Published On: Thu, May 12th, 2011

Senate Committee approves Native Hawaiian bill

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

                Native Hawaiians are one step closer to having a government-to-government relationship with the federal government thanks to a bill (S. 675) that just passed through a Senate Committee.  The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2011 recently passed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and is now on the Senate calendar. 

                Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the committee, introduced the legislation.  “Two decades ago, the United States apologized to Native Hawaiians for its participation in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and committed to a process of reconciliation.  This bill is the necessary next step in that reconciliation process.” 

                The bill states in part, “this Act provides a process within the framework of Federal law for the Native Hawaiian people to exercise their inherent rights as a distinct, indigenous, native community to reorganize a single unified Native Hawaiian governing entity for the purpose of giving expression to their rights as a native people to self-determination and self-governance.”

                 Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) commented, “This measure begins a process of establishing a government-to-government relationship between the U.S. and the native people of Hawaii….federal recognition for the Native Hawaiian people is long overdue.” 

                But, not everyone is thrilled at the idea of the bill.  David M.K. Inciong is a Native Hawaiian and member of the Hawaiian Independence Action Alliance.  He calls the bill “repugnant” and in a recent statement said the bill is “railroading native Hawaiians into a nefarious U.S. hostage box.”

                Inciong goes on to say, “We do not desire to be on equal footing with American Indians under the Department of the Interior nor subjected to its paternalistic practices.”

                Sen. Akaka’s bill has a similar bill going through the House of Representatives that was introduced by Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirano (D-HI).  “I will be reaching out to the many new members (of the House) who are not familiar with Hawaii’s history and do not know Native Hawaiians had their own sovereign nation, with their own language, culture, religion and traditional economy.” 

                 The House bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.   This marks the seventh time that a bill has been introduced into Congress on the issue.  Most recently, in 2010, bills were passed by committees in the House and Senate, but never made it to the floor for a vote. 

                Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie has lent his support to the bills.  “This measure is long overdue as enabling legislation allowing Native Hawaiians and the State of Hawaii to resolve outstanding issues fairly and comprehensively.”

To view the entire bill, click below:

S675

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