Posted on: Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Arguments for and against the Akaka bill
Supporters have said the bill is beneficial because it:
Will enable Native Hawaiians to direct federal and state programs that benefit them programs for education, health, housing, small-business development and other needs.
Will continue the reconciliation between Hawaiians and the federal government, a process that has included the establishment of Hawaiian homesteading and other federal programs and revenue from the former kingdom and crown lands ("ceded lands").
Lays out a procedure for the organization of a Native Hawaiian government but does not prescribe its form.
Extends federal recognition of that government as a political entity a starting point through which Native Hawaiians can more fully exercise their political rights.
Provides at least a partial shield against court cases that charge that Native Hawaiians are merely a racial group whose entitlements are unconstitutional.
Allows for a "nation within a nation" concept for Native Hawaiians, preserving their U.S. citizenship while according them a status akin to that of Native Americans and Native Alaskans.
Opponents of the bill include those who say it is too limited. They say the bill:
Will foreclose options for an independent Hawaiian nation in the future while not precluding further legal challenges of sovereignty.
Will greatly limit the opportunity for legal claims to land, water and ocean rights in Hawai'i, including the nearly 2 million acres of "ceded lands."
Will form a government under the broad supervision of the Department of the Interior, which has amassed a spotty record of dealing with Native American concerns.
Others argue it gives Native Hawaiians unwarranted rights. They charge that the bill:
Sets up a separate, race-based government wrongly, because the Hawaiian kingdom was multi-ethnic and institutionalizes government handouts for Native Hawaiians.
Will confuse lines of criminal and civil jurisdiction in Hawai'i, where Hawaiian lands are scattered throughout integrated communities.
Siphons resources otherwise available to other needs, and could affect public uses in place on ceded lands.