2006-05-09 Akaka Fact Check
(Speech text taken from Akaka's website.)
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Akaka's remarks with corrections
Mr. President, I rise today to talk about bipartisan legislation that is of critical importance to the people of Hawaii, S. 147, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005. S. 147 would extend the federal policy of self-governance and self-determination to Hawaii’s indigenous peoples, Native Hawaiians, by authorizing a process for the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian governing entity for the purposes of a government-to-government relationship with the United States.
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Correction: Despite the characterization of S.147 as merely extending existing federal policy, it actually goes where no legislation has gone before. Although Congress DOES have plenary power over federally recognized tribes, it DOES NOT have plenary power to create tribes out of thin air; and in fact court decisions have ruled that Congress cannot give federal recognition arbitrarily or capriciously: United States v. Sandoval, 231 U.S. 28, 39-47 (1913)
If Congress were to create a new mega-tribe out of anyone with Native American ancestry (4,315,865 as per the 2000 Census), and abrogate the rules required for tribal recognition, it would come close to S.147.
Together with my senior Senator, and the rest of Hawaii’s Congressional delegation, I first introduced this bill in 1999. The bill passed the House in 2000, but unfortunately, the Senate adjourned before we could complete consideration of the bill. Since then, I have introduced the bill every Congress. In every Congress, the committees of jurisdiction, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the House Committee on Resources, have favorably reported the bill and its companion measure.
I thank our Majority Leader, the senior Senator from Tennessee, who is working to uphold his commitment to bring this bill to the Senate floor for a debate and roll call vote. I also appreciate the efforts of my colleague from Arizona, who opposes the bill on substance, but has worked with me to uphold his promise to allow the bill to come to the floor for a debate and roll call vote.
Mr. President, S. 147 does three things. First, it authorizes the Office of Native Hawaiian Relations in the Department of the Interior. The office is intended to serve as a liaison between Native Hawaiians and the United States. It is NOT intended to become another Bureau of Indian Affairs, as the current federal programs for Native Hawaiians will remain with the agencies who currently administer those programs.
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Correction: The Office of Native Hawaiian Relations was already authorized in the January 2004 omnibus appropriations bill in a Section 148:
Second, the bill establishes the Native Hawaiian Interagency Coordinating Group. This is a federal working group to be composed of representatives from federal agencies who administer programs and services for Native Hawaiians. There is no statutory requirement for these agencies to work together. This working group can coordinate policies to ensure consistency and prevent unnecessary duplication in federal policies impacting Native Hawaiians.
Finally, the bill authorizes a process for the reorganization of the Native Hawaiian governing entity. Why do we need to reorganize the entity? Because the Native Hawaiian government was overthrown with the assistance of U.S. agents in 1893. Rather than shed the blood of her people, our beloved Queen, Lili’uokalani, abdicated her throne after being arrested and imprisoned in her own home. Following the overthrow, a Republic was formed. Any reformation of a native governing entity has been discouraged.
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Correction: The Hawaiian Kingdom of 1893 was not a government for Native Hawaiians - it was a government for all Hawaiians, regardless of "indigenous" status. As illustrated in the 1890 Census, Native Hawaiians accounted for only 34,436 out of a total population of 89,990.
Furthermore the overthrow was done without the assistance of the U.S. - see http://morganreport.org for the final Senate investigation on the matter. After the revolution, she was even allowed to retain her personal guard - contrary to Akaka's statement, she was not arrested or imprisoned until after the attempted rebellion of 1895, where she was found guilty of misprision of treason. During the Morgan investigation, Lt. Commander Swinburne testified that the queen had freedom of movement, and even retained a personal guard after the overthrow:
Despite this fact, Native Hawaiians have established distinct communities and retained their language, culture, and traditions. They have done so in a way that also allows other cultures to flourish in Hawaii. Now, their generosity is being used against them by opponents of this bill who claim that because Native Hawaiians do not have a governing entity they cannot partake in the federal policy of self-governance and self-determination that is offered to their native brethren in the United States.
