Steve Russell: Support for Native Hawaiians
"If you are a Native Hawaiian, is your status more like American Indians or more like an ethnic minority? Addressing this question inevitably requires drawing conclusions about the legal status of American Indians, and this has not escaped the notice of people who oppose Hawaiian sovereignty. Indeed, they are often the same people who opposed Indian sovereignty on the ground that it is a racial special privilege that disadvantages white people.

Once more, the bill to recognize Native Hawaiians as having the same sovereign status as Indian nations is pending in Congress. In the world of right and wrong, the only opponents with a leg to stand on are the minority of Native Hawaiians who oppose the bill because they want their full sovereignty back. Should a majority of Native Hawaiians adopt that position, the bill should be opposed simply because the politics of the Hawaiian relationship with the United States is Hawaiian business.

As long as the argument of the status of Native Hawaiians persists in Congress or in the courts, Indians have a dog in the fight. If Native Hawaiians win, the legal sovereignty of American Indian tribes is more secure. David Yeagley, the rightwing Comanche activist, recognized this when he wrote an op-ed opposing the Hawaiians. Indians who think the current understanding of tribal sovereignty is not worth maintaining should oppose the Hawaiians just like the white people who consider tribal sovereignty to be “race privilege” that disadvantages them.

An Associated Press report on the Native Hawaiian bill quotes Gail Heriot, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights as saying that granting sovereign status to Native Hawaiians would be like doing the same for Cajuns in Louisiana or Chicanos in the Southwest. This appears to be the Republican Party line. Sound familiar?"

Get the Story:
Steve Russell: Got indigenous? (Indian Country Today 6/16)

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