Opinion | Federal Recognition

Opinion: Native Americans get stake in Native Hawaiian status

Writer connects Interior Department effort to revise the Part 83 federal recognition process with discussions about Native Hawaiian sovereignty:
In two seemingly unconnected actions, the Interior Department in April and May of this year announced two regulatory initiatives with widespread impact on Native Hawaiians and Native Americans.

On May 27, 2014, the Interior Department issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking stating that it “is considering whether to propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community, to more effectively implement the special political and trust relationship that Congress has established between that community and the United States.”

The Interior Secretary, in explicating her action as to the notice, opined: “Through this step, the Department is responding to requests from not only the Native Hawaiian community but also state and local leaders and interested parties who recognize that we need to begin a conversation of diverse voices to help determine the best path forward for honoring the trust relationship that Congress has created specifically to benefit Native Hawaiians.” \

Laymen may be excused for not immediately understanding the true meaning of this opaque language. While obviously enigmatic, what did the Department hope to say, if anything? It seems unlikely that the Department plans to revive the Hawaiian monarchy.

A clue to the words lies in a curious fact. The proposal has, naturally enough, been vetted in Hawaii at 15 locations in June and July. However, it is also being formally discussed at five Native American venues across the continental United States in late July and August.

Somehow, then, the Native American communities are stakeholders in Hawaiian sovereignty. Yet, simultaneously, Native Americans are the subject of monumentally-important revised Interior Department regulations on tribal formation. This proposed Federal Acknowledgment Rule, a substantial revision of 25 CFR 83, was announced on April 14 and will be the gatekeeper of future admissions of new tribal organizations in the future. No public or tribal meetings on the proposed revised Rule have been scheduled outside the continental United States and the Rule is explicitly limited to continental Native Americans.

Get the Story:
James Ching: New Native American Tribal Regulations Implicate Hawaiian Sovereignty (Law.Com 7/15)

Federal Register Notices:
Federal Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes (May 29, 2014)
Procedures for Reestablishing a Government-to-Government Relationship With the Native Hawaiian Community (June 20, 2014)

Related Stories:
Comment period opens on Native Hawaiian recognition proposal (06/20)
DOI considers process to recognize Native Hawaiian government (6/18)
Keli'i Akina: Recognition for Native Hawaiians just a power grab (06/04)
DOI considers regulation to address status of Native Hawaiians (5/28)

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