ABA throws its support behind Akaka Bill
The American Bar Association urged Congress yesterday to pass the controversial Native Hawaiian Recognition Act of 2005, known as the Akaka Bill, during this session.
At its midyear meeting in Chicago, the ABA voted to support passage of the legislation so that native Hawaiians could form a governing body "similar to American Indian and Alaska Native governments, enabling them to provide for the health, safety and welfare of their people."
The Akaka Bill, named for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, who introduced it, does not create a native Hawaiian government.
The measure authorizes an unspecified process that would eventually lead to the formulation of a government with the authority to interact with the U.S. government. The bill does not give the governing native Hawaiian entity explicit powers, but instead legislates these powers to be granted in the course of future, three-way agreements approved by the federal government, the state of Hawaii and the new native Hawaiian governing body.
ABA President Michael Greco said in a news release: "American Indians and Alaskan Natives have political authority to deal with the United States on a government-to-government basis."
Greco said, "Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people in our country should be afforded the right to create their own governing body. Congress needs to approve legislation now that will establish the process for native Hawaiians to do that."
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said the support of the ABA "is further evidence that the legislation, which has bipartisan support, should be brought to the floor for debate and an up-or-down vote."
Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, who has lobbied hard in Washington and here for acceptance and passage of the bill, said the ABA's support "recognizes and affirms that there's no question Congress can extend federal recognition to native Hawaiians."