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Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Bills drawn outlining
status of Hawaiians

By Pat Omandam


A federal bill on the political status of native Hawaiians, spearheaded by Hawaii's congressional delegation, will be introduced by month's end or in early July, says a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.

Meanwhile, Ka Lahui Hawaii, one of the state's largest Hawaiian sovereignty groups, has approved its own draft federal bill, which expands on the political relationship between Hawaiians and the United States.

Info BoxAkaka spokesman Paul Cardus said yesterday the delegation remains committed to introducing a Hawaiian bill this month and that the legislation is being rewritten to include feedback from the various task force working groups, which continue to provide guidance on the measure, he said.

Cardus said the delegation met Monday to review many of the suggestions and agreed to include some of them in the proposal. The changes mainly "tweak" the bill and do not change the overall framework of it, he said.

The bill recognizes that Hawaiians are the indigenous people of Hawaii and have a right to self-determination. It also creates an Office of Native Hawaiian Affairs in the Interior Department as well as an inter-agency council to review federal policy on Hawaiian issues.

"What's being proposed now will strengthen the bill and the process," Cardus said.

Because Akaka wants the White House to review the draft before it is submitted to Congress, the introduction might end up being early next month due to the long Fourth of July weekend.

"This (White House review) is to make sure the legislation can proceed and, hopefully, be received in an expedited manner. You want to make sure the White House is also OK with it," he said.

The delegation's bill, however, is not OK with Ka Lahui Lt. Gov. Kealii Gora, who complained yesterday the Akaka bill addresses only the political status of Hawaiians and doesn't tackle the other important native issues, such as land.

For example, Gora said, the legislation proposing the federal Office of Native Hawaiian Affairs as well as the interagency council isn't sufficient because it doesn't require that Hawaiians serve in those posts. Rather, there needs to be people there who understand the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and can explain to others why Hawaiians want their nation back, Gora said.

"For people to make decisions, 5,000 miles away is inappropriate -- and it is culturally inappropriate too," he said.

Among the key points of Ka Lahui's bill is that it recognizes a Hawaiian nation -- which may not be Ka Lahui, Gora says -- as the indigenous sovereign nation that has jurisdiction over its national assets, lands and natural resources. This nation also has the right to conduct trade and commercial activities based on treaties between the Hawaiian Nation and other countries -- before and after the 1893 overthrow, the bill states.

Probably the most controversial point in Ka Lahui's bill is a commitment from the United States to decolonize Hawaii through the United Nations process for non-self-governing territories. Federal recognition under the Akaka bill would help lay the groundwork for a nation-within-a-nation status. Decolonization is seen by many as an extreme move that will receive little federal support.


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