Akaka Bill Reintroduced by Hawaii Delegation
By Wendy Osher
U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka today introduced the 2011 version of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, also known as the Akaka Bill. The bill was first introduced more than 10 years ago and has gone through various revisions.
“This bill would simply put Native Hawaiians on equal footing with American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said Sen. Akaka.
The measure seeks to establish a process for a government to government relationship between Native Hawaiians and the United States. It would begin a process to re-form a Native Hawaiian government that could negotiate with the state and federal government on behalf of Hawaii’s indigenous people.
Calling reconciliation between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people a top priority, Sen. Akaka said, ” I encourage all of my colleagues to stand with me and support this legislation providing parity in federal policy towards indigenous people.”
Fellow U.S. Senator, Daniel Inouye extended his full support saying, federal recognition is long overdue. “Native Hawaiians enjoy a political status and special legal relationship with the federal government which is evidenced in well over 188 federal laws dating back to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and the Hawaii Admissions Act. Inherent in these laws and explicit in the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act we introduce today is the right to self-determination and self-governance,” he said.
The latest version of the measure was based on the amended bill (S.1011, 111th Congress), which passed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on December 17, 2009. The bill introduced today allows the committee on Indian affairs to build upon existing testimony and reports, in an effort to expedite consideration by the full Senate.
An identical companion bill (H.R. 1250) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Hawaii’s Rep. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
“I will be reaching out to the many new members who are not familiar with Hawaii’s history and do not know Native Hawaiians had their own sovereign nation, with their own language, culture, religion and traditional economy,” said Congresswoman Mazie Hirono.
Governor Neil Abercrombie also vowed his support saying, “I continue to stand by this bill as Governor. This measure is long overdue as enabling legislation allowing Native Hawaiians and the State of Hawaii to resolve outstanding issues fairly and comprehensively.” Gov. Abercrombie said he will work with the Congressional delegation to seek approval of the bill.