On January 10, 2014 a letter was sent to more than 150 leaders of Indian tribes on the U.S. mainland. The letter describes how federal recognition of a phony "Native Hawaiian" tribe would have bad consequences for the genuine tribes. The letter explains that Census 2010 counted 527,077 people claiming Hawaiian native ancestry which would make them eligible for the tribe; and more than 100,000 have already enrolled in a State of Hawaii racial registry explicitly affirming their intent to join such a tribe. The letter points out that such a huge tribe would be perhaps the largest in America, likely to grab the lions' share of a shrinking annual federal budget allocation for Indian entitlement programs in housing, healthcare, education etc.
Another bad consequence for the genuine tribes would be competition from Hawaiian tribal casinos in their own backyards. Census 2010 counted 237,107 "Native Hawaiians" who were living in the other 49 states outside Hawaii. For example 74,932 people in California checked the race box for "Native Hawaiian", which would make the California branch of the Hawaiian tribe potentially the largest tribe in that state. The final, legacy version of the Akaka bill, which passed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in September 2012, declared that the Hawaiian tribe would be fully equal to the genuine mainland tribes. That Akaka bill not only removed all prohibitions against gambling contained in previous bills, but also included a "Carcieri fix" exclusively for the Hawaiian tribe so there would be no problem about taking land into trust and building casinos both in Hawaii and on the mainland.
From 2000 through 2012, Republicans in the Senate blocked the bill to recognize a Hawaiian tribe. But now strong efforts are underway to get federal recognition through changes in the administrative rules used for granting recognition, and there is also an effort to produce a Presidential Executive Order to recognize the group of "Native Hawaiians" enrolled by the State of Hawaii, including a nucleus of those who are beneficiaries of the U.S. Hawaiian Homes Commission Act passed in 1921 (long before the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934).
Federal recognition of a Hawaiian tribe by means of administrative action is even more dangerous to the genuine tribes than recognition by means of a bill in Congress, because administrative recognition would simply add "Native Hawaiians" to the list of tribes with none of the restrictions against gambling or Indian entitlement programs which were included in nearly all versions of the Akaka bill. During the 13 years the Akaka bill was pending in Congress, the National Congress of American Indians supported it, and President Tex Hall testified in favor of it, for three reasons: the bill prohibited the Hawaiian tribe from having gambling; prohibited the Hawaiian tribe from competing against the genuine tribes for Indian entitlements; and the tribes no doubt felt intimidated for fear of retaliation from the political and budgetary power of Hawaii Senators Dan Inouye and Dan Akaka. But all three reasons why the tribes formerly supported the Akaka bill are now gone. Administrative recognition provides neither the gambling nor the entitlement protections for the genuine tribes contained in the Congressional bill. And the tribes no longer need to fear the power of the Hawaii delegation, because Senator Inouye died in December 2012 and Senator Akaka retired at the end of that month.
There are many reasons to oppose creation of a phony Hawaiian tribe -- reasons which do not in any way attack the legitimacy of the genuine mainland tribes. Perhaps the strongest reason is that "Native Hawaiians" have a history very different from the mainland tribes, including the fact that large numbers of non-natives were full-fledged citizens of the Kingdom of Hawaii during the mid to late 1800s, with voting and property rights the same as the natives, including perhaps 1/4 to 1/3 of Kingdom legislators, most judges, and nearly all department heads.
The letter asks leaders and members of the genuine mainland tribes to contact people they know in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Interior, or the White House, to express opposition to federal recognition of a "Native Hawaiian" tribe.
The letter can be downloaded at
or, with a conveniently short URL that will not break apart in emails
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