Drop in Native Hawaiians attributed to new options
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By Yasmin Anwar
Advertiser Staff Writer
The option to identify oneself as mixed race in the 2000 U.S. Census has done precisely what some Hawaiian-rights advocates feared: reduced the total count in the Native Hawaiian category.
In Hawai'i, 80,137 residents identified themselves only as Native Hawaiian, compared to 138,742 in 1990.
Nationwide, 140,652 people checked only the "Native Hawaiian" box. That number was 211,014 in 1990.
While the number of residents in Hawai'i and around the nation who identified exclusively as Hawaiian has dropped since the last national count, the number of part-Hawaiians has risen.
That's because for the first time in the 211-year history of the U.S. Census, people were allowed to check off more than one race, and a large number of Hawaiians opted to declare all their bloodlines.
Census results released today broke down the "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander" category, counting those who identified themselves as solely Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan or "other Pacific Islander."
In Hawai'i, the count for those who identified themselves as solely Guamanian or Chamorro dropped from 2,120 in 1990 to 1,663 in 2000. The Samoan count rose from 15,034 in 1990 to 16,166. And the "other Pacific Islander" category more than doubled, from 6,373 to 15,147.
Previously released 2000 Census figures indicate that more than 400,000 people around the nation identified themselves as part-Hawaiian, with combined Asian and Hawaiian representing the most prevalent mix. In Hawai'i, 282,667 people identified themselves as all or part Hawaiian.
In coming months, the Census Bureau expected to release more details on those who identified as part-Hawaiian. It is then that Hawaiian-rights advocates such as Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona, a member of the Census Bureau's Advisory Committee on the Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders Populations, expect to get a more accurate sense of the scope of the Hawaiian community.
Census figures are used to draw up political boundaries, distribute more than $185 billion a year in federal dollars among states and communities, enforce civil rights protections and administer programs.
In Hawai'i, Native Hawaiians have been undercounted for various reasons. Some live in remote rural areas. Others are mistrustful of contact with the government or, if they are Hawaiian nationalists, do not consider themselves "American."
Moreover, until last year, Hawaiians were grouped with Asians and Pacific Islanders, which resulted in many Hawaiians marking the "other" box.
That changed with the 2000 Census introduction of a separate "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander" category, which includes a Native Hawaiian subcategory.
The classification was championed by the Hawai'i Working Group, countering a recommendation of the federal Office of Management and Budget to keep Hawaiians grouped in with Asians and Pacific Islanders.