Published On: Thu, Jun 19th, 2014

Interior considers procedures to reestablish a Government-to-Government Relationship with the Native Hawaiian Community

WASHINGTON — In response to requests from the Native Hawaiian community, Hawaii’s congressional delegation and state leaders, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Wednesday, June 18 a first step to consider reestablishing a government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community.

The purpose of such a relationship would be to more effectively implement the special political and trust relationship that currently exists between the Federal government and the Native Hawaiian community. Today’s action, known as an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), provides for an extensive series of public meetings and consultations in Hawaii and Indian Country to solicit comments that could help determine whether the Department develops a formal, administrative procedure for reestablishing an official government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community and if so, what that procedure should be.

“When I met with members of the Native Hawaiian community last year during my visit to the state, I learned first-hand about Hawaii’s unique history and the importance of the special trust relationship that exists between the Federal government and the Native Hawaiian community,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Through this step, the Department is responding to requests from not only the Native Hawaiian community but also state and local leaders and interested parties who recognize that we need to begin a conversation of diverse voices to help determine the best path forward for honoring the trust relationship that Congress has created specifically to benefit Native Hawaiians.”

Over many decades, Congress has enacted more than 150 statutes that specifically recognize and implement this trust relationship with the Native Hawaiian community, including the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, the Native Hawaiian Education Act, and the Native Hawaiian Health Care Act.  The Native Hawaiian community, however, has not had a formal governing entity since the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.  In 1993, Congress enacted the Apology Resolution which offered an apology to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for its role in the overthrow and committed the U.S. government to a process of reconciliation.  In 2000, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice jointly issued a report on the reconciliation process that identified self-determination for Native Hawaiians under Federal law as their leading recommendation.

The ANPRM, available on the Federal Register, outlines the following five threshold questions that will be the subject of the forthcoming public meetings regarding whether the Federal Government should reestablish a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community:

  • Should the Secretary propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community?
  • Should the Secretary assist the Native Hawaiian community in reorganizing its government, with which the United States could reestablish a government-to-government relationship?
  •  If so, what process should be established for drafting and ratifying a reorganized Native Hawaiian government’s constitution or other governing document?
  • Should the Secretary instead rely on the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian government through a process established by the Native Hawaiian community and facilitated by the State of Hawaii, to the extent such a process is consistent with Federal law?
  • If so, what conditions should the Secretary establish as prerequisites to Federal acknowledgment of a government-to-government relationship with the reorganized Native Hawaiian government?

The Department will be engaging in an extensive series of public meetings throughout the State of Hawaii and in Indian Country to solicit comments and feedback on whether and how the process of reestablishing a government-to-government relationship should move forward.  These meetings will be held in Hawaii and the continental United States.

– DOI

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