Clash possible between
state, Akaka Bill
The matter of blood quantum could become a thorny issue for the Legislature if a bill granting native Hawaiians federal recognition is approved by Congress and becomes law, a key legislator said yesterday.
The so-called Akaka Bill, which would grant native Hawaiians the same rights of self-government enjoyed by American Indians and native Alaskans, leaves the definition of who is Hawaiian to the native governing entity that would be formed under provisions of the bill.
However, the 1920 federal Hawaiian Homes law provides that a person must have 50 percent Hawaiian blood to qualify for homestead leases. And there is a general belief that the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands would be folded into the new native government.
This is cause for concern for state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, who raised those concerns yesterday at a briefing for her committee and the House Hawaiian Affairs Committee by Attorney General Mark Bennett, Hawaiian Homes Director Micah Kane and Office of Hawaiian Affairs Administrator Clyde Namuo.
The briefing was intended to explain to legislators the Akaka Bill's impact on the state. However, much of the briefing and questions from lawmakers centered on the status of the bill and its chances of passing this year.
The state has a responsibility to beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes trust, but if Hawaiian Homes becomes part of a native government entity that will decide the blood quantum issue, Hanabusa asked how that will affect the Hawaiian Homes beneficiaries.
"Who are we as a state responsible to?" she asked. "The state has a fiduciary responsibility to this group. What do we do?"
Hanabusa also noted that by state law, revenues from ceded lands -- crown lands first ceded to the U.S. government in 1898 that came under state control when Hawaii became a state in 1959 -- that go to OHA must be used for those with 50 percent blood quantum.
"The question is, When the state negotiates with the native governing entity (on land issues), will the state be indemnified?" she said.
Bennett responded that there might need to be a provision in the bill stating that by participating in negotiations, the state is not giving up its responsibility to those who are native Hawaiian by 50 percent blood.
Hanabusa also questioned if the situation would create two classes of Hawaiians. Bennett said that was possible, and that it was an important question that would have to be defined in law after the negotiations conclude.