caucasian children are in. These children take the seats that these Hawaiian children as supposed to have. It makes me question how this school selects their students. Kamehameha Schools is supposed to be for the Hawaiian children. But it is about who you know.
on September 27,2012 | 08:31AM
BigOpu wrote:
KSBE would love to do nothing better then to school ALL children of Hawaiian ancestry, but from a financial point of view, it aint happening. They are putting up a valiant effort by opening up other campuses on neighbor islands, outreach programs into the public school system, and scholarships for college. No other school is doing as much. I don't know if I'll get it, but if I qualify, they may give me some money to offset my kids private schooling. So though my kids may not be fortunate enough to attend Kapalama, they may still get benefits from KSBE, and I appreciate any help they can give me. As a Native, utiliize the resources that they are offering instead of putting the school down. Good fortune is not going to just fall in our hands, most people have to seek it out. ...Oh btw, I agree with DNA proof. I hope DHHL considers this to be viable.
on September 27,2012 | 09:00AM
Shh wrote:
So true! Really sad. I bet it is very frustrating for many of the Hawaiian families struggling to get their children into Kamehameha School and yet you see many of the kids there that do not look like they are Hawaiian taking a seat that could of been for the Hawaiian child. You wonder how the haole child got in and why your child did not.
on September 27,2012 | 09:01AM
8082062424 wrote:
The island is split into districts each area has a certain amount of slots for kids in that area. Kids take a test and also a interview. after that they take the top scores and that how the slots are filled the rest go on a waiting list.. You have a better chance if you get your child in at the kindergarten level.. Three of my cousins got in the other one just never was one of the top scores for that area. she took the test twice
on September 27,2012 | 09:01AM
dontbelieveinmyths wrote:
Perhaps the school should admit students by blood quantum. The more Hawaiian you are the more priority you have for admittance.
on September 27,2012 | 11:40AM
BigOpu wrote:
I like that thought. It may be a nightmare to adminsiter or prove, but it has merit.
on September 27,2012 | 03:51PM
MoTown808 wrote:
You sound like Scott Brown in Massachusetts arguing that Elizabeth Warren is not Native American simply because she doesn't look Native Hawaiian. I don't know what rock you crawled out under, but Native Hawaiians marry and have children with non-Native Hawaiians. As a result, we have Native Hawaiians who look more Caucasian and/or Asian; they're still Native Hawaiian.
on September 27,2012 | 09:03AM
Shh wrote:
So true. I am Hawaiian as well and I am one of those parents that had a difficult time trying to get my son into Kamehameha Schools. It was very frustrating to see other children that do not look Hawaiian being accepted into Kamehameha and your child not being accepted for one reason or another. Every Hawaiian child should be able to attend no if's, what's or but's about it. I finally gave up with the system and my child graduated from a public school instead. I was very disappointed that my son could not go to Kamehameha but I eventually got over it and now he is attending college. This past semester he received straight A's and he applied for the KSBE scholarship and was denied scholarship. I really can't understand why I am having such a difficult time getting my son the Hawaiian benefits that he deserves. I will be looking elsewhere for scholarships to help him through college..
on September 27,2012 | 09:12AM
wakempe wrote:
So I guess the issue here is not really blood quantum but physical appearance. Hawaiians fighting Hawaiians again. Its no wonder that HAWAIIANS as a whole don't make progress.
on September 27,2012 | 01:08PM
MoTown808 wrote:
on September 27,2012 | 04:35PM
MoTown808 wrote:
This is ridiculous. Attending Kamehameha Schools is not an entitlement. As Native Hawaiians, we are not born with a right to attend that school. I'm Native Hawaiian and smart enough to know that statistically, my children will have an easier time being admitted into other private schools. If you truly want your child to have a private school education, apply them to schools where the statistics are more in your child's favor. If you do not do this and instead apply your child only to Kamehameha Schools, then YOU (not Kamehameha) has failed your child if s/he is not admitted there.
on September 27,2012 | 04:35PM
iwanaknow wrote:
I wish Kam School would give more college scholarship the longer you stay in college and progress towards graduation within a 4 year limit. Our kids graduated from Kamehameha (2006 and 2008) and they looked haole............both graduated from Mainland Universities (one in 2008 and the other this Spring)......we hope that one day they will return to Hawaii nei................Imua Kamehameha!
on September 28,2012 | 10:23AM
wakempe wrote:
What does a 50% Hawaiian suppose to look like? Stop stereotyping.
on September 27,2012 | 01:12PM
popaa wrote:
I have three sons who are part asian, parer hawaiian and part caucasian. Two look asian and one looks Hawaiian. Same blood. So you really can't go by looks alone.
on September 27,2012 | 03:38PM
silvangold wrote:
UNFORTUNATELY, I have to agree with 'nodddynotthebelt' ..... I am married in to Hawaiian ...... but I know the whole process is so pittiful it actually hurts! and THATS when you're LEGALLY Hawaiian!
on September 27,2012 | 09:00AM
entrkn wrote:
I would think that DNA testing would be the best and most reliable means of authenticating ancestry and lineage...
on September 27,2012 | 09:42AM
Papakolea wrote:
Can anyone enlighten me on the criteria for getting a homestead? Is it strictly blood line? It seems unfair if you have someone with 50% ancestry but they have $500,000 in the bank and you have someone with 49.9% who is living paycheck to paycheck.
on September 27,2012 | 11:04AM
MoTown808 wrote:
What would be unfair here? The person living paycheck-to-paycheck probably couldn't afford a down payment on a house and would likely have more difficulty making mortgage payments on the house.
on September 27,2012 | 04:37PM
2_centz wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on September 27,2012 | 11:08AM
MoTown808 wrote:
If you read closely, the article indicates that Kee may be 60-something percent Native Hawaiian. His mother is 81.25% and his father is potentially a minimum of 50% (the dad's brother is a DHHL leasee). From his mother Kee gets 40.625% and a potential minimum of 25% from his dad for a total of 65.625%
on September 27,2012 | 04:40PM
2_centz wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on September 27,2012 | 08:10PM
MoTown808 wrote:
Who Kee's paternal uncle is, is not moot. If Kee's supposed uncle is his father's full-brother, and his uncle is a homestead lessee, then the presumption is that Kee's own father is at a minimum of 50% Native Hawaiian ancestry. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the DHHL application process, but because I am on the waitlist, I have some familiarity with it. Kee's paternal uncle's genealogy could be used to show Kee's own eligibility to the program.
on September 28,2012 | 12:29PM
popaa wrote:
Hey DHHL, this is the 21st century. Get with it.
on September 27,2012 | 02:11PM
MoTown808 wrote:
DHHL could "get with it" if the state adequately funded it as mandated by the Hawaii Constitution.
on September 27,2012 | 04:41PM
popaa wrote:
How much money would it take to have a policy to recognize dna as a legitimate way of establishing blood lines???
on September 27,2012 | 05:05PM
MoTown808 wrote:
Who is going to pay for DNA samples to be authenticated then processed?
on September 28,2012 | 12:30PM
sunnyd808 wrote:
Good for him! At least he knows his bloodline and where he comes from. I hope he wins this!
on September 27,2012 | 03:18PM
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