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Correction: Native Hawaiians have only one distinct community where the language has been maintained - Niihau. Even there, the culture and traditions are those of integration, with strong post-missionary christian values embedded in their community.
Native Hawaiians have been thoroughly integrated by marriage, by language, culture and traditions, with all other races in the islands. The hallmark of Native Hawaiian pride, celestial navigation, was actually re-introduced to the islands by a foreigner, Mau Piailug. To turn back integration, to repudiate over a century of progress where the foreign and the "indigenous" have been considered equal, is backwards.
Opponents of the Akaka bill rightfully claim that Native Hawaiians never had a race-based governing entity which distinguished between "indigenous" and "non-indigenous". And to force upon Native Hawaiians this racist distinction, given their long history of equality, is disrespectful to history and to the ideals for which we stand.
My bill authorizes a process for the reorganization of the Native Hawaiian governing entity for the purposes of a federally recognized government-to-government relationship. There are many checks and balances in this process which has the structure necessary to comply with federal law and still maintains the flexibility for Native Hawaiians to determine the outcome of this process.
Further, my bill includes a negotiations process between the Native Hawaiian governing entity, the State of Hawaii, and the United States, to address issues such as lands, natural resources, assets, criminal and civil jurisdiction, and historical grievances. Nothing that is currently within the jurisdiction of another level of government can be conveyed to the Native Hawaiian government without going through this negotiations process.
I am proud of the fact that this bill respects the rights of Hawaii’s indigenous peoples through a process that is consistent with federal law, and it provides the structured process for the people of Hawaii to address the longstanding issues which have plagued both Native Hawaiians and non-Native Hawaiians since the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
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Correction: This bill turns the progressive civil rights stance of the Kingdom and of Native Hawaiians since the 1839 Hawaiian Constitution on its head. It disrespects the rights of Native Hawaiians to treat every person as if they were "of one blood", with no arbitrary racial distinctions like "indigenous" or "non-indigenous". Native Hawaiians may have been the first immigrants to the islands of Hawaii, but from the very beginning of the Kingdom of Hawaii, they never asserted that they deserved separate treatment from other immigrant groups.
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I want to reiterate, colleagues, that this bill is not race-based. This bill is based on the federal policies towards indigenous peoples. Those who characterize this bill as race-based fail to understand the federal policies towards indigenous peoples. Those who characterize this bill as race-based fail to understand the legal and political relationship the United States has with the indigenous peoples whose governments pre-existed the United States. Finally, those who characterize this bill as race-based are really saying that Native Hawaiians are not native enough. I find this offensive and I ask that you to join me in my efforts to bring parity to Native Hawaiians by enacting my bill.
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Correction: This bill is specifically race-based. It asks to create a government of "indigenous" people that has never existed in Hawaii. In 1778, the islands were not unified under any solely "indigenous" government. It was not until 1810, under Kamehameha the Great, that the islands of Hawaii became the Hawaiian Islands, after he unified through conquest with the help and participation of non-natives. Throughout the Kingdom period, races were treated equally, with no regard to their "indigenous" status. Non-indigenous people served at the highest levels of government, and were thoroughly integrated in society.
The Akaka bill creates a race-based government where none has ever existed in the history of man's presence in the islands. The Native Hawaiians did not create a Kingdom just for "indigenous" people, they created a Kingdom for all people. Although the Kingdom may be gone, that vision of equality should be respected and honored by resisting the efforts of some to enshrine racism into law.
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Comment: The Akaka bill would allow bureaucrats to carve out huge chunks of our public lands and of the territory over which our State has governmental power, authority and civil and criminal jurisdiction and give them to the new Native Hawaiian government; and still allow Native Hawaiians to retain their full rights as citizens of the State of Hawaii and United States. With all due respect to the well-loved Senator Akaka, that is not "Parity"; that is "Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie."
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This effort will continue from day-to-day here. We will continue to bring forward the history of Hawaii and the reasons why we are trying to enact this bill, not only for the benefit of the indigenous people of Hawaii but for the benefit of the United States as well.
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Comment: And we will endeavor to keep up with our dear Senator as well, for the benefit of all the people of Hawaii, and all the people of the United States as well.
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