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Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Group to meet on
Hawaiians’ status

By Pat Omandam


Members of a working group were expected to meet today for the first time to get feedback on federal legislation to recognize the political status of Hawaiians.

The meeting -- scheduled for today in the state Capitol auditorium -- is an opportunity for Hawaiians to clarify the relationship between the United States and Hawaiians, said member Beadie Kanahele Dawson.

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable Dawson was among 20 people who received letters from Hawaii's congressional delegation last week asking that they participate in shaping proposed legislation to be sent to Congress this session.

The working group is one of five formed to discuss the issue as part of a Hawaii congressional delegation task force led by U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka. The task force was formed as a result of the Rice vs. Cayetano ruling in February. That opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court made it unconstitutional for the state to conduct Hawaiians-only elections for Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees.

Many members of the Hawaiian community, state officials and others feel federal recognition of native Hawaiians is needed to protect programs, services and assets for Hawaii's native people.

"I feel quite passionately that this is the right way, the right avenue, for the congressional delegation to move," said Dawson, an attorney who helped pushed for reforms at Kamehameha Schools.

"This is something that has been needed for a long time and the Rice decision has certainly galvanized our delegation into action," she said.

Already, the Native Hawaiian Working Group faces an immediate problem -- funding. The lack of any money to fly neighbor island members to Oahu for meetings will make it harder to accomplish their task, said member Mililani Trask, who as an OHA trustee would like the agency to foot the travel bill.

Trask, who has lobbied Congress, said yesterday the task force needs a short-form bill on federal legislation ready by early summer. It should not wait another year to submit more detailed legislation to Congress, she said.

"Nobody ever agrees on any bill that goes into the hopper," said Trask, who added every bill introduced will undergo some changes.

The priority for the working group is to send something to Congress that says Hawaiian people enjoy a political relationship with the United States, and "that we are entitled to be included in the U.S. policy for self-determination as other native Americans are," Trask said.

The other working groups will represent the White House and federal officials from agencies dealing with Hawaiians; others members of Congress; state officials; and constitutional scholars and other members of the Native American community.

'Call the Capitol'
with comments

Native Hawaiian issues will be the focus of Friday's "Call the Capitol" weekly television program sponsored by the state House of Representatives.

State Reps. Ezra Kanoho (D, Lihue), Sol Kaho'ohalahala (D, Lanai) and Emily Auwae (R, Makaha) will be on hand to discuss Hawaiian issues with the public during the live, 60-minute program.

House Vice Speaker Marcus Oshiro will moderate this show.

"Call the Capitol" is aired live on Oahu on Oceanic Cable Channel 54. The public is invited to contact participants at 586-8173, fax 1-800-535-3859 or email:

The program is also streamed lived on the Internet:

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable

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