A Fine Folk Art Protected By Legislation
In 2004, the House of Representatives unanimously approved H.B. No. 2569 which prohibits the sale of “seashell items” with a description or label using the term “Ni‘ihau” or “Niihau” unless 100 percent of the shells are from the island of Ni‘ihau and the item is made entirely in Hawai‘i.
Shells used to make the Ni‘ihau lei are found abundantly only on the shores of Ni‘ihau, and this legislation was intended to protect the integrity of one of the few sources of income available to the Ni‘ihau people. The terms “momi,” “kahelelani,” and “laiki” may be used to describe shells found in limited quantity on other islands, but it is illegal to apply the term “Ni‘ihau” to any of these shells.
For more information on selecting an authentic Ni‘ihau shell lei, please visit the Ni‘ihau Cultural Heritage Foundation’s website.