Following the Māhele ‘Āina, there was a growing movement to fence off land areas and control access to resources which native tenants had traditionally used. By the 1860s, foreign land owners and business interests petitioned the
Crown to have the boundaries of their respective lands—which were the foundation of plantation and ranching interests—settled. In 1862, the King appointed a Commission of Boundaries (the Boundary Commission), whose task it was to collect traditional knowledge of place, pertaining to land boundaries, customary practices, and determine the most equitable boundaries of each ahupua‘a that had been awarded to Ali‘i, Konohiki, and foreigners during the Māhele. The commission proceedings were conducted under the courts and as formal actions under the law. As the commissioners on the various islands undertook their work, the kingdom hired or contracted with surveyors to begin the surveys, and in 1874, the Commissioners of Boundaries were authorized to certify the boundaries for lands brought before them (W.D. Alexander in Thrum 1891:117-118).
Primary records in this collection from Lāna‘i were recorded between 1876 to 1891. The records include testimonies of elder kama‘āina who were either recipients of kuleana in the Māhele, holders of Royal Patent Land Grants on the island, or who were the direct descendants of the original fee-simple title holders. The narratives that follow include several sources of documentation. There are examples of the preliminary requests for establishing the boundaries; letters from the surveyors in the field; excerpts from surveyor’s field books (Register Books); the record of testimonies given by native residents of Lāna‘i; and the entire record of the Commission in certifying the boundaries of each ahupua‘a on Lāna‘i. The resulting documentation covers descriptions of the land, extending from ocean fisheries to the mountain peaks, and also describe traditional practices; land use; changes in the landscape witnessed over the informants’ life time; and various cultural features across the land.
The native witnesses usually spoke in Hawaiian, and in some instances, their testimony was translated into English and transcribed as the proceedings occurred. Other testimonies from Lāna‘i have remained in Hawaiian, untranslated, until development of this manuscript. Translations of the Hawaiian language texts below were prepared by Kepā Maly as a part of this research project.