Aloha? Hawaii Moves Closer to Having Sovereign Powers
Condensed by Native Village
Illegal Overthrow of Hawaii, 1893
Legislation giving Native Hawaiians sovereignty has
passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
While Native Hawaiians would
remain American citizens, the bill would
give them the right to:
control their own lands
Run their own health and education programs
Form a sovereign government
similar to what Native American tribes have.
Hawaii had its own government until
the U.S. forced Queen Liliuokalani to step down 1883. President Grover Cleveland
later admitted it was a mistake, but it
took Congress until 1993 to apologize.
than a decade, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii,
has pushed for legislation to give Native
Hawaiians the right to form a sovereign
"We have a moral obligation, unfulfilled since the
overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani, that we are closer to
meeting today," said Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii.
Akaka has spent 11 years pushing this legislation.
The state's Office of Hawaiian Affairs administers
issues related to Native Hawaiians. Native Hawaiians
make up about 20% of Hawaii's population and have
200,000 acres of land previously granted to them.
The bill must pass the Senate to become law, and it
"This legislation violates, in my view, the United
States Constitution, because it establishes a separate,
race-based government of Native Hawaiians," said Rep.
Doc Hastings, R-Wash.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. agrees. "We should stand
together in opposition to racially divisive and
discriminatory laws like this," DeMint said. "The Native
Hawaiian bill is unconstitutional and violates the
national unity of E Pluribus Unum."
DeMint will try block the bill in the Senate. That means sponsors need 60 votes to
But Dave Helfert
disagrees with DeMint and Hastings.
spokesman for the bill's sponsor, Rep. Neil Abercrombie,
"It's about recognition of an indigenous people," he
said. "It is not about race. It's about the fact Native
Hawaiians were part of another country inadvertently
taken over by the United States."
Jon Van Dyke of the
University of Hawaii also agreed. The law professor says the bill is
constitutional and gives Native Hawaiians the same
rights as Native American tribes and Alaska Natives. Van
Dyke says a Native Hawaiian government will protect
their rich culture and tradition.
Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, a
Republican, has withdrawn her support for the bill. She
objects to the new government's broad powers.
"I do not believe such a structure, of two completely
different sets of rules -- one for 'governmental'
activities of the Native Hawaiian governing entity and
its officers and employees, and one for everyone else --
makes sense for Hawaii," she said.
Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, is disappointed
in the governor's position and asked her to reconsider.
Many Republicans are citing her
opposition as their reason to vote against the
The bill has the support of President Obama.