The state Hawaiian Homes Commission has voted to support a new version of a native Hawaiian federal recognition bill and is urging the bill’s passage in the U.S. Senate.
"It gives us that right to exist. But most importantly, it also helps to protect our trust and our trust assets moving forward," said Kaulana Park, chairman of the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which is governed by the commission.
The commission joins the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and other Hawaiian groups that back the bill, known as the Akaka Bill for its main sponsor, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii.
The bill would create a process for native Hawaiians to form their own government and negotiate with the federal and state governments on land use and cultural issues. Akaka has agreed to amendments to win back the support of Gov. Linda Lingle. The amendments protect the state’s regulatory powers over health and safety activities while the negotiations are in progress.
"We believe that we are probably closer than we have ever been to getting this bill actually enacted into law," said Clyde Namuo, chief executive officer of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Akaka and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, hope to get a Senate vote on the bill this year. If the bill is amended by the Senate, it would have to be reconciled with the version that passed the U.S. House in February. President Obama has said he would sign the bill into law.