Akaka bill gets
week of lobbying

Gov. Lingle hopes
to tap GOP for native
Hawaiian recognition

By Richard Borreca

WASHINGTON >> The quest for native Hawaiian recognition starts anew as Hawaii's leaders come to town to focus attention on a bill to give Hawaiians parity with other indigenous people.

Resolving the problem will take the agreement of not only the U.S. House and Senate, but also President Bush.

At issue is a bill first introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka that would provide for federal recognition of a native Hawaiian government. Federal regulation or involvement with American Indians, Alaska natives and Hawaiians would be considered equal.

"This bill does not establish entitlements or special treatment for native Hawaiians based on race," Akaka said.

The bill instead would extend the policy of self-determination and self-governance to native Hawaiians, he said.

Added to the mix this year is a concerted lobbying effort by Gov. Linda Lingle, who, as Hawaii's first Republican governor in 40 years, hopes to move the bill along by tapping GOP sources in Washington.

Two years ago, the bill had passed the GOP-controlled House and appeared poised for passage in the Senate and a promised approval by former President Clinton, when the measure was attacked by conservative Republicans who said the bill was a "race-based" preference.

On her first trip to Washington as governor, Lingle met last week with Attorney General John Ashcroft and Rep. Tom Cole (D-Okla.), a personal friend who is part American Indian.

Yesterday said she was encouraged by her meetings and was told by Cole that the Hawaiian bill stood "a good chance" this year.

Also pressing for a victory this year is the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which has designed the sovereignty bill as a priority.

OHA chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said she is also encouraged that Lingle is adding her weight to the effort.

"Having our governor participate is a very important demonstration that not only as a Republican ... but as chief of state, she is saying this is something that is important to the whole state," Apoliona said.

She leads a contingent from OHA to Washington this week to appear along with Lingle at a special Senate hearing on the Hawaiian recognition bill and also to open a full-time office in Washington to lobbying.

"Resources and efforts have been dedicated to start a concerted effort for the bill," Apoliona said.

To that end, OHA has budgeted $120,000 for the annual cost to rent and staff the Washington office. It will be staffed by Martha Ross, a former OHA operations director and chief of staff to Apoliona.

"We have a great unity of purpose now with this," Ross said.

Previously, the lobbying for the recognition bill had been left to Hawaii's four-person congressional delegation, but now some of that responsibility can be shared with the OHA field office.

"I think they are very glad to have other people helping out," Ross said.

Lingle is also getting some help in her lobbying effort from Robin Puanani Danner, president of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, which provides support services and training for Hawaiian groups hoping to get federal grants.

Danner, who worked with American Indian groups, is a important contact to help lobby Congress, according to Lingle.

OHA's Washington office will be dedicated tomorrow. Lingle and Hawaii's congressional delegation are expected to attend.

On Tuesday, Lingle and OHA trustees will testify before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Hawaii's Dan Inouye is the ranking Democrat on the committee.

"It is ironic that all 49 states have recognition of indigenous people, but it has yet to be extended to Hawaiians," Apoliona said.

"Our message is about education, logic and history -- we are a vibrant culture that has not died," she said.

Sen. Daniel Akaka
Office of the Governor
Office of Hawaiian Affairs

E-mail to City Desk


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