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View Point

By Rowena N.M, Akana

Saturday, July 22, 2000

Hawaiians must
be protected

RECENTLY, I spent two weeks in Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress and the White House. My objective was to sensitize them to the issues that are affecting Hawaiians.

I shared the history of Hawaiians as well as the climate resulting from the unfavorable Rice vs. Cayetano decision in the U.S. Supreme Court. The people with whom I met were interested and sympathetic toward Hawaiians.

It was apparent to them that Hawaiians are faced with an emergency requiring immediate attention. After the appointments, it was clear to me that the Hawaiian race, its future and Hawaiian programs and services, must be protected.

At the forefront of addressing these pertinent issues is legislation that Hawaii's congressional delegation has introduced that recognizes Hawaiians as indigenous peoples who have a trust relationship with the United States, and holding a right to self-determination.

The language in the revised draft bill is much stronger than what was first proposed, thanks to the help of astute working groups. These groups thoroughly reviewed this bill to remove the potential for a constitutional challenge.

It is important to note that a constitutionally sound bill is essential to the perpetuity of this measure.

This legislation provides a process that gives the Hawaiian community input and authority to develop the entity that will serve as the principal agency charged with conducting government-to-government relations with the United States.

The Hawaiian community would have one year to develop a list ("roll") of all who can prove through their genealogical records, kupuna (elders) or birth records that they are related to Hawaiians who lived in our islands in 1893, the year that Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown.

After it has been certified, listed adults would be eligible to elect a temporary body that would be charged with creating the bylaws and constitution for the proposed governing body.

Subsequently, an election would be held to ratify these documents. Following this step, another vote would be held to determine the leaders of the governing body, as outlined and dictated by the ratified bylaws and constitution. Once that occurs, the interim council (NHIGC) is dissolved.

After the governing body leadership is elected, the next step would be providing for federal recognition and establishment of a government-to-government relationship between that body and the United States.

IN November, voters will be electing a new president of the United States. This president will be appointing at least three Supreme Court justices. There is concern that the new president may not be aligned with native peoples and, therefore, may select conservative justices, who would make the high court -- probably for the first time in its history -- an all-conservative court.

At risk are minorities, women, American indians and, certainly, Hawaiians. To date, the current conservative Supreme Court has reversed at least 20 American-Indian cases. Hawaiians cannot let the same happen to us.

There will be joint committee hearings on Indian affairs statewide on this legislation from Aug. 7-11. Hawaiians must move forward with this bill, as we might not get another chance to do so.

I encourage all Hawaiians to participate in and learn more about this important bill by attending these meetings. We Hawaiians must not be left out of the loop.

For more information about the Akaka bill, contact my office at 594-1750 or visit my website at

Rowena M.N. Akana is a trustee-at-large for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

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