Native Village
Youth and Education news
March 1, 2010     Volume 1

Aloha? Hawaii Moves Closer to Having Sovereign Powers
http://www.aolnews.com/
Condensed by Native Village

U.S. Illegal Overthrow of Hawaii, 1893

Washington, D.C.: 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:

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.

For more than a decade, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, has pushed for legislation to give Native Hawaiians the right to form a sovereign government.

"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 faces opposition.

"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 avoid a filibuster. 

But Dave Helfert disagrees with DeMint and Hastings.  Helfert is spokesman for the bill's sponsor, Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii.

"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 bill.

The bill has the support of President Obama.

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