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Interior Department Solicits Comment on Hawaiian Government

June 18, 2014, 3:50 PM HST · Updated June 18, 4:59 PM
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Hawaii flag. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Hawaii flag. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The US Department of the Interior today announced a first step to consider re-establishing a government-to-government relationship between the United States and the native Hawaiian community.

Department officials say the action is in response to requests from the native Hawaiian community, Hawaii’s congressional delegation and state leaders.

“The purpose of such a relationship would be to more effectively implement the special political and trust relationship that currently exists between the federal government and the native Hawaiian community,” the announcement said.

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“Today’s action, known as an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, provides for an extensive series of public meetings and consultations in Hawaiʻi and Indian Country to solicit comments that could help determine whether the department develops a formal, administrative procedure for reestablishing an official government-to-government relationship with the native Hawaiian community and if so, what that procedure should be,” the Interior Department announcement stated.

Public Meetings across the state run from June 23 through July 8, and include the following upcoming meetings in Maui County:

  • Friday, June 27, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Lānaʻi Senior Center in Lānaʻi City
  • Saturday, June 28, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Kaunakakai Elementary School on Molokaʻi
  • Saturday, July 5, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Hāna High and Elementary School in East Maui
  • Monday, July 7, from 6 to 9 p.m. at King Kamehameha III Elementary School in Lahaina, Maui
  • Tuesday, July 8, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Pōmaikaʻi Elemenatary School in Kahului, Maui

Governor Neil Abercrombie responded to the news saying, “We look forward to welcoming representatives of the US Departments of the Interior and Justice to discuss ideas for updating federal policy on native Hawaiian self-determination. I commend the Obama Administration for recognizing and supporting native Hawaiians as it works to reconcile its relationship with native Hawaiians at the federal level.”

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Officials with the US Justice Department say that more than 150 statutes have been enacted over the years that specifically recognize and implement this “trust relationship” with the native Hawaiian community including: the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, the Native Hawaiian Education Act, and the Native Hawaiian Health Care Act.

One hundred years after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom on Jan. 17, 1893, the US Congress enacted the Apology Resolution, offering an apology to native Hawaiians for the role the US played in the overthrow.

In 2000, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice jointly issued a report on the reconciliation process, and identified self-determination for native Hawaiians under federal law as their leading recommendation.

The questions that will be raised as a threshold on whether the federal government should reestablish a government-to-government relationship with the native Hawaiian community include the following:

  • Should the Secretary propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community?
  • Should the Secretary assist the Native Hawaiian community in reorganizing its government, with which the United States could reestablish a government-to-government relationship?
  • If so, what process should be established for drafting and ratifying a reorganized Native Hawaiian government’s constitution or other governing document?
  • Should the Secretary instead rely on the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian government through a process established by the Native Hawaiian community and facilitated by the State of Hawaiʻi, to the extent such a process is consistent with Federal law?
  • If so, what conditions should the Secretary establish as prerequisites to Federal acknowledgment of a government-to-government relationship with the reorganized Native Hawaiian government?

Additional meetings planned throughout the state include the following:

  • Monday, June 23, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol Auditorium in Honolulu on Oʻahu
  • Monday, June 23, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School on Oʻahu
  • Tuesday, June 24, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Nānāikapono Elementary School in Waiʻanae on Oʻahu
  • Wednesday, June 25, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Heʻeia Elementary School in Kaneohe on Oʻahu
  • Thursday, June 26, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Makakilo Elementary School in Kapolei on Oʻahu
  • Monday, June 30, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Waimea Neighborhood Center on Kauaʻi
  • Tuesday, July 1, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Kapaʻa Elementary School on Kauaʻi
  • Wednesday, July 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Keaukaha Elementary School in Hilo on Hawaiʻi Island
  • Thursday, July 3, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Waimea Community Center on Hawaiʻi Island
  • Thursday, July 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Kealakehe High School in Kona on Hawaiʻi Island

As set forth in the Interior Department’s procedure for Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the department will welcome comments from leaders and members of the native Hawaiian community and federally recognized Indian tribes, as well as the State of Hawaiʻi, its agencies, other state agencies, and the general public.

Additional consultations planned in Indian Country on the mainland will occur between July 29 and Aug. 7,  and include the following:

  • Tuesday, July 29, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minnesota
  • Wednesday, July 30, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Rushmore Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Friday, August 1, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Tulalip Resort in Seattle, Washington
  • Tuesday, August 5, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Thursday, August 7, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut

In addition to the public meetings, comments can be submitted online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal beginning later this week, or via US mail, courier, or hand delivery to: Office of the Secretary, Department of the Interior, Room 7329, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240. Department officials ask that letters and electronic mail be labeled with the Regulation Identifier Number 1090-AB05 within the text of the message.

***The public will have 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register to provide comments on this action.

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