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Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Report recommends Hawaiian recognition

The Justice and Interior departments say
Hawaiians should control their affairs
within a federal framework

By Pat Omandam

Native Hawaiians should have control over their own affairs within the framework of federal law, according to a final reconciliation report by two U.S. agencies.

The U.S. departments of Interior and Justice released their final report yesterday on the reconciliation process, and offered five recommendations on how the United States should make amends to Hawaiians. The reconciliation is called for under the 1993 U.S. resolution that apologized to native Hawaiians for America's involvement in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

"The report finds that native Hawaiians continue to maintain a distinct community and they should be allowed to determine their own affairs within the framework of federal law," said Jacqueline Agtuca, acting director, Office of Tribal Justice, Department of Justice.

"The federal government should honor the unique relationship that exists with native Hawaiians and respond to their needs for more local control," she said yesterday.

The departments believe Congress should enact further legislation to clarify the political status of native Hawaiians and to create a framework for recognizing a government-to-government relationship with a native governing body. Such legislation has already been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and awaits action by the Senate.

The report also recommends an office within the Interior Department to discuss native Hawaiian issues, as well as the creation of a native Hawaiian advisory commission to consult with all bureaus within Interior that manage land in Hawaii.

John Berry, assistant secretary for policy, management and budget within the Interior Department, said the report is the culmination of meetings and consultations with the Hawaiian community. Both departments held statewide hearings to gather community input in December 1999 and issued a draft report on Aug. 23.

Those who support Hawaiian independence opposed the draft report because of the impact it could have in their quest for sovereignty. "The departments note that the report is intended to apply in the domestic context in furtherance of the United States' special relationship with native Hawaiians," Berry said.

"It is not intended to have any implications for any right or duty under international law."

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka applauded the release of the final report because it "reflects the mana'o offered by the native Hawaiian community."

It sets the tone for the nation's commitment to address long-standing Hawaiian issues, he said.

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