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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Arguments for and against the Akaka bill

Advertiser Staff



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.