Opinion | Federal Recognition

Opinion: Recognizing Native Hawaiians without act of Congress

Writer wonders whether the Bureau of Indian Affairs can recognize a Native Hawaiian governing entity without an act of Congress:
A newly published report from the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Interior sheds light on an illegitimate bureaucratic procedure used in 2011 to recognize a California Indian tribe. That same sort of procedure is probably being considered to get federal recognition for "Native Hawaiians."

The Akaka bill would grant federal recognition to "Native Hawaiians" as though they are an Indian tribe. The bill has had a chaotic history in Congress since July 20, 2000. In 13 years it has had numerous major revisions. Perhaps the height of the schizophrenia was in 2009 when three radically different versions of the bill were each introduced in both the House and Senate simultaneously as paired companions in February, March, and May. The Akaka bill, named for Hawaii's U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, passed the House in three different years, but died in the Senate. In August/September 2005 Hurricane Katrina blew it off the Senate calendar, and in June 2006 a two-day filibuster killed it.

During 2010-2013 there have been vague but persistent rumors that Hawaii Senators and Representatives are working with the Obama administration to create some sort of executive order or administrative decision to give federal recognition to the Akaka tribe, even in the absence of any action from Congress. Such a possibility seems quite plausible in view of President Obama's repeated use of executive orders and administrative rule-making to usurp the powers of Congress.

Get the Story:
Ken Conklin: Can Akaka tribe be recognized by bureaucratic fiat? (The Hawaii Reporter 5/2)

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