Opinion | Federal Recognition

Keli'i Akina: Recognition for Native Hawaiians just a power grab

Keli'i Akina. Photo from Facebook

Keli'i Akina of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii claims Native Hawaiians don't support federal recognition:
The effort of the Native Hawaiian Roll to redefine Hawaiians as a political tribe has met with little support. The commission responsible for administering the roll, which was open between July 20, 2012 and May 1, 2014, claims that approximately 125,631 Native Hawaiians have “signed up.” In fact, most never “signed up,” as official registration requires enrollees to endorse an affidavit which states: “I affirm the unrelinquished sovereignty of the Hawaiian people and my intent to participate in the process of self-governance.” The majority of names on the roll were transferred from non-political lists of ethnic Hawaiians who have not affirmed such a statement.

Yet the executive branch is undeterred. So obvious are its efforts to create a tribe by fiat that four members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights were moved to send a letter to President Obama, dated September 16, 2013, telling him that, “Executive action implementing provisions of the Akaka bill would be … unwise and unconstitutional.” They also reiterated that “whatever the perceived or actual wrongs that were done to native Hawaiian rulers in the late nineteenth century, there was not then a distinct ‘tribe’ of native Hawaiians living separately from the rest of society, and there certainly has not been any in the 120 years since.”

So, to what end does the executive branch labor? Who benefits from the redefining of ethnic Hawaiians as a tribe for purposes of federal recognition? Ultimately, it may come back to the tried-and-true motivations of money and power — at least among “tribal” leaders and the political and corporate elite in Hawaii who, with their national counterparts, have dominated Native Hawaiian politics for decades. It is likely that any Native Hawaiian government entity would be able to lay claim to sizeable land holdings and revenues — and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has been working to expand its role and powers as a developer.

Get the Story:
Keli'i Akina: Hawaiians Are Not A Tribe (The Daily Caller 6/4)

Relevant Documents:
Procedures for Reestablishing a Government-to-Government Relationship With the Native Hawaiian Community | Oversight of Hawaiian Home Lands

Related Stories:
DOI considers regulation to address status of Native Hawaiians (5/28)

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