Drafts of the Akaka Bill: Full text with light commentary

(c) Copyright 2000 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

As soon as the Rice v. Cayetano decision was handed down, Native Hawaiians and the political power structure of the State of Hawai'i began trying to figure out how to circumvent the decision. Strategies given serious consideration included privatizing the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, transferring all its assets to some other state agency before non-Hawaiians would be able to vote, keeping the illegally-elected trustees in office until their terms ended two years later, allowing non-Native Hawaiians to vote for trustees but not to run for the position of trustee, and other such tactics. Meanwhile, at the federal level, Hawai'i's two U.S. Senators and two Congressmen began working with Native Hawaiians to figure out how to preserve racial entitlement programs through Congressional action to recognize Native Hawaiians as comparable to an Indian tribe. There was a sense of great urgency, because of fear that the end of the Clinton administration was approaching and the November elections might produce a Republican President and Republican gains in Congress that would be detrimental to such legislation. Accordingly, it was decided to creat "short-form" legislation as a stop-gap measure, to give federal recognition to Native Hawaiians before the current term of Congress ended (so as to prevent lawsuits from dismantling the entitlement programs). More controversial issues could then be delayed until the following session of Congress, such as reparations and lands for a tribal reservation.

For about 10 weeks after the Rice v. Cayetano decision was handed down, the "community" (of Native Hawaiians only) had had extensive consultations with Senator Akaka. On May 13, 2000 the first draft of the Akaka bill was finally printed in the newspaper. This draft contained 539 words. There were four core assertions (#1-3 false and #4 debatable) and one proposed action. The core assertions [and my comments] were: 1. The United States recognizes and acknowledges Native Hawaiians as a unique and distinct indigenous people [most are not distinguishable from non-natives in lifestyle, culture, or appearance]; 2. The United States has a trust responsibility to promote the welfare of Native Hawaiians [the trust responsibility is to all the people of Hawai'i as set forth in the Annexation and Admissions Acts]; 3. Congress possesses the authority to legislate for the betterment of Native Hawaiians under the United States Constitution [in the Rice case, the Supreme Court said this is uncharted territory and doubtful at best]; and 4. Native Hawaiians have the right to self-determination [so does everyone else in Hawai'i]. The proposed action was to establish an "Office of Native Hawaiian Affairs." [a new federal bureaucracy to assist one racial group when all persons regardless of race are entitled to the equal protection of the laws] Congress can assert that the law of gravity is hereby repealed and henceforth every object released from one's grasp will rise toward the sky; but that does not make it so.

The complete text of this first draft can be found at:


A newspaper summary of the bill and the reactions of the "community" (Native Hawaiians only) can be seen at:


As soon as the short-form draft was published, various factions within the Native Hawaiian community began quarreling among themselves. A significant group of Native Hawaiians strongly opposed the bill on the grounds that it would prevent them from continuing to assert their claim to a sovereign nation totally independent of the U.S. But the strongest groups were very worried that the two-step strategy (short-form bill now, longer comprehensive bill later) might be disastrous if only the first step succeeded and the second step never happened. During two months of bitter wrangling, additional drafts of the bill were created that were never circulated outside a small group of 25 core conspirators. Another draft was finally published on July 8, 2000. It contained 2914 words -- more than 5 times as long as the original! This Christmas tree was getting so many ornaments it was in danger of collapsing.

The complete text of this "new and improved" draft can be seen at:


A newspaper summary of the bill and the reactions of the "community" (Native Hawaiians only) can be seen at:


But the July 8 draft is still unsatisfactory, according to many Native Hawaiian groups and individuals. As the newspaper says, one Hawaiian opposed to the bill, lawyer Emmett Lee Loy, called the bill "sloppy." "The bill poses a direct threat to the beneficiaries of Hawaiian Homelands because there is no minimum blood quantum," Lee Loy said. "This bill feebly tries to imitate the Native American tribe requirements. The bill is sloppy and unconstitutional, and it invites a constitutional challenge."

Native Hawaiian actvist Lela Hubbard, who favors total independence from the U.S., finds the Akaka bill demeaning to Native Hawaiians. She believes it validates the annexation of Hawai'i and statehood, killing the "right" of Native Hawaiians to establish a nation on their own terms, and making them wards of the U.S. government. Interestingly, she questions the bill's assertion that Native Hawaiians are indigenous or aboriginal. "Moreover, are we sure we are aboriginal people? Anthropologists will prove otherwise." For the complete text of her essay, see: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/2000/Jul/14/islandvoices.html

Officials of the State of Hawai'i expressed strong support for the Akaka bill, because it would preserve programs that are probably unconstitutional without federal recognition; and because it would pass some of the financial burden to the federal government. "Spurred to protect programs from further lawsuits challenging racial preferences, leaders of two state agencies serving Native Hawaiians say they’re strongly in support of Sen. Daniel Akaka’s urgent effort to gain federal recognition for Hawaiian people." See: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/2000/Jul/14/localnews1.html

On July 20 the final version of the Akaka bill was introduced into Congress in both the Senate and the House. In the Senate, it was given bill number S2899 and introduced by Senator Dan Akaka. In the House, it was given bill number HR 4904 and introduced by Representative Neil Abercrombie.

The bill itself can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking on

Without using the pdf format, the bill can also be viewed by typing the bill number (either one) into the small "search" window at the Library of Congress "Thomas" website at


Newspaper articles describing the bill and giving comments from Hawai'i residents were published in both the Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on July 21, 2000. Here are those newspaper articles.




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(c) Copyright 2000 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

Email: ken_conklin@yahoo.com