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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Akaka requests hearing for Native Hawaiian bill

By Frank Oliveri
Advertiser Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Hawai'i Sen. Daniel Akaka wants the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold a hearing on Native Hawaiian federal recognition in late February or early March when Hawai'i Gov. Linda Lingle is in Washington.

The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005 — otherwise known as the Akaka bill — was introduced in the Senate and House yesterday by all four Hawai'i lawmakers, beginning the process that they hope will culminate in a vote by Congress this year.

The bill's next step is in committee: Indian Affairs in the Senate and Resources in the House.

The Akaka bill would set a framework for the creation of a Native Hawaiian government. That governing body would then be empowered to negotiate with the federal and state governments over the disposition of Native Hawaiian lands, the exercise of civil and criminal jurisdiction, and the delegation of governmental powers and authorities to Native Hawaiians by the federal and state governments. Akaka said his goal is parity in federal policies between Native Hawaiians, Native Americans and Native Alaskans.

Patricia Zell, minority staff director and chief counsel of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said Lingle, a Republican, would prefer to testify on behalf of the Akaka bill while she is in Washington attending a National Governors' Association meeting.

In an impassioned plea on the Senate floor yesterday, Akaka said the legislation would not sanction race-based preferences as has been stated by those opposed to the bill.

"Native Hawaiians never relinquished their inherent rights to sovereignty," Akaka said. "We were a government that was overthrown. ... I strenuously disagree with the mischaracterization of this legislation as race-based."