AKAKA BILL REINTRODUCED IN CONGRESS

February 5, 2009, 8:37 AM HST · Updated February 5, 2:41 PM
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(Posted By Wendy OSHER © 2009)

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) reintroduced The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act yesterday, while Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill is designed to begin a process to form a Native Hawaiian government that could negotiate with the state and federal government on behalf of Hawaii’s indigenous people.

“This process is important for all people of Hawaii, so we can finally resolve the longstanding issues resulting from the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and move forward together to provide a better future for the children of Hawaii.  We have an established record of the United States’ commitment to reconciliation with Native Hawaiians.  This legislation is a necessary next step to build upon that foundation and honor that commitment,” said Akaka.

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Akaka says the bill would provide parity in federal policies that empower other indigenous peoples, American Indians and Alaska Natives, to participate in a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

In his floor statement yesterday, Akaka said: “Building on the constitutionally sound and deliberate efforts of Congress and the State of Hawaii, it is necessary that Native Hawaiians be able to reorganize a government and enter into discussions with the federal and state governments.   My bill would ensure there is a structured process by which Native Hawaiians and the people of Hawaii can come together, resolve such complicated issues, and move forward together as a state.”

Congressman Abercrombie said: “The legislation we are introducing today is important, not only to Native Hawaiians, but to everyone in Hawaii.  It provides a process to address longstanding issues facing Hawaii’s indigenous peoples and the State of Hawaii.  In addressing these matters, we have begun a process of healing, a process of reconciliation not only between the United States and the Native people of Hawaii, but within the State.”

Commonly known as the “Akaka Bill,” the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, in and of itself does not extend federal recognition – it does however authorize the process for federal recognition.

Akaka notes that negotiations between the recognized Native Hawaiian government, the United States, and the state of Hawaii would address issues such as criminal and civil jurisdiction, historical grievances, and jurisdiction and control of natural resources, lands, and assets.

The Senate bill is now referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and the House bill to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

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