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Friday, March 31, 2000

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Charles Maxwell, head of the Hawaii Advisory
Committee, wants to make the rest of the nation
aware of what's happening with the rights of
the native people of Hawaii.

Federal rights body
asked to assess
Hawaiians’ status

The state advisory group
asks the federal panel to come
here this summer for a first-hand look

By Pat Omandam


The state's advisory group to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission has asked the independent and bipartisan panel to come to Hawaii this summer to look at ways Hawaiians can obtain political status within the federal government.

The action would raise national awareness about the plight of native Hawaiians and sovereignty, says kahu (reverend) Charles Maxwell, chairman of the Hawaii Advisory Committee. Maxwell said the request was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court's Rice vs. Cayetano decision that struck down the Hawaiians-only voting for Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees.

"To me, the Rice decision is a violation of our civil rights," Maxwell said. "I mean, that was never taken into account. ... The commissioners have to know about it. But more so, the rest of the nation has to be aware of what's happening in Hawaii."

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable Maxwell said the Rice decision poses new challenges to the enforcement of civil rights that native Hawaiians are exercising in their quest for self-determination.

The eight-member commission in December 1991 adopted a report on the Hawaiian Home Lands program by the Hawaii advisory panel that was critical of the federal and state governments for not protecting the civil rights of Hawaiians.

One of the report's 12 recommendations was that Congress find a way to let Hawaiians develop a political relationship with the federal government comparable to that of "other native peoples in the nation."

Attorney Alan Murakami, an advisory committee member, said yesterday that one problem with federal recognition was that successive executive administrations since President Jimmy Carter differed on whether Hawaiians were a race of people.

Also, he said, there was no single Hawaiian entity that the federal government could officially recognize.

Murakami said the Rice decision raises questions about the appropriateness and legality of any race-based or race-preference program, not just those for Hawaiians.

What's needed now is for Hawaiians and the community at large to forge a common strategy to counteract it, he said.

"So the commission should be here to recognize that native Hawaiians are the only indigenous group in the United States, within the boundaries of the 50 states, that has not received some opportunity for federal political recognition," Murakami said.

The involvement of the civil rights commission would not hamper the federal reconciliation process spearheaded by the U.S. departments of Interior and Justice. Officials from those agencies held hearings last December in Hawaii on how such reparations should proceed, and a draft report is expected sometime this year.

Advisory committee member David Michael Foreman said he hopes attention brought by the commission would help educate a broader cross-section of the national community on native Hawaiian issues.

"It is also our hope (that) by the time the commission is able to come to Hawaii, we'll have a proposal from the Clinton administration on reconciliation, and perhaps some action out of the congressional task force lead by Sen. (Daniel) Akaka," Foreman said.

OHA Special

Rice vs. Cayetano arguments

Rice vs. Cayetano decision

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable

E-mail to City Desk

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