Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Genealogy in the Court Room: State of Hawai'i v. Kuhia

This particular lawsuit involves a problem that I encounter regularly but in this case the issues have been carried to an extreme. Genealogists occasionally get "carried away" in pursuing an unobtainable objective. These objectives sometimes involve "proving" lineage to a specific ancestor in order to inherit property, join a lineage society or obtain affiliation or membership in a Native American reservation. Here is a summary of this case from the court ruling entitled as, State of Hawai'i, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Glenn Kealoha Kuhia, Defendant-Appellant.
Kuhia began actively pursing his Hawaiian genealogy after he learned about a quiet title action permitting the heirs of Mahu to claim an interest in land on Maui. In order to prove his right to intervene in that action, Kuhia embarked on a diligent search to document and prove his Hawaiian roots. Based on his research, Kuhia believed that he was not only an heir of Mahu, but also an heir of Queen Lili`uokalani. For reasons that are not clear, Kuhia's search for his genealogy also led him to believe that his father, whose death in 1960 had been classified as a suicide, had in fact been murdered. 
Kuhia's efforts to prove his Hawaiian genealogy and to assert his rights as a Native Hawaiian brought him into contact with State agencies established to assist Native Hawaiians, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs 593*593 (OHA) and the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC). It was Kuhia's confrontations with persons employed by or working under contract for these agencies that led to the charges in this case.
At the present time, we have a similar, but less dramatic, situation in our own family lines where erstwhile researchers become convinced of the accuracy of their conclusions despite a complete lack of documentary support. No amount of reasoning or request for further documentation avails in convincing the researchers that their conclusions are unsupported and inaccurate. It seems easy to dismiss these false and unverified claims as the product of some mental aberration, but unfortunately, other uninformed researchers often side with the claimant due to the persistence of the researcher in asserting the false claims.

In this particular case, the claimant, Kuhia, was both violent and threatening.
On February 2, 1999, Kuhia went to OHA's offices. Kuhia became very angry after reading Kippen's letter, and threw the letter back at Kippen. Kuhia demanded that Kippen return original genealogical documents that Kuhia claimed to have given to OHA staff on previous occasions. Kippen knew it was OHA's policy to make a copy of any original document submitted and to return the original. He also checked with OHA staff members, who all stated that any original documents submitted by Kuhia had been copied and returned to him.

Kuhia was "very upset" and "very angry" when Kippen did not satisfy Kuhia's demand for the original documents. Kuhia yelled, swore, and directed racial epithets at an OHA staff member. Kippen walked away because he could not satisfy Kuhia's demand, and Kuhia called the police. The officers arrived and tried to convince Kuhia that the dispute over the records was a civil matter. However, when Kuhia refused to leave without the records, the police arrested Kuhia for trespassing. After the February 2, 1999 incident, OHA obtained a restraining order against Kuhia.[3]
In many of the similar situations I have encountered during my years of helping patrons in Mesa and Provo, the researcher/claimant alters the presentation of their claim in response to its rejection. The same researcher will attempt to convince someone else in the library that they are correct by presenting the "facts" in a way to attempt to overcome the rejection. In some instances, these people became generally known by all of the support staff and the researchers would watch until he or she spotted a "new" staff member to make the arguments again. Although, I have not had my life threatened, I have had patrons become indignant and angry with me because I did not immediately accept their unsupported conclusions.

The rest of the Kuhia case involves a long discussion of various legal issues regarding the appeal. However, the maintenance of false or unsupported genealogical claims is a real and continuing issue. In fact, as I have recently pointed out, almost every family line that I presently show in the Family Tree ends up with unsupported and fictitious ancestors.

1 comment:

  1. And wrong lineages. Came across one for JFK linking to my Fitzgeralds of genteel Virginia. False claim and I was able to disconnect without a problem because it was 3 generations out of JFK's.