The majority have spoken: Hawaiians deserve self-determination
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs welcomes the scrutiny the Star-Bulletin calls for in reviewing a poll on Hawaiian issues (Our Opinion, Sept. 7).
The poll was conducted for OHA by Ward Research, a professional polling company. Pollsters spoke via telephone with 380 residents, and the sample is representative of the Hawaii population by age, ethnicity and island of residence.
As the Star-Bulletin editorial reports, the poll found widespread support for federal recognition proposed in the Akaka Bill. This tracks with previous scientific polls, and counters the unscientific "push polls" used by opponents of federal recognition who claim the majority of residents oppose the Akaka Bill.
The scientific poll shows an overwhelming majority of residents in Hawaii do not agree with conservative critics who say Hawaiians are a race, not an indigenous, native people.
A clear majority believe Hawaiians have a right to make decisions about their land, education, and health, cultural and traditional practices.
This poll found overwhelming support of federally funded programs for Hawaiians. And a clear majority agree that organizations like Kamehameha Schools, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and OHA should be protected from litigation through federal recognition.
Fifty-one percent of those surveyed support the formation of a governing entity, a number that tracks with previous scientifically conducted polls.
The Star-Bulletin's assertion that the results from that question "might do more damage than help" misses the point. And comparing this poll question to the "push polls" conducted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is undeserved.
Getting a majority of Hawaii residents to support a Hawaiian governing entity speaks volumes in light of the barrage of misinformation being spewed by the Grassroot Institute and its well-financed army of critics both here and in Washington, D.C.
The 51 percent shows that more than half of Hawaii residents don't buy into the "big lies" and "propaganda" from anti-Akaka critics that the Akaka Bill will bring secession, land grabs and gambling, or that it will restrict civil rights of non-Hawaiians and eliminate taxes paid by Hawaiians and their businesses.
OHA fully understands that there's much work to do in allaying the fears in our community fanned by these fear mongers of misinformation. We know some in our community want to know the details of what the entity will bring once it is formed, following the passage of the Akaka Bill.
Some ask why those details can't be provided now, before the bill is passed.
The answer is simple: No one can define the governing entity until the democratic process begins with the election of representatives who will ultimately design the form of this entity. Other native people, such as the Alaska Natives, created corporations. American Indians adopted nation-within-a-nation models. Native Hawaiians will design and adopt a model appropriate to native Hawaiians.
The bottom line is that an overwhelming majority of residents support federal recognition of Hawaiians.
Yes, the Star-Bulletin correctly points out that OHA is concerned that the recently revamped Hawaii State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will vote against the Akaka Bill in an effort to derail the legislation in Washington.
The committee is composed of members from the Grassroot Institute and those who litigate against Hawaiians, such as H. William Burgess, along with others who have signed anti-Akaka Bill petitions.
We don't believe this committee reflects the majority view of the residents of Hawaii, as evidenced in not only this latest poll but in previous scientifically conducted polls.
All of Hawaii should be concerned, as there are pressing civil rights issues for this HSAC to tackle rather than be manipulated by the Washington, D.C., USCCR.
Haunani Apoliona is chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.