Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Hawaiians find fault
with revised Akaka bill

Several organizations have described as "flawed" and "dangerous" the changes made to a bill granting federal recognition to Hawaiians as indigenous people.

Vicky Holt Takamine, president of the Ilioulaokalani Coalition, said: "It is very dangerous to the native Hawaiian community. We stand to lose more than we will gain."

At a news conference at the Iolani Palace yesterday, members of Ilioulaokalani Coalition, Ka Lahui Hawaii and Na Koa Ikaika o Ka Lahui Hawaii and several individual advocates expressed objections over amendments made to the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, known as the Akaka bill.

Some advocates also said the U.S. Senate did not give Hawaiians the opportunity to review or provide feedback on the changes.

One major change includes a 20-year statute of limitations to file any claims against the United States.

"It's not eliminating future claims or claims down the road. It talks about claims in existence," said Paul Cardus, spokesman for Sen. Daniel Akaka. "Sen. Akaka has made it clear that the legislation does not serve as a settlement for any claims against the United States."

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee passed the Akaka bill on April 21. It has yet to clear the Senate. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Neil Abercrombie this week.

Advocate Mililani Trask said Native Americans have the right to make claims to District Court without a 20-year limitation.

"We would not be able to address the illegal overthrow, address the breach of trust issues," Trask said in a telephone interview from New York. "We're looking at a terrible history. ... That history needs to be remedied."

Trustee Rowena Akana of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs said: "Some tribes have received federal recognition 25 years ago and still don't have all their documents for enrollment. To expect native Hawaiians to get it all together in 20 years is a great discomfort to me."

OHA trustees plan to travel to Washington, D.C., next month to discuss the changes made to the Akaka bill.

Robin Danner, president and chief executive of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, said, "We have 20 years to file claims, not to settle them.

"Wouldn't it be great to never have a deadline and have all claims open. It's also understandable that a deadline was included," said Danner.


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