Lawyer group calls for federal recognition
Leaders of the American Bar Association are urging Congress to pass legislation establishing a process to give federal recognition to a Native Hawaiian government.
The ABA's house of delegates, which includes about 550 members, approved the resolution yesterday at its midyear meeting in Chicago.
"American Indians and Alaska Natives have political authority to deal with the United States on a government-to-government basis," ABA president Michael S. Greco said. "Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people in our country should be afforded the right to create their own governing body."
Attorney Bill Meheula, a spokesman for the Native Hawaiian Bar Association, urged his colleagues to support federal recognition. "Without it, significant governmental benefits to Native Hawaiians in the areas of health, education and housing could be lost due to pending equal protection challenges," Meheula said.
Hawai'i senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka issued releases applauding the ABA's vote of support. An expected Senate vote on the Akaka bill was delayed last fall so lawmakers could respond to Hurricane Katrina. The bill has been opposed by conservatives who believe it is unconstitutional because it would give privileges to people based on race.