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Niʻihau or Niihau (pronounced /ˈniːhaʊ/ in English and [ˈniʔiˈhɔu] in Hawaiian) is the smallest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands in the U.S. state of Hawaiʻi, having an area of 69.5 square miles (180 km2).[4] Niʻihau lies 17.5 miles (15.2 nmi; 28.2 km) across the Kaulakahi Channel, southwest of Kauaʻi. Several intermittent playa lakes provide wetland habitats for the Hawaiian Coot, the Black-winged Stilt, and the Hawaiian Duck. The island is designated as critical habitat for Brighamia insignis, an endemic and endangered species of Hawaiian lobelioid. The United States Census Bureau defines Niʻihau and the neighboring island and State Seabird Sanctuary of Lehua as Census Tract 410 of Kauai County, Hawaii. Its 2000 census population was 160;[5] As of June 2009, the population was 130.[6]

Elizabeth Sinclair purchased Niʻihau in 1864 from the Kingdom of Hawaii and private ownership passed on to her descendants, the Robinson family. During World War II, the island was the site of the Niʻihau Incident: A Japanese fighter pilot crashed on the island and terrorized its residents for a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The people of Niʻihau are known for their gemlike lei pūpū (shell lei) craftsmanship, and speak Hawaiian as a primary language. The island is generally off-limits to all but relatives of the island's owners, U.S. Navy personnel, government officials and invited guests, giving it the nickname, the "Forbidden Isle". Beginning in 1987, a limited number of supervised activity tours and hunting safaris have opened to tourists. The island is currently managed by Bruce and Keith Robinson.


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