Hawaiian Native recognition as an "Indian Tribe"

Senator Akaka of Hawaii has offered several bills to Congress over the years that would elevate the treatment of Hawaiian Natives under federal law from the status of a racial minority to a sovereign political entity recognized by the United States with the same status of American Indian Tribes.

I believe his 2004 version of the bill passed the Senate but was never considered or else was defeated in the House. His 2006 bill went nowhere.

But his most recent bill has a very good chance of being enacted into law. The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act passed the U.S. House in February, and in July, Senators Akaka and Inouye reached an agreement with Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle to make four changes to the bill that secured the Governor’s support. The bill is now pending in the Senate.

It must be stated though that there is a wide variety of opinion on this bill among the disparate Native Hawaiian sovereignty groups.

The news is reporting that the American Bar Association supports the bill and recently sent letters of support to all 100 U.S. Senators.

The letter apparently outlines the constitutionality of the bill and its precedent within U.S. law, and details benefits of providing parity to Native Hawaiians as Indigenous people.

“The American Bar Association’s detailed explanation of the history, need, and constitutionality of the bill will help address mischaracterizations and bring attention to the importance of this bill,” said Senator Daniel K. Akaka, the bill’s sponsor. “Although there are many important bills pending on the Senate calendar, I remain optimistic that the Senate will be able to consider the bill during the lame-duck session. I thank the ABA for its unwavering support.”

The ABA supports “the right of Native Hawaiians to seek federal recognition of a native governing entity within the United States similar to that which American Indians and Alaska Natives possess under the U.S. Constitution.”

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