Non-Natives win battle in suit
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AUGUST 17, 2000

Non-Native Hawaiians have won a temporary battle in a lawsuit challenging the state of Hawaii over its administration of benefits for Native Hawaiians.

On Tuesday, US District Court Judge Helen Gillmor in Hawaii granted a temporary injunction against a state law which requires candidates for trustee positions in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) to be Native Hawaiian.

Gillmor's injunction comes in response to a suit filed by a group of 13 individuals against the state of Hawaii. They point to the Rice v. Cayetano decision by the Supreme Court in February as the source of their lawsuit.

That decision ruled that the state cannot restrict voting for OHA positions to Native Hawaiians. By extension, they say, the ruling should apply to the positions themselves.

As a result of Judge Gillmor's ruling, Kenneth Conklin, one of the 13 involved in the litigation, plans to file nomination papers for OHA. He has until September 8 to do so, at which time Gillmor will issue a final ruling.

September 8 is also the OHA deadline for filing papers.

Conklin is part of a an anti-sovereignty group known as Aloha For All. The group doesn't support the sovereignty movements because they feel it gives Native Hawaiians voting and land rights based just on race.

Additionally, Conklin has stated that a bill currently pending in Congress which establishes a legal and political relationship between the federal government and Native Hawaiians is "dangerous to the people of Hawaii and the sovereignty of the United States."

"The U.S. doesn't owe anything to Native Hawaiians on account of the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893," states Conklin.

The bill, proposed by Senator Dan Akaka of Hawaii, would establish a relationship between Native Hawaiians and the US similar to that of Indian tribes and Alaska Natives. It would also establish an Office of Special Trustee for Native Hawaiian Affairs, an office similar to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

But Conklin says Native Hawaiians shouldn't be treated like tribes.

Conklin also defends himself in the face of criticism by others, including OHA trustee Mililani Trask, an outspoken sovereignty advocate. She believes Conklin doesn't have the best interests of Native Hawaiians in mind and as such, doesn't qualify for a position which is designed to benefit indigenous people.

Butch Kekahu, a Native Hawaiian elder who organized the Aloha March 2000 in Washington, DC, to educate others about the history of Hawaii, also expresses concern about non-Native involvement in trust affairs. As a Native, he lives on land set aside for Native Hawaiians and believes such land could now be threatened.

"That's the next arena," he said. "They can vote [due to the Rice decision]. Now they can get Hawaiian land."

Get the Bill:
A bill to express the policy of the United States regarding the United States' relationship with Native Hawaiians, and for other purposes (S.2899)

Relevant Links:
US District Court, District of Hawaii -
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs -
Kenneth Conklin -
Aloha for All -
More on Rice v. Cayetano:

Related Stories:
March raises sovereignty awareness (The Talking Circle 8/14)
Group challenges Hawaii (Tribal Law 07/07)
Hawaiians march for sovereignty (The Talking Circle 07/05)
Sovereignty protests aim to educate (The Talking Circle 07/03)