By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: September 2005 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Article
`Ano`ai kakou… In late July, the trustees returned from another disappointing trip to lobby for the passage of the Akaka bill in Washington, D.C. The bill has enough votes to pass the U.S. Senate, but unfortunately, several Republican Senators used last-minute political gamesmanship to prevent the bill from reaching the Senate floor for voting. After witnessing these underhanded tactics, I am amazed that anything can get done in Washington.
The Senators that oppose the Akaka bill are obviously relying on false information being provided by Akaka bill opponents such as Thurston Twigg-Smith (who is part of the Arakaki lawsuit and whose ancestor helped orchestrate the overthrow), H. William Burgess (also with the Arakaki lawsuit and the anti-OHA organization Aloha for All), and Richard Rowland (Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i). These people want us to believe that they are fighting for equality, but I believe they are actually motivated by racism.
To make matters worse, Washington has become so politically divided along party lines that neither side is willing to work together and hammer out a bill that all sides can live with. It seems as if the Democrats and Republicans have lost the art of compromise.
Years ago, Washington used to be a different place. As Jack Valenti (President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Administration) described it, members of Congress built relationships based on trust. The party in power understood that the role of the opposition was to oppose and didn’t take their criticism personally. The minority party knew that just because you opposed an issue didn’t mean you couldn’t compromise. No party could ever get everything they wanted. That’s not how politics works. Politics depends on compromise.
Here at home, the time has come for Native Hawaiians who support and oppose the Akaka Bill to come together in the spirit of compromise. Native Hawaiians who oppose the Akaka bill need to realize that if they want to form an independent Hawaiian nation, they can – even if the Akaka bill were passed into law. The bill does not give any position on the ultimate form of Native Hawaiian governance. It only requires the Federal Government to recognize a trust relationship with our people. More importantly, it would give us the ability to protect our trust assets until our governing entity is formed.
All of us can agree that we cannot build a nation without assets. Native Hawaiian opponents of the Akaka bill must understand that there can be no final judgment in the federal courts if Congress approves the Akaka bill. The bill offers strong protection to all of our Hawaiian trusts from the constant threat of lawsuits. That’s why I have always supported the bill.
What we face today as Hawaiians is no different than what occurred over 100 years ago. We are still fighting off assaults on our culture, rights to our lands, and racism. Only now, we are being called racists because we want to protect our entitlements. Times have not changed much, people are still the same and racism is still the motivation behind the move to relieve us of whatever entitlements we have left. The only thing that has changed is the sophistication used to manipulate us and the law.
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.
We are one people. We cannot afford to be divided, not when so much work remains to be done. The struggle to regain our sovereign rights requires unity and the strength of numbers. As the recent federal court decision regarding Kamehameha schools proves, the future of OHA, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and all of the Hawaiian Trusts are certainly at risk. We must work together and combine our influence so that we can do what is necessary to pass the Akaka bill.
Let us be as our Queen wished… ONIPA’A, steadfast in what is good!
“I appeal to you… that there be no division among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” I Corinthians 1:10