Legal History Preservation for Hawai’i and Pacific Peoples



By Ellen-Rae Cachola, William S. Richardson School of Law Library Archives Manager

The William S. Richardson School of Law Library is working on ways to get under-heard Hawaiian and Pacific Island legal history accessible.  We are currently processing the papers of the Professor of Law Jon Van Dyke, who passed away in 2011.  Professor Van Dyke wrote the book Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawaiʻi?  In Crown Lands, he used legal resources to answer the question of who owns the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Crown Lands following the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893.  This was just one among many of  Van Dyke’s works that contributed to the foundations of Native Hawaiian, Human Rights, Environmental and Ocean Laws.

Through the support of the Hawaiʻi Council of Humanities, The University of Hawaiʻi School of Law hired a graduate student from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library Science Program, Casie Azuma, to help process the papers for preservation. She recently reflected on her experience:

“Since I started working on Jon Van Dyke collection, I am learning what he has done, and what kind of influence he had around the world with his knowledge and expertise… I am learning about his network range and influence…and who has contacted him for his expertise in each respective topic.”

Political Science undergraduate student, Kaley Vatalaro, also helps to process Van Dyke’s papers. She currently interns at the Public Defender’s office. Kaley shares:

“One of my favorite aspects about archiving the Jon Van Dyke collection is learning about the history of so many places that get very little attention in our high school history books, such as the Mariana Islands, Palau (and other islands part of the Micronesia region), Kalama Atoll, and so many more…Jon Van Dyke’s dedication to advancing the interests of indigenous peoples should never go unnoticed, which is precisely why this archiving project is so important.”

Lastly, Taylor Brack, a second year William S. Richardson School of Law student, also assists the team in processing the Van Dyke papers.  In her words:

“It has been my first experience with archiving and I have learned a lot–not just about the archiving process, but also about our beloved Professor Van Dyke and his work. I got to see all the ins-and-outs of extensive legal research and how complex, well-written books and papers can have humble beginnings on yellow legal pads or even hotel stationery. I got to see what collaboration and correspondence between two professionals looks like. So far, I have read about the development of the judiciary in the Federated States of Micronesia, the forced abdication of Queen Liliuʻokalani, and the controversy surrounding the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument which are all topics of which I had no prior knowledge. I am excited to continue learning as I complete this project.”

The Jon Van Dyke Archive is a rich resource for research in the legal history of Hawaii and other Pacific Island nations.  This collection exemplifies how people’s relationships, histories and practices influenced the unfolding of our contemporary Pacific society.

Visit the William S. Richardson School of Law Library Archives portal ( to search and browse our collection finding aids and indexes.  And, watch your inbox for a message about the launching of Jon Van Dyke Archives in February 2018.

Archival websites


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