Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Native Hawaiian
Education Act, due
to expire, receives
wide endorsement

Sen. Inouye says he wants
native Hawaiian children to
regain their status as a
very literate group

By Anthony Sommer


PUHI, Kauai -- More than a dozen officials of programs aimed at helping native Hawaiian students have endorsed reauthorization of the Native Hawaiian Education Act.

Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka said testimony at a U.S. Senate committee hearing yesterday at Kauai Community College echoed the sentiments of speakers at a session earlier in the day on Molokai.

Both Democratic Sens. Akaka and Daniel Inouye are members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which sponsored the hearings.

The timing of the hearings, coming right before a congressional inquiry on the U.S. government's relationship with native Hawaiians, sparked recent controversial comments aimed at Inouye by Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Mililani Trask.

Inouye made no reference to the comments but received an apology from Kamuela Aea, a native Hawaiian faculty member at the college who said he would not have received a college education had it not been for programs to help native Hawaiian students.

"I ask Sen. Inouye's forgiveness for some remarks some of the community have said," Aea told the senator.

Inouye in turn was open in his support of enhanced education programs for native Hawaiians.

He said that 150 years ago, native Hawaiian children were more literate than any ethnic group in the United States and its territories, and he intends to help restore them to that status.

He acknowledged the testimony of speakers who said native Hawaiian children currently have the highest absenteeism and dropout rates in Hawaii.

The Native Hawaiian Education Act, passed in 1988 and amended in 1994, is due to expire next year if not reauthorized. It supports 70 programs ranging from cultural education to working with the parents of at-risk native Hawaiian children.

Rep. Patsy Mink attended the hearing and said majority Republicans killed a House version of the bill this year. She predicted a tough fight to revive it.

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