FROM THE ARCHIVE
Native veterans push for self-determination
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TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2002

Native veterans on Monday rallied behind a stalled bill to extend federal recognition to Native Hawaiians, citing their long history of military service and dedication to the United States.

Native Hawaiians were joined by American Indian and Alaska Native compatriots to support legislation introduced two years ago. At a Senate Indian Affairs Committee discussion, they said a government-to-government relationship would preserve Native Hawaiian culture, land and language.

The bill, said retired Brigadier General Irwin K. Crockett, a Korean and Vietnam War veteran from Hawaii, "is an important step in this direction."

Although they share a common history with their mainland and Alaska counterparts, Native Hawaiians lack formal acknowledgment of their status. A bill sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) would correct the oversight, the veterans said.

"It's only fair, with equity, that we all be treated as Americans," said Walter Sampson, a Vietnam veteran from Alaska. "As a government, it's helping Native communities to become self-sufficient."

The Native Hawaiian self-determination movement has picked up in recent years. President Bill Clinton in 1994 issued an apology for the late 19th century overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and his administration in 2000 recommended recognition.

But legislation has been held up by Republicans in the Democrat-led Senate. Some were worried about effects on funding for Indian Country while others objected to rights and benefits federal status would bring.

Isaac Ho'opi'i, a Pentagon worker who was awarded a Medal of Valor for his rescue efforts on September 11, said the concerns were unfounded. "I know that people doubt our patriotism simply because we support efforts to preserve our culture, traditions and Native ancestor's homeland of Hawaii," he said.

"I believe this attitude is largely based on lack of understanding," he added.

The veterans and other speakers hoped to dispel any misgivings by highlighting Native contributions. "More Native Americans," said Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), "have volunteered to put themselves in harm's way in the service of our country than any other group of Americans."

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi didn't state his position on the bill but pointed out that Native Americans have never hesitated to defend America. "I am honored to be among our nation's greatest warriors," he said.

Relevant Bills:
A bill to express the policy of the United States regarding the United States relationship with Native Hawaiians (S.81)

Relevant Links:
Native Hawaiians, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/nativehawaiians
Native Hawaiian Federal Recognition Site - http://www.nativehawaiians.com

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