POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 21, 2012
The retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka took to the Senate floor Thursday and urged his colleagues to approve a Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill in honor of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.
The bill, known as the Akaka Bill, has passed the House three times but has stalled in the Senate since 2000 because of opposition from conservative Republicans who consider it race-based discrimination. The bill would recognize Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people with the right to self-determination, similar to Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
Akaka made the request as Inouye's body lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
"Today, in Dan's honor, and for all the people of Hawaii, I am asking the Senate to pass the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act," Akaka, D-Hawaii, said in a prepared statement. "Dan and I developed our bill to create a process that could address the many issues that continue to persist as a result of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893.
"As you know, Dan Inouye was a champion for Hawaii and worked every day of his honorable life to solve problems and help our island state.
"Dan also served on the Indian Affairs Committee for over 30 years and chaired it twice. He was an unwavering advocate for the United States' government-to-government relationships with Native Nations. He constantly reminded our colleagues in the Senate about our Nation's trust responsibilities — and our treaty obligations — to America's first peoples.
"Dan believed that through self-determination and self-governance, these communities could thrive and contribute to the greatness of the United States."
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, one of the few Republican supporters of Native Hawaiian recognition, echoed Akaka's appeal for the bill to be passed.