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by Meryl A.C. Gormand

 

Equal rights to all, without reference to ethnicity, is the proud tradition of Kamehameha III and his successors. Therefore, I agree with the opponents of the bill who argue that the bill will set up a separate race-based government, in defiance of the laws of the Kingdom the bill is trying to restore.
Hawai‘i is a great example of a melting pot and it would be sad to divide its peoples and create racial conflicts. Moreover, I think redefining what a Native Hawaiian is, as the Bill does, is immoral.

When I met Senator Akaka in August, I asked him about the future of “locals,” the non-native Hawaiian population of Hawai‘i who fought along with Native Hawaiians to restore the Hawaiian Kingdom when the Queen was overthrown. Senator Akaka answered that the federal recognition of a Hawaiian nation would have serious social, political, and economic consequences on the state of Hawai‘i. He argued, however, that the bill could benefit not only Native Hawaiians but also all of Hawai‘i’s peoples. Instead of convincing me, his answers made me wonder if Senator Akaka was too optimistic about the effects of his bill, if passed.

Furthermore, I worry about the amendments that the Bush administration is proposing to force upon the bill. Indeed, the latest amendments proposed seek to extinguish all existing land claims. Hawai‘i history has shown that the U. S. Congress tends to be more concerned with its own political and economic interests than the ones of the Hawaiian nation. Therefore, instead of helping the state of Hawai‘i and its native people, the Akaka Bill could end up doing the opposite.

Hawaiian history shows that justice needs to be done. It is unfair that the Hawaiian people, whose lands were stolen from them, represent today the most uneducated and impoverished class of the state of Hawai‘i. I agree with the supporters of the bill that social programs serving the Hawaiians, such as OHA and the Kamehameha Schools need to be protected. The Akaka Bill would protect those programs, but it would also change economically, socially, and politically the state of Hawai‘i by setting up a co-equal Hawaiian governing entity. Who knows what changes it would want?
Even if I do not support the Akaka Bill, I think that the people of Hawai‘i deserve discussion of S.147 on the U.S. Senate floor. It will remind the U.S. Congress that something needs to be done as it is stated in the Apology Resolution of 1993.

Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka ‘Aina I Ka Pono (The Life/Sovereignty of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness) needs to be more than just a statement written on the seal of the State Capitol.

Proposed Amendments to the Akaka Bill
· Leave negotiations on claims made by Native Hawaiians against the United States and the state in the hands of a federally recognized Hawaiian governing entity. Individuals and organizations, including the governing entity, would not have the legal basis to file such claims in court.
· Clarify that gambling would not be allowed on lands under the jurisdiction of the Native Hawaiian government entity unless approved by the state and federal governments.
· Exempt the Department of Defense from participating in discussions and negotiations dealing with the creation of the Native Hawaiian governing entity, effectively ensuring military installations and operations are not affected in any way.
· Make clear that the state and federal governments would retain existing civil and criminal jurisdiction over all lands and people in Hawai‘i.

 

 

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