By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: December 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
Congratulations to all of the public servants elected in 2008. Campaigning can be a grueling process. I look forward to working with all of you in what is certain to be a historic year for Native Hawaiians. During this holiday season we can finally look forward to the passage of the Akaka Bill in 2009.
The time has come for all of us to come together in spirit and give the Akaka Bill the final push it needs to become law. The bill will provide powerful protection from the constant threat of lawsuits to all of our Hawaiian trust assets. This is the reason why I have always supported the bill.
The Akaka Bill has never been in a better position for passage, although it must be reintroduced in the 2009 Congress. The nation has elected Senator Barack Obama to be our next president and he is on record as supporting the Akaka Bill. The Democrats have also increased their majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate. We nearly got the Akaka Bill passed in the Senate just a few years ago with significantly less Democrats in office.
This time around it should be relatively easier – so much so that we could probably do without the “help” from our high-paid lobbyists. I believe we can get the bill passed on our own. Given the current state of the economy, we should seriously consider saving our beneficiary dollars wherever we can. Our congressional delegation certainly doesn’t need our current lobbyists just to count votes.
What we face today as Hawaiians is no different than what occurred over the past 100 years. We are still fighting off assaults on our culture, the deterioration of our rights to our lands, and attacks from racist organizations.
Let us begin to work together for the cause of recognition. Let us begin to agree on the things that we can agree to and set aside the things we differ on and move forward together for the future generations of Hawaiians yet to come.
As many of you already know, the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to consider the State of Hawai‘i’s appeal of a lower-court injunction against the sale or transfer of ceded lands until our claims have been settled. This inexplicable action by the Lingle administration highlights the fact that the future of OHA, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and all of the Hawaiian Trusts continue to be perilously at risk.
The state’s appeal can be traced all the way back to 1994, when OHA and four Native Hawaiians sued the state to prevent it from selling or transferring any portions of ceded lands. We argued that the state must first settle Native Hawaiian claims to the ceded lands.
In 2002, a circuit judge ruled in favor of the state, but a 2008 ruling by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, which cited the 1993 Apology Bill, ruled in our favor. Now, with the latest appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the state is once again trying to sell ceded lands without resolving Native Hawaiian ceded land claims. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the state could lead to the transfer or sale of ceded lands without any oversight by Native Hawaiians.
Therefore, we must work together and combine our influence so that we can do what is necessary to finally pass the Akaka Bill. The fate of 1.2 million acres of ceded lands, the legacy of our once great kingdom, hangs in the balance.
May I wish each and every one of you a very blessed Christmas and a sincere wish of good health and best wishes for a wonderful New Year. Aloha Ke Akua.