Hawaiians deserve federal recognition through Akaka Bill
Members of Hawaii's AJA community support self-determination for host culture
WE WANT our native Hawaiian friends and neighbors to know that their struggle for self-determination has the strong support of the Japanese-American community.
Through our experience of the wartime mass internment of our families and our decades-long struggle to win redress for this injustice, we have faced the same attacks by those who ignore historical facts.
In 1993, Congress apologized to native Hawaiians for the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and admitted taking 1.8 million acres of ceded land without the "consent of or compensation to the native Hawaiian people or their sovereign government."
The same act, Public Law 103-150, calls for a process of reconciliation, and the first step is federal recognition for native Hawaiians.
This is how a democratic nation corrects mistakes against its own citizens. Japanese-Americans have witness this process. We were the target of a racial campaign of fear in the early days of World War II. More than 110,000 Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans were taken from our homes and imprisoned for the duration of the war. Our families lost their homes and businesses.
Forty years later, Congress apologized and offered reparations to the victims of the mass internment.
Native Hawaiians have been waiting for more than 100 years. Why must they wait longer? Other indigenous peoples -- the American Indians and Alaskan natives -- already have received federal recognition.
Federal recognition will allow native Hawaiians to form a governing entity which can then negotiate with the federal and state governments on the specifics of self-governance. The Akaka Bill begins this process. This is about fairness and justice, and this is why we support the native Hawaiian cause.
The ties between our two communities are deep and long. Japanese-Americans remember what it was like when our grandparents were immigrants to the Kingdom of Hawaii. They were treated with aloha by native Hawaiians. Under the Hawaii Constitution of 1852, they were allowed to become subjects of the Kingdom with suffrage rights.
After the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893 and annexation in 1898, the U.S. government denied the privilege of becoming citizens to persons of Japanese ancestry. We did not regain that right until 1953.
We are eternally grateful to the native Hawaiians who welcomed our grandparents to their homeland, and treated them with respect and fairness. The Japanese-Americans owe a debt of gratitude to native Hawaiians. It is our privilege to stand by the native Hawaiian people and support their right to self- determination.
This essay was submitted by:
American Bar Association
Individual Rights & Responsibilities Council Member
Japanese-American Citizens League
Hawaii Government Employees Association
Veteran, Military Intelligence Service