| Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 in
Rice v. Cayetano that preventing non-Hawaiians from voting for
OHA trustees was unconstitutional. In August, the court declared
that the race-based admissions policy of the Kamehameha Schools
was a violation of federal civil rights laws.
Another case, Arakaki v. Lingle is expected to reach the Supreme
Court within two to three years. The plaintiff holds that the
trust, agencies, and programs established to benefit Natives
Hawaiians are race based, and must be dismantled under the Equal
Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Hawai‘i State Attorney Mark Bennett said that Hawaiian
programs would continue to come under legal attack without the
bill, which if passed, would at least prompt the courts to settle
the legal questions.
Also supporting the bill is the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement
(CNHA), an association that supports the building of a Hawaiian
nation, urges Native Hawaiians to form a government, providing
natives with registration forms named “Kau Inoa” To
Build a Nation. CNHA argues that the creation of a Native Hawaiian
governing entity would provide new business opportunities which
could facilitate development of trust lands in ways that benefit
both private investors and the Native Hawaiian people.
Moreover, CNHA claims that federal recognition of the Hawaiian
Nation would protect the economic participation of Native Hawaiians
who, at nearly 20 percent of the state’s population, represent
an important segment of Hawai‘i’s labor force and
consumer base. However, Native Hawaiians also represent the poorest,
least-educated, and least-healthy people among the Hawaiian population.
CNHA argue that the loss of such programs as OHA or Kamehameha
School would lead to the degradation of Native Hawaiian cultural,
historical, and linguistic assets.
The main argument of the opponents of the bill, in the U.S. Congress
and in Hawai‘i, is that the bill is race based which would
violate the U.S. Constitution’s 14th and 15th amendments
which declare unlawful any unequal treatment of U.S. citizens
due to race. Senator Jon Kyl, R-AZ, called the Akaka Bill the
creation of race-based government for Native Hawaiians. Nationally,
opponents also argue that the Akaka Bill confuses lines of criminal
and civil jurisdiction in Hawai‘i. Some of the proposed
amendments to the bill are attempts to resolve these concerns.
Opponents in the Native Hawaiian community range from those who
feel that the bill will not allow them to achieve their goal
of an independent Hawai‘i to those who object to any special
privileges being given in a state where no race is a majority.
The Hui Pu coalition, known for its active opposition to the
legislation, argues that the bill is an attempt to legitimize
the United States’ overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom. Hui
Pu disputes the implication that Hawai‘i needs to be granted
total independence from the United States under international
law. Hui Pu is backed by the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous
Populations (WPGI), which declared in July that “All nations
should be afforded the full exercise of self-determination as
provided under international law and prevailing human rights
Other opponents, such as Dennis “Bumpy” Kanehele,
Native Hawaiian leader of a pro-independence group, believes
that the U.S. government will never give Hawaiians back their
lands. He thinks that Hawaiians need to organize themselves to
restore their kingdom and take back their lands by themselves.
He has stated a belief that the Akaka Bill will not help the
natives but will be a tool used by Americans to “exterminate” Hawaiians.
Another Native Hawaiian organization, Na Koa Ikaika, favors a
compact of free association in which Native Hawaiians would have
their own nation with ties to the United Stated such as the Marshall
and Micronesian islands.
Lea Hubbard, a member of Na Koa Ikaika, argues that the Akaka
Bill demeans Hawaiians, that it is, as she stated: “disrespectful
toward our previous status. We were citizens of a nation, and
that’s what we should return to.”
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