Learn more about who we are and what we do.

Scroll Down


Kīpuka Kuleana is a Hawai‘i 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to perpetuating kuleana, ahupua‘a-based natural resource management and connection to place through protection of cultural landscapes and family lands. Kīpuka Kuleana was founded in 2017 on the island of Kaua‘i by Dr. Mehana Blaich Vaughan, Dominique Leu Cordy, Tina Aiu and Jennifer Luck, four women rooted on the island of Kauaʻi.


  • Provide support to families working to keep ancestral lands by connecting them with legal, counseling and hoʻoponopono, financial, genealogy, and other resources.

  • Encourage local level, community-based natural resource management grounded in cultural approaches.

  • Assist families in organizing family trusts or other entities to continue to hold ancestral lands within the ʻohana.

  • Conduct outreach to discourage sale and development of vulnerable properties

  • Conduct genealogical, archival and Hawaiian lands research to assist families while also providing them with training to conduct their own.

  • Enhance pilina, connections to place and between area ʻohana.

  • Hold lands in trust as kīpuka, spaces of community caretaking, family reunions, workdays, cultural workshops, education and resurgence.

  • Build a community archive of knowledge of Kauaʻi lands, cultural practices, and ʻike to guide future restoration, caretaking, education, and governance.

  • Promote contemporary models of relationships to place based on kuleana.



Prior to 1850, kuleana were “plots of land given, by the governing aliʻi of an area, to an ʻohana or an individual as their responsibility without right of ownership.” (Pūkuʻi & Elbert1975)

● Under Hawaiian land tenure, families could stay and pass this land to their
descendants, even as ruling aliʻi changed, as long as they cared for it well.
● When land was privatized in 1850, less than 1% of all lands in Hawaiʻi were
awarded to Hawaiian makaʻāinana families who lived on and tended the land.
● Less than 28% of the eligible population of adult males was awarded.

Extensive information was recorded about these parcels including family and place names, information on surroundings, hydrology and cultivation. These lands are house sites, taro patches, some fish ponds or salt pans & often contain iwi.


Lands where Hawaiian families continue to care for and live on lands in the same
areas as their ancestors are increasingly rare. Those families which continue to hold
kuleana and other family lands on the north shore of Kauaʻi are finding they no longer
can due to rising property taxes tied to value, forced partitions by family members or
others who acquire one of many shares, outstanding debts and focused efforts at
acquisition by surrounding property owners.

Many families no longer own or live on their properties but continue to gather
there, fish, teach children and grandchildren, care for family parcels and surrounding
area, visit burials and seek ways to maintain presence, connection & fulfill kuleana to
their home.

Contemporary models of relationships to place based on kuleana as “authority and
obligation based in interdependence and community” (Goodyear-Kaopua 2011, 131).

IMG_6160 waioli patch2 2020.05.JPG

“We always use the word kuleana to refer to land, but kuleana is really your responsibility to that land”

Kīlauea Community Member, January 2016