Posted by: adoseofliberty | December 26, 2009

Aloha For Some

A bill that would allow native Hawaiians to establish their own government was approved in the House last week.

The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, sponsored by Senator Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, would transfer a portion of public-owned lands within the state of Hawaii to this new native Hawaiian government.

According to Senator Akaka in local newspaper Hawaii 24/7, “the bill provides for a structured process of reconciliation for both Native Hawaiians and non-Native Hawaiians to finally address and resolve longstanding issues resulting from Hawaii’s painful history.”

A Wall Street Journal editorial on the matter states, “the legislation would collect some 400,000 ethnic Hawaiians scattered across the country into a newly affiliated tribe, eventually endowed with the powers of a sovereign state, including freedom from state taxes and regulations and separate police power.”

Although this idea of granting rights of self-determination to indigenous people is similar to those given to certain Native Americans tribes which are composed of “tightly knit populations that have lived together continuously”, this plan enables participation to anyone “able to trace their roots back to a Native Hawaiian ancestor, no matter where they now reside.”  The Journal article continues:

U.S. Civil Rights Commission member Gail Heriot told Congress in June that, “If ethnic Hawaiians can be accorded tribal status, why not Chicanos in the Southwest? Or Cajuns in Louisiana?”

Under the current version of the Akaka bill, the determination of who qualifies as a Native Hawaiian “would be handled by a nine member commission staffed by experts in native Hawaiian genealogy.”  Ah yes, another commission.  One with experts on race.

That, says the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, amounts to racial discrimination and would “subdivide the American People into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege.”

The land transfer based on the bill could be significant.  Given that 38% of Hawaiian land is publicly-owned, it is possible that “state tax and land lease revenue lost annually could range from $342.8 million to $689.7 million”, depending on how much land is ceded to the new government.

The state could also expect to lose as many as 20,000 private sector jobs and more than $200 million in investment. The burden will fall on non-Native taxpayers, costing the average taxpayer between $705 and $1,461 in real disposable income a year.

Elaine Willman back in 2006, when the Akaka bill was first introduced, wrote that passage would mean

the legal door is open for indigenous Mexican homeland claims being pursued by the Aztlan Movement to overturn the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in order to restore 525,000 square miles of the Southwestern United States to the indigenous Mexicans.

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Responses

  1. I believe the white man calls non-white
    people names primarily to denigrate and dehumanize them. Take the term “american indian”, for example. The First People are neither indians nor americans but the white man insists on
    that demeaning term rather than calling them by their cultural, tribal or indigenous names. In my opinion, the white man uses this treacherous, deceitful and cowardly tactic to create a crises of identity amongst the indigenous people such that they are unsure as to who or what they are. If I had my druthers I’d druther the First People call themselves First VICTIMS. That way, we hawaiians can call ourselves VICTIMS TOO!

    • Although I agree that historically, the denigration of indigenous peoples was wrongly done primarily in disdain and with the central aim of marginalizing their claim to land and resources that were seized in the American westward expansion a la Manifest Destiny, you ironically, and most likely unknowingly, use the exact same tactic in your claim against the “white man”, lumping together all people of European ancestry (if you use a narrow interpretation), people with generally light skin pigmentation, or even “Causasians”, technically applying to populations across multiple continents. If that’s not uncertainty of “who or what they are”, I don’t know what is.

      Regardless, I have trouble identifying the relevance of your comment with the actual post, seeing as how the main concern was the idea of race-based legislation granting tribal status, tax privileges, and independent sovereignty, as well as land concessions, to anyone, as you aptly put it, willing to call themselves “victims”.


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