Speech by Senator Akaka on February 11, 2003 on the Floor of the Senate as he Introduced the Bill S.344 [speech taken from the Congressional Record, with page numbers]

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By Mr. AKAKA (for himself and Mr. INOUYE):

S. 344. A bill expressing the policy of the United States regarding the United States relationship with Native Hawaiians and to provide a process for the recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Indian Affairs.

Mr. AKAKA. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce a bill with my friend and colleague, the senior Senator from Hawaii, Mr. INOUYE, which would clarify the political relationship between Native Hawaiians and the United States. This measure would extend the Federal policy of self-determination and self-governance to Hawaii's indigenous, native peoples--Native Hawaiians, by providing a process for the reorganized Native Hawaiian governing entity to be recognized for the purposes of a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

The bill we introduce today is identical to legislation that was reported by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs during the 107th Congress. This bill does three things. First if provides a process for Federal recognition of the Native Hawaiian governing entity. Second, it establishes an office within the Department of the Interior to focus on Native Hawaiian issues and to serve as a liaison between Native Hawaiians and the Federal Government. Finally, it establishes an interagency coordinating group to be composed of representatives of federal agencies which administer programs and implement policies impacting Native Hawaiians.

While Federal policies towards Native Hawaiians have paralleled that of Native American Indians and Alaska Natives, the Federal policy of self-determination and self-governance has not yet been extended to Native Hawaiians. This measure extends this policy to Native Hawaiians, thus furthering the process of reconciliation between Native Hawaiians and the United States, and providing parity in the Federal Government's interactions with American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.

This measure does not establish entitlements or special treatment for Native Hawaiians based on race. This measure focuses on the political relationship afforded to Native Hawaiians based on the United States' recognition of Native Hawaiians as the aboriginal, indigenous peoples of Hawaii. While the United States' history with its indigenous peoples has been dismal, in recent decades, the United States has engaged in a policy of self-determination and self-governance with its indigenous peoples. Government-to-government relationships provide indigenous peoples with the opportunity to work directly with the Federal Government on policies affecting their lands, natural resources and many other aspects of their well-being.

This measure does not impact program funding for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Federal programs for Native Hawaiian health, education, and housing are already administered by

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the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Housing and Urban Development. The bill I introduce today contains a provision which makes clear that this bill does not authorize new eligibility for participation in any programs and services provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This bill does not authorize gaming in Hawaii. In fact, it clearly states that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, IGRA, does not apply to the Native Hawaiian governing entity.

Finally, this measure does not preclude Native Hawaiians from seeking alternatives in the international arena. This measure focuses on self-determination within the framework of Federal law and seeks to establish equality in the Federal policies extended towards American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.

We introduced similar legislation during the 106th and 107th Congresses. A previous version of this legislation was passed by the House of Representatives during the 106th Congress. The legislation is widely supported by our indigenous brethren, American Indians and Alaska Natives. It is also supported by the Hawaii State Legislature which passed two resolutions supporting a government-to-government relationship between Native Hawaiians and the United States. Similar resolutions have been passed by the Alaska Federation of Natives, National Congress of American Indians, Japanese American Citizens' League, and the National Education Association.

The essence of Hawaii is captured not by the physical beauty of its islands, but by the beauty of its people. Those who have lived in Hawaii have a unique demeanor and attitude which is appropriately described as the ``aloha'' spirit. The people of Hawaii demonstrate the aloha spirit through their actions--through their generosity, through their appreciation of the environment and natural resources, through their willingness to care for each other, through their genuine friendliness.

The people of Hawaii share many ethnic backgrounds and cultures. This mix of culture and tradition is based on the unique history of Hawaii. The Aloha spirit is the legacy of the pride we all share in the culture and tradition of Hawaii's indigenous, native peoples, the Native Hawaiians. Hawaii's State motto, ``Ua mau ke'ea `o ka `aina i ka pono,'' which means ``the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness,'' captures the culture of Native Hawaiians. Prior to western contact, Native Hawaiians lived in an advanced society, in distinct and structured communities steeped in science. The Native Hawaiians honored their `aina, land, and environment, and therefore developed methods of irrigation, agriculture, aquaculture, navigation, medicine, fishing and other forms of subsistence whereby the land and sea were efficiently used without waste or damage. Respect for the environment formed the basis of their culture and tradition. It is from this culture and tradition that the Aloha spirit, which is demonstrated throughout Hawaii, by all of its people, has endured and flourished.

Despite the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Native Hawaiians never directly relinquished their inherent sovereignty as a people over their national lands, either through their government or through a plebiscite or referendum. Ever since the overthrow of their government, Native Hawaiians have sought to maintain political authority within their community. The Federal policy of self-governance and self-determination recognizes and provides for this inherent right within Federal law.

Throughout my service in the Congress and the Senate, I have worked to establish a proper foundation of reconciliation between the United States and Native Hawaiians to positively address longstanding issues of concern resulting from the overthrow. The legislation we introduce today to clarify the political relationship between Native Hawaiians and the United States proceeds from our efforts to promote reconciliation. This endeavor enjoys overwhelming support from Native Hawaiians and all the people of Hawaii.

In 1978, the people of Hawaii acted to preserve Native Hawaiian culture and tradition by amending Hawaii's State constitution to establish the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and to give expression to the right of self-determination and self-governance at the State level for Hawaii's indigenous peoples, Native Hawaiians. Starting with statehood, Hawaii endeavored to address and protect the rights and concerns of Hawaii's indigenous peoples in accordance with authority delegated under Federal policy. The constraints of this approach are evident. This bill extends the Federal policy of self-determination and self-governance to Native Hawaiians at the Federal level through a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian governing entity.

This measure is not being introduced to circumvent the 1999 United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Rice v. Cayeano. The Rice case was a voting rights case whereby the Supreme Court held that the State of Hawaii must allow all citizens of Hawaii to vote for the trustees of a quasi-State agency, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Nothing in this legislation would alter the eligibility of the electorate who votes for the Board of Trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

This measure is critical to the people of Hawaii because it provides the structure necessary to address many longstanding issues facing Hawaii's indigenous peoples and the State of Hawaii. By addressing and resolving these matters, we continue our process of healing, a process of reconciliation not only within the United States, but within the State of Hawaii. The time has come for us to be able to address these deeply rooted issues in order for us to be able to move forward as one.

I cannot emphasize how important this issue is for the people of Hawaii. At the state level, I will continue to work with the Hawaii State Legislature which has expressed its support for this legislation. I will also be working with Governor Linda Lingle, Hawaii's newly elected Governor, who has expressed her support for Federal recognition for Native Hawaiians. I look forward to continuing my discussions with officials within the Federal Government to address issues related to this bill, and I continue to welcome input from the people of Hawaii as to how we should move forward as a State, and as a community, to address longstanding issues resulting from the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

We have an established record of United States' commitment to reconciliation with Native Hawaiians. This legislation is another step forward to honoring that commitment. I ask all my colleagues to join me in enacting this critical measure for the people of Hawaii.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of this measure be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

S. 344

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


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