`Ano`ai kakou… During the last of the President Bill Clinton’s years in the White House, I served as the Chair of the OHA Board of Trustees. When Clinton first took office in 1993, many positive things happened for Hawaiians and Hawaii. It was during Clinton’s his first term that he signed the Apology Resolution submitted by then-US Senator Dan Akaka in 1993. There was also a great friendship that developed between President Clinton and then-Governor John Waihee III.
During those eight years, Hawaii’s Native people were treated as equals to the Native Americans and Native Alaskans. We were included in the Native Education Act and Hawaiian health took on a new focus with lots of funding coming from Washington, D.C. The Administration for Native Americans’ funding was also great for us and we still use money from that program today to fund our OHA loans.
Before President Clinton left office, his cabinet created the federal Office of Native Hawaiian Relations within the Department of the Interior so that Hawaiians did not have to go through the Bureau of Indian Affairs to seek monies or recognition the same way that American Indians do.
Also done was a study by the Departments of Interior and Justice on the overthrow and the taking of Hawaiian lands and how Hawaii became a territory and eventually a state. Public hearings were held all over the 50th state and after all the information was gathered they came out with a book called “Mauka to Makai.” Its final recommendation was for the federal government to begin a dialogue with Native Hawaiians to resolve Native claims and issues that were unresolved.
At the time, it was hoped that Democratic Vice-President Al Gore would succeed President Clinton and the work to resolve all of our issues would continue. As we all know, this did not occur and for eight years during the Bush Administration all of our efforts were squashed.
During the Obama Administration, it has been very difficult as well with the Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate. Before the current president leaves office, I believe he would like to see something done for our Native people. That is why we are currently going through the federal “rules” process.
My point to all of this is that, as a Democrat, choosing the right candidate who I believe will help Native peoples the most is my highest priority. To my knowledge, Bernie Sanders has no track record as a champion for Native people, let alone Native Hawaiians. Throughout his campaign, he has not articulated a clear plan to help Native peoples nor has he received any strong endorsements from Native organizations that I am aware of.
Our road to sovereignty is very difficult. I have been in this struggle since 1999. Having people in Congress and certainly the White House that support our efforts is critical to our success. Mahalo nui for your patience and for listening to my voice. Aloha Ke Akua.