July 11, 2005
Honorable Governor Linda Lingle
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Re: Senate Bill 147, "Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005"
Dear Governor Lingle,
I am writing on behalf of several Hawaiian citizens who have reached out to Citizen's Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) to clarify a misconception over Senate Bill 147. CERA educates and monitors events concerning the protection of constitutional and civil rights of citizens, both tribal and non-tribal, who reside on or near federally recognized Indian reservations. Our organization has affiliated community education groups and citizens in 25 states; 26 now including Hawaii.
There seems to be a belief that S. 147 is benign and merely gives to Native Hawaiians the same opportunities to establish a sovereign government that is similar to existing Native American governments. Unfortunately, this is not accurate and will lead to the State of Hawaii becoming liable for the racial discrimination it is promoting by supporting federal legislation that will separate and segregate the Native Hawaiian people from all other citizens of the State of Hawaii. The "Akaka Bill" will have a significant political, legal and economic impact upon citizens throughout the United States, as well.
CERA submitted an Amicus Brief in the recent United States Supreme Court case that questions the very existence of historically separate Native American sovereignty in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation, 125 S. Ct 1478 (2005). The Court decided that the sovereignty of the United States cannot be unified with tribal sovereignty. Sherrill is a constitutional law decision. A constitutional decision is not subject to alteration by Congress or the Executive branch without violating separation of power principles.
According to the majority reasoning in Sherrill, Congress itself does not have the constitutional authority to restore long dead claims of sovereignty. And yet, S. 147 would pursue exactly what the United States Supreme Court has declared, as recently as March 2005, cannot be constitutionally done. The principle of the Sherrill ruling is so basic that it seems to be elusive. State citizens cannot be deprived of state citizenship to create a separate sovereign or governing entity by a state or our national government.
The recent Sherrill decision supports the Supreme Court's earlier ruling in Rice v. Cayetano 528 US 495 (2000). If there is no constitutional authority to reassert long dead claims of sovereignty, then by definition a federal or state government acts beyond its scope of authority when it promotes such a sovereignty claim on behalf of a single racial entity. To hold otherwise would be to agree with the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford decision of 1857, which was one of the primary factors that precipitated the Civil War. That a Republican governor, or any elected official could support the Dred Scott decision is startling.
The premise, spirit and intent in S. 147 to separate and segregate the Native Hawaiians from all other citizens of the State of Hawaii is not benign. This legislation will embroil the State of Hawaii in extensive civil rights litigation that Hawaii cannot win. CERA hopes you will reconsider your support of S. 147 and promote a solution that preserves full citizenship rights of the Native Hawaiians.
Our hope is apparently shared by a large majority of your Hawaii constituents, based upon a survey conducted June 29 - July 1, 2005 by Election Research Advertising. The survey reports that 67.11% of all respondents oppose the Akaka Bill; of keen significance is that 44.88% of the respondents say they would be less likely to vote for an elected official who supported the Akaka Bill. Such an apparent disconnect between state elected officials and Hawaiian residents is most unfortunate.
It is also very telling to learn that three aggressive years of outreach by OHA to encourage ethnic Hawaiians to formally register has only produced a 5% response of 401,000 ethnic Hawaiians. This is another clear indication of voting with one's feet, wherein even ethnic Hawaiians are staying far away from balkanization of this honored, youngest star of the U.S. flag.
Senate Bill 147 is in defiance of Constitutional law, the surveyed opinions of Hawaii constituents, and even the Oaths of Office taken by Hawaii's federal and state elected officials. CERA encourages you, at a minimum, to ensure that the legislation be amended to require an open plebiscite, yes or no vote, to determine the will of Hawaii's people.
Failure to uphold a republican form of government by way of ensuring a single plebiscite signals a governance shift to monarchical mentalities that may set the first cause of action for citizens denied their Constitutionally guaranteed right to participate in a republican form of government. Surely this would not be your desired legacy as Governor. Please reconsider your position on S. 147, or at least guarantee Hawaii citizens the plebiscite to which they are Constitutionally entitled.
Elaine D. Willman, Chair
Citizens Equal Rights Alliance
Toppenish, WA 98948
SEE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE AKAKA BILL
SEE WEBPAGES ABOUT HAWAIIAN SOVEREIGNTY ISSUES IN ADDITION TO THIS BILL