YES: Independence does not offer same guaranteed protection of Native rights
By Davianna Pomaika'i McGregor
I support the unique and distinct rights and entitlements of Native Hawaiians as ancestral vested rights of inheritance from our ancestors who first settled and established sovereignty over the Hawaiian archipelago.
Advertiser library photo
Gov. Linda Lingle spoke with Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, before testifying to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on recognition of Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people in February 2003.
Advertiser library photo
1. Native Hawaiians already have federal recognition and a trust relationship with Congress. From 1906 through 1998, Congress exercised its constitutional authority in furtherance of the trust relationship with the native people of Hawai'i through enactment of 183 federal laws that explicitly include Native Hawaiians in the class of Native Americans.
2. This federal recognition and trust relationship was sought by Native Hawaiians in the aftermath of annexation and adoption of the Organic Act for the Territory of Hawai'i.
From 1915 to 1921, Native Hawaiians in the organization 'Ahahui Pu'uhonua 'O Na Hawai'i, led by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole, succeeded in establishing a trust relationship for Native Hawaiians under the Hawaiian Homelands trust.
3. The Akaka bill will formalize and state explicitly the existing federal policy of a trust relationship with Native Hawaiians, a policy that has been implicitly supported by Native Hawaiians throughout the 20th century.
4. The political status of Native Hawaiians is distinct from the political status of the multi-ethnic society of Hawai'i. In the 2000 Census, there were 401,162 Native Hawaiians in the United States. Some 239,655, or 60 percent, lived in Hawai'i, and 40 percent lived in the continental United States. The population of Hawai'i was 1,211,537. Hawaiians therefore comprised 20 percent of Hawai'i's population, and 80 percent of Hawai'i's population was non-Native Hawaiian.
5. Throughout the territorial period, U.S. policy toward Native Hawaiians was distinct from U.S. policy toward the multi-ethnic society of Hawai'i. Congress exercised a trust relationship with Native Hawaiians, as with Native Americans. The policy toward the broader society was to make Hawai'i a state.
6. Native Hawaiians are an indigenous people and have the right of self-governance and sovereignty. In the United States, only indigenous peoples have this right. Racial and ethnic groups do not have this right.
7. Native Hawaiians have the right to form an autonomous government within the United States. We can do so without the Akaka bill, but the bill will formally, explicitly and unambiguously recognize this right and protect the Native Hawaiian national government and its assets from legal challenges.
8. Forming such a government will set up an entity through which Native Hawaiians can more fully exercise our political rights. It will also set up an entity that can receive, hold and manage the lands and resources of the Native Hawaiian nation. With the formation of a Native Hawaiian government, the ali'i trusts established under the monarchy can be recognized as part of the assets of the Native Hawaiian nation and function under the laws of the Native Hawaiian nation rather than state law.
9. Native Hawaiians also have the right to form an autonomous government under the government of an independent Hawai'i.
10. Most advocates of independence have not explained how the unique and distinct rights and assets of Native Hawaiians will be protected under an independent Hawai'i government.
11. Advocates of independence for Hawai'i who oppose the Akaka bill collapse the status of Native Hawaiians with that of the multi-ethnic Hawai'i society. They do not recognize that the rights and political status of Native Hawaiians are distinct from the rights and status of the multi-ethnic Hawai'i society.
12. Advocates of independence for Hawai'i who oppose the Akaka bill claim that recognition of Native Hawaiians as Native Americans under U.S. law and the Akaka bill will threaten or foreclose the claims of the multi-ethnic society of Hawai'i for independence. But they have not provided evidence that this is the case.
Davianna Pomaika'i McGregor is associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of Hawai'ii Manoa.