If I told you there would be a bill coming to the floor of the United States Senate this week that would create a sovereign government based on race, would you believe me? You can be forgiven for being skeptical. It sounds ridiculous.
If I told you that when it comes to the floor—most likely on Thursday of this week—that it’s not at all unlikely that it will pass, would you believe me then?
It’s time to start believing. The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act comes to the floor this week. Among its goals, according to a report from the United States Commission on Civil Rights:
--Recognize a right of the Native Hawaiian people to reorganize the Native Hawaiian governing entity to provide for their common welfare and to adopt appropriate organic governing documents.
--Establish a commission to certify that the adult members of the Native Hawaiian community proposed for inclusion on the roll meet the definition of Native Hawaiian as “an individual who is one of the indigenous, native people of Hawaii.”
--Authorize the United States to enter into negotiations with the governing entity to lead to an agreesment addressing specified matters including the transfer of lands, natural resources, and other assets.”
After a briefing in January, the commission issued a report that portrayed the Akaka bill as “discriminatory and divisive.”
This bill has been skulking around the Senate for six years now. Unfortunately, when Hawaiian senators Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye go looking for supporters for something called the “Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act,” they find a lot of support from obliging fellow senators who assume the bill is a “Hawaiian issue,” and that the Hawaiian delegation can be trusted to speak for Native Hawaiians.
But one of the many problems with the bill is that no one has asked the Native Hawaiians themselves about this “Hawaiian issue.”
I spoke with Kilikina Kekumano and Leon Siu of the Koani Foundation--both Native Hawaiian activists opposed to the Akaka bill. They are opposed largely because the legislation seeks to deal with a Hawaiian issue without ever consulting the people of Hawaii about it.
Kekumano, who was adopted as a young girl by a mainland American family and now flies between her family’s land in Virginia and Hawaii while working on this issue, says the Akaka bill will create racial division in Hawaii where there has been none.