TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
March 2003 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
Most of the Trustees traveled to Washington D.C. in the last week of February to appear before the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs where the new “Akaka Bill” (S.344) was heard. This time, however, we had the support of Governor Linda Lingle. Having the Governor’s support is a refreshing change after the last eight years of hostility experienced by Hawaiians during the previous state administration. The Governor gave testimony supporting the intent of the Akaka Bill, but not necessarily supporting all of its content or language. It is important to note that Governor Lingle has kept her promise to Hawaiians by supporting our efforts for federal recognition, and has done everything that she possibly could, within the limits of the law, to restore OHA’s revenue stream.
In 2000, the very first Akaka Bill, S.81, received many hearings across the State and this allowed for a great deal of community input. This first bill was passed by the House but was not voted on by the Senate. An amended version introduced in 2001 also passed the committee, but no floor vote was taken.
The 2002 version of the Akaka Bill, S.746, received no hearings, although there was an effort in the Senate to get the bill to the floor for a vote. Unfortunately, the effort was not successful. The Bill was very controversial because it looked nothing like the original Akaka Bill, S.81. Most critical is that Section 7 of the original Bill, which allows for a fair process for ALL Hawaiians to be included in the recognition effort, was left out. Other sections of equal importance which addressed land, etc., were also absent in S.746.
The new 2003 Akaka Bill was introduced as S.344, however it is identical to S.746. Our Congressional Delegation has promised that there will be a time for community input before the “mark up” (a process that allows for amendments to be made). Our Congressional Delegation must understand that the Hawaiian community has made it very clear that they want to be included in the “mark up” of the new Akaka Bill. This is a promise that must be kept.
I believe that the new Akaka Bill has a better chance of passage in Congress this year than in years past. Our challenge is to convince not just the Congress but also the Federal Administration that recognizing the Native people of Hawaii is the right thing to do. All 50 states have federally recognized Native Americans. Hawaii is the last State to ask Congress to recognize its Native people.
The passage of this year’s Akaka Bill is dependent upon all of our support. I will keep you posted on any and all information regarding this very important measure. A hui hou!