KA LAHUI HAWAII POSITION ON THE AKAKA BILL— Initial Release October 12, 2009
Ka Lahui Hawai`i Working Group Opposes H.R. 2314 and S. 1011 – Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009
The Ka Lahui Hawai`i Working Group declares its opposition to H.R. 2314 and S. 1011 – Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009, otherwise known as the Akaka bill. Since its inception in 1987, Ka Lahui Hawai`i has continuously advocated for federal recognition, however there are serious concerns with the process and current version of this bill.
Lack of Hearings in Hawai`i
First, the Ka Lahui Hawai`i Working Group objects to the lack of hearings in Hawai`i. This measure is one of the most important bills pending before Congress since Statehood in 1959. It will undeniably have a significant impact on Hawai`i and on the programs for education, employment, health, and housing that benefit Native Hawaiians. Nevertheless, hearings in Hawai`i haven’t been conducted since the bill was first introduced in 2000. Hearings on these bills should be conducted throughout the islands. The bill has also changed dramatically since the original version nearly a decade ago.
Starting Point Should Be Version of Bill that Received Hearings in 2000
Since the Hawai`i Federal delegation insists on advancing a bill without conducting hearings in Hawai`i, the appropriate starting point would be the version that received hearings in 2000. Even though Ka Lahui Hawai`i raised numerous concerns with the process and that measure, at least hearings were held on that bill providing an opportunity for many to testify before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs & House Committee on Resources.
Ka Lahui Hawai`i Draft Legislation Submitted in 2000 and 2001 Should Be Revisited
In response to the concerns raised to the process and previous drafts of the Akaka bill, Ka Lahui Hawai`i prepared and submitted its own draft legislation. The Ka Lahui Hawai`i draft legislation came directly out of the Ho`okupu a Ka Lahui Hawai`i, or Ka Lahui Hawai`i Master Plan unveiled in 1995 and disseminated extensively throughout the Hawaiian community both here and on the continent. Ka Lahui Hawai`i’s draft legislation asserted that the goals of the Congressional policy and recognition include but are not limited to the following:
- the resolution of historic claims relating to the overthrow, State and Federal misuse of native trust lands and resources, violations of human and civil rights, and federally held lands and resources, and
- the structuring of a new relationship between the Hawaiian Nation and the United States which acknowledges the rights of native Hawaiians and their descendants, including our right to self-determination.
Ka Lahui Hawai`i’s draft legislation also delineated the essential elements of “Reconciliation” with the United States, which shall include but not be limited to the following:
- Express termination of the United States policy of non-recognition of Native Hawaiian self-determination including repudiation of United States policy of State wardship.
- Federal recognition of the Hawaiian Nation as the indigenous sovereign Hawaiian Nation and federal recognition of the jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Nation over its national assets, lands and natural resources.
- Federal programs, legal and fiscal entitlements, tax benefits, reparations and other obligations to be negotiated.
- Recognition of the Hawaiian Nation’s sovereign rights to trade and commercial activities based on treaties between the Hawaiian Nation and other sovereigns – before and after the overthrow.
- A commitment to decolonize Hawai`i through the United Nations process for non-self-governing territories.
More importantly, Ka Lahui Hawai`i’s draft legislation included provisions for land, natural resources and cultural resources including but not limited to:
- an inventory and segregation of Ceded lands, Hawaiian Home lands and federally controlled lands,
- the allocation of no less than 2 million acres of these lands to the National Land Trust, and
- the inclusion of submerged lands, water, energy, minerals, airspace, and traditional and cultural resources, as well as the trust assets of the private trusts for their protection from State and Federal action.
Fundamental Flaws Raised by the Native Hawaiian Bar Association Should Be Addressed
The Native Hawaiian Bar Association has raised significant concerns that require consideration. The first concern is the exclusion of the U.S. Department of Defense as it relates to the Office for Native Hawaiian Relations and the Native Hawaiian Interagency Coordinating Group. The second concern is the insertion of a provision authorizing the designation of a U.S. Department of Justice representative as included in previous versions of the Akaka bill. The final concern involves claims and sovereign immunity. The Native Hawaiian Bar Association believes it is unnecessary and premature to include provisions on claims and sovereign immunity prior to federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian Government and recommend that those provisions under section 8(c) be removed. The Native Hawaiian Bar Association further asserts that the bill’s provisions on claims and federal sovereign immunity appear to be overly broad. These concerns with the current version of the Akaka bill should be given serious consideration.
The Process for the Reorganization of the Native Hawaiian Governing Entity Is Flawed
The process for the reorganization of the Native Hawaiian Governing Entity has the following problems. First, the inclusion of the US continental population in this process will give the largest number of delegate seats to Oahu (for urban Hawaiians) and second largest number to the US continent comprised of Hawaiians with no real current background in Hawai`i and no stake in the outcome. The other islands will have very few seats because of their low population count compared to the total number of Hawaiians in the US. Secondly, homesteaders have power because of their several association chapters, but this will mean nothing because every homestead will be smaller in number than the surrounding area. For example, Papakolea has a homestead, but they will not elect any delegate because they are part of Honolulu and outnumbered by Hawaiians who reside outside of Papakolea. Finally, a good constitution must include all things Hawaiian. The rural Hawaiians practice their culture and know traditional and customary practices, such as fishing. They will not be provided adequate representation because they will be outnumbered by the urban Hawaiians who lack such knowledge about the land and resources. The governing document will be written by the delegates with the largest numbers and reflect their values and background, not necessarily those of the Hawaiian peoples and culture.