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Wednesday, August 23, 2000

U.S. urges
reconciliation steps

More local control among
the proposals to make amends
with Hawaiians

The proposals

By Pat Omandam

Six months after it was expected to be done, the federal government has finally released its proposed recommendations for reconciliation between the United States and native Hawaiians.

The U.S. departments of Interior and Justice released a draft report today with five recommendations on how to make amends with Hawaiians for America's involvement in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian government.

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable The report, prompted by a 1993 U.S. resolution that apologized for the overthrow and called for reconciliation, is similar to a bill before Congress that addresses the political status of Hawaiians.

"It is apparent from the comments we received during the reconciliation process that native Hawaiians continue to maintain a distinct community and desire to control their own affairs," said John Berry, assistant secretary for policy, management and budget in the Interior Department.

"As a matter of justice and equity, we believe that native Hawaiians should have self-determination over their own affairs within the framework of federal law, as do most native American tribes," said Berry, who co-chaired statewide hearings on the issue last December in Hawaii.

The draft report first calls on Congress to clarify the political status of native Hawaiians and set up a way that recognizes a government-to-government relationship with a sovereign Hawaiian government.

It also calls for the creation of an office within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to address Hawaiian issues, and it recommends that the Office of Tribal Justice maintain a continuous dialogue with Hawaiians on issues of mutual concern.

The report also urges the creation of a Native Hawaiian Advisory Commission to consult with all Interior bureaus regarding land management, resource and cultural issues that affect native Hawaiians.

Finally, the report acknowledges the role the United States has played in the history of Hawaiians and says true reconciliation for Hawaiians must be developed by all parties.

"We believe that the past history of U.S.-native Hawaiian relations affirm instances in which U.S. actions were less than honorable," said Jacqueline Agtuca, acting director of the Office of Tribal Justice, within the Justice Department.

"For justice to be served, the federal government should honor the unique relationship that exists with native Hawaiians and respond to their desire for more local control," she said.

As such, federal officials recommended that past wrongs be addressed, but not through case-by-case litigation. Rather, the Interior Department favors a more general effort that promotes the welfare of Hawaiians, respects their rights and addresses the wrongs that their community has suffered.

The two departments were not able to recommend a precise outline on how to do so, but said the executive branch, Congress, the state of Hawaii and Hawaiians must cooperate to ensure true reconciliation.

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, who introduced the 1993 apology resolution that led to this reconciliation process, said today that the release of the draft report is an important step forward in the dialogue of reconciliation, and it reflects the mana'o (thoughts) offered by the Hawaiian community.

"Of equal importance is the federal government's clear reaffirmation of the United States' special responsibility for the welfare of native Hawaiians as a native people of the United States," he said.

"The draft report's findings and recommendations underscore the importance of the federal recognition legislation we have proposed in Congress. I believe the report will further energize and unify the native Hawaiian community as we prepare for next week's hearings," he said.

Both departments are preparing a final draft and seek written comment. Responses must be received by the Interior Department within 30 days or by Sept. 22, 2000.

"Now is the time to read the plan, consider what it means and tell us your reaction," Berry said.

"I cannot emphasize enough the necessity for public input at this crucial time in native Hawaiian history."

Copies of the report have been mailed to those who provided their names and addresses at last December's public hearings. Copies will be available for review within 10 days at all Hawaii public libraries, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands offices statewide, the University of Hawaii's Hawaiian studies departments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office and at Niihau School or see the full report on the web at

Sent written comments to: Assistant Secretary John Berry, c/o Document Management Unit, Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, NW, Mailstop-7229, Washington, DC 20240. OHA will also accept written comments that will be sent to the department. Faxes may be sent to (202) 208-3230, (202) 219-1790 or (202) 219-1989.

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Proposals toward reconciliation

Recommendations from a report by the U.S. Departments of Interior and Justice for reconciliation between the U.S. government and native Hawaiians.

1. Congress should enact further legislation to clarify native Hawaiians' political status and to create a framework for recognizing a government-to-government relationship with a representative native Hawaiian body.

2. Establish an office in the Interior Department to address native Hawaiian issues, with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. The Office of Management and Budget must first approve the office, and Congress must be notified.

3. Requiring the Office of Tribal Justice to maintain a dialogue with native Hawaiians on issues of mutual concern and to continue to cooperate with Interior on these issues.

4. Creation of a Native Hawaiian Advisory Committee to consult with all bureaus within Interior that manage land in Hawaii regarding land management, resource and cultural issues.

5. Past wrongs suffered by Hawaiians must be addressed through more general efforts that promote the welfare of Hawaiians, respect their rights and address the wrongs that their community has suffered. The executive branch, Congress, the state of Hawaii and the Hawaiian people must work together to develop a process to ensure true reconciliation.

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable

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