Interior Department announces first-ever consultation policy with the Native Hawaiian community
For the first time in the agency’s history, the Department of the Interior will require formal consultation with the Native Hawaiian Community.
Agency representatives say the new policies and procedures, subject to formal consultation, will further affirm and honor the special political and trust relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian Community.
“The Interior Department is committed to working with the Native Hawaiian Community on a government-to-sovereign basis to address concerns related to self-governance, Native Hawaiian trust resources, and other Native Hawaiian rights,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “A new and unprecedented consultation policy will help support Native Hawaiian sovereignty and self-determination as we continue to uphold the right of the Native Hawaiian Community to self-government.”
US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, lauded the announcement saying, “This is a very big deal and a vital first step. One of the most important principles in policymaking, especially as it relates to Native communities, is: ‘nothing about me, without me.’ This policy update recognizes that consultation with Native Hawaiians is an essential aspect of decision-making for the federal government and key to upholding its trust responsibility. We have long way to go, but all progress starts with listening.”
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey of Maui called the policy “historic” and a “victory in the fight for Native Hawaiian sovereignty and self-determination.”
“The department’s commitment to working with the Native Hawaiian people in consultation on matters of mutual interest confirms and respects the special political and trust relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community and is an important step in our people’s struggle for self-governance,” said Lindsey. “This is very welcome news and we mahalo Secretary Deb Haaland and President Biden for their continuous efforts to involve and engage Indigenous communities and provide us a voice in federal decision-making. We have much to contribute when discussing Native Hawaiian trust resources and Native Hawaiian rights, and we look forward to the work ahead,” she said.
Hawaiian Homes Commission Chair William J. Ailā, Jr. said the inclusion of community perspectives in government policymaking is a critical piece of civic engagement. “DHHL established a formal Beneficiary Consultation Policy of its own in 2009 and has successfully used it to engage with native Hawaiian beneficiaries to make the implementation of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act a better reflection of the community’s wants and desires. This DOI announcement is a welcomed step forward by the United States towards additional collaboration and inclusion of the Hawaiian perspective in its policymaking,” said Ailā, Jr.
The draft consultation policy and procedures seek to, among other things:
- Bolster the Department’s consultation efforts to encourage early, robust, interactive, pre-decisional, informative and transparent consultation;
- Require that Department staff undergo training before participating in consultation;
- Establish bi-annual meetings between the Secretary and Native Hawaiian Community leaders to consult on matters of mutual interest;
- Clarify that the Department’s decision-makers must invite Native Hawaiian Community leaders to engage in consultation; and
- Require a record of consultation.
The draft requirements help further the spirit and intent of President Biden’s “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships,” which outlines the Administration’s efforts to engage Indigenous communities early and often in federal decision-making.
The Office of Native Hawaiian Relations will host two virtual consultations to gather feedback from the Native Hawaiian Community on the new policy
- Thursday, Nov. 10 from 9 to 11 a.m. HST and
- Monday, Dec. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. HST.
ONHR discharges the Secretary’s responsibilities for matters related to Native Hawaiians and serves as a conduit for the Department’s field activities in Hawaiʻi. More information is available on ONHR’s website.