unaware of isle
The point man in WashingtonInsular Affairs director is no stranger
for native Hawaiian issues says
mainlanders don't know why
reconciliation is necessary
Hawaiian issues on agenda for fed officials' visit By Susan Kreifels
Although the Rice vs. Cayetano case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this month raised native Hawaiian issues in the national consciousness, it didn't leave mainland Americans knowing much more about the state's complex history.
That's according to the new point man in Washington for native Hawaiian issues.
Ferdinand Danny Aranza, a former Honolulu attorney and the newly appointed director of the Office of Insular Affairs under the Department of Interior, said Americans generally don't understand how the history here makes native Hawaiians unique among the country's indigenous people.
"The person on the street has no clue about the U.S. role in the overthrow," Aranza said. "They've never had an appreciation of native Hawaiians and their history."
Supreme Court justices will decide whether it is unconstitutional to restrict voters in Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee elections to people of Hawaiian ancestry.
Aranza said Americans also know very little about what federal reconciliation with native Hawaiians means -- or why it's necessary.
In 1993, Congress passed what's commonly called the apology resolution, which acknowledged and apologized to Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the participation of American citizens in the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawaii in 1893. The overthrow deprived Hawaiians of the right of self-determination, the resolution said. It urged the president to start reconciliation moves between the United Sates and native Hawaiians.
Aranza said Hawaii's higher profile brought by the Rice vs. Cayetano case makes December a good time for a visit by two federal officials who will gather ideas on the reconciliation, which is still uncharted territory.
Important visitorsThe officials, from the Interior Department and Justice Department, will meet with native Hawaiians on all the islands, including Niihau, from Dec. 4-13, Aranza said.
They will try to get some sense of how the reconciliation process should work and what native Hawaiians expect.
Aranza, who stopped in Honolulu this week on his way to Saipan, said his office for the time being is a catch-all for native Hawaiian issues. It could one day be an equivalent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
In the meantime, Aranza said he will get a special assistant on native Hawaiian issues: Ed Thompson, a part-Hawaiian who currently works for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.
OHA trustee skepticalSome native Hawaiians are skeptical about the outcome of the December visit. Clayton Hee, OHA trustee, said the meetings will provide native Hawaiians an opportunity to express concerns, but there already are volumes of studies dating back 10 years "that are still collecting dust on a shelf."
Hee's No. 1 concern is identifying native Hawaiians as native Americans, opening up federal programs for American Indians and native Alaskans to Hawaiians. Specific programs carved out for Hawaiians, Hee said, are small in comparison.
Defining native Hawaiians as native Americans should be stating the obvious, Hee said, but Congress has not moved on past bills to do so.
"Why others in Washington don't understand or choose not to is beyond me," Hee said. "There's an inability to understand that Americans illegally, through an act of war, stole the kingdom, and that the United States has a trust obligation."
'Shortchanged'Bumpy Kanahele, an activist for Hawaiian sovereignty, said not sending a State Department representative was denying an ear for those who want an independent native Hawaiian nation, an option Hawaiians were denied in the 1959 Admissions Act as well.
"We're being shortchanged going into the dialogue," Kanahele said. "If the U.S. is really going to reconcile, they have to bring in a representative for foreign affairs. By not having one here, they'll just give us something like the Indians got -- reconciliation with a reservation."
Insular Affairs directorBy Susan Kreifels
is no stranger
It takes an islander to know islanders.
That gives Ferdinand Danny Aranza an edge on his new job.
Aranza has been named the new director of the Office of Insular Affairs under the Department of Interior. He's responsible for native Hawaiian and other state issues.
Guam and the U.S. territories, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Micronesian nations also fall under his jurisdiction.
Aranza was born and grew up on Guam and later practiced law in Hawaii for six years.
"It's extremely helpful to come to this job with really an islander's perspective," Aranza said. "It's too easy when you're in Washington to do something and not think about the impact. Being an islander makes me very sensitive to that."
He also believes it improves relationships with island leaders when they negotiate "with someone who looks like them. I would like to bring more folks from the islands into the office."
Aranza and his wife, Hawaii-born Sonia Lugmao Aranza, moved to Washington so she could work for U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. He became legal counsel for Guam's congressional delegate.
Before taking his current post, Aranza -- who helped shape the Hawaiian homelands program -- worked as a deputy in Insular Affairs, then became acting director June 7.
Other issues before him: reimbursement to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan for the cost of Micronesian immigrants; developing the initial steps for federal reconciliation with native Hawaiians; the brown tree snake problem and coral reef protection; and helping the islands prepare for Y2K computer glitches.
He'll help set up a Y2K command center on Guam, "where America's day begins."
"It will be plugged into the whole White House," he said. "The first report of any problems will probably come from Guam."
Two federal officials will speak with native Hawaiians on all islands Dec. 4-13 to gather ideas on how the federal government should proceed with reconciliation.
Hawaiian issues on agenda
during fed officials' visit
The officials are John Berry, assistant secretary for Policy, Management and Budget in the Interior Department, and Mark Van Norman, director of the Justice Department's Office of Tribal Justice.
Brown-bag lunches on neighbor islands will be open to the public, but schedules are still being confirmed.
Discussions also will be held at the East-West Center on Dec. 10-11 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. The first day will focus on native Hawaiian health, education, housing, Hawaiian culture, economic development, and land and natural resources.
Each topic will be discussed by panelists for 45 minutes, followed by an hour of public comment during which speakers will be limited to three minutes.
On the second day, topics will include the reconciliation process, the political relationship with the federal government, self-determination and ceded lands.
Written testimony should be submitted by Nov. 22 to Assistant Secretary John Berry, c/o Document Management Unit, Department of Interior, 1849 C St., NW Mailstop-7229, Washington, D.C. 20240. Fax: (202) 219-1790.