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Honolulu — The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, the agency eventually settled, and has proposed rules that would allow the use of DNA evidence to prove ancestry and qualify for one of the most valuable benefits available to Native Hawaiians — land at almost no cost.

Hawaiians don’t typically fixate on how much Hawaiian blood they have when it comes to asserting ancestral identity. But blood quantum is relevant is for applying for a homestead lease. Those with at least 50 percent Hawaiian blood quantum can apply for a 99-year lease for $1 a year.

After last year’s settlement of a 2012 lawsuit, the department agreed to enact the rules. The department is now taking comments from beneficiaries about the proposed rule to allow DNA testing for proof of eligibility.

The idea of using DNA to prove ancestry conjures up commercials advertising DNA-testing kits. The testing to prove Hawaiian ancestry is more like a paternity test, said Camille Kalama, an attorney for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp.

Passed by the U.S. Congress in 1921, the homestead lease program is meant to provide economic self-sufficiency to Hawaiians by allowing them to use land to live on.

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