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Native Hawaiians should review federal proposal

By Staff | Oct 8, 2015

The Native Hawaiian community has not had a formal government recognized by the U.S. since the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893. This could change in the near future, however.

The U.S. Department of the Interior last week Tuesday announced a proposal to create an administrative procedure and criteria that the secretary of the interior would apply if the Native Hawaiian community forms a unified government that then seeks a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States.

Under the new proposal, the Native Hawaiian community – not the federal government – would decide whether to reorganize a Native Hawaiian government, what form that government would take and whether it would seek a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

“The United States has a long-standing policy of supporting self-governance for native peoples, yet the benefits of the government-to-government relationship have long been denied to Native Hawaiians, one of our nation’s largest indigenous communities,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Today’s proposal is testament to the Obama Administration’s strong support for our nation’s native peoples’ right to self-determination.”

The proposal is available for review at www.doi.gov/ohr, and the 90-day window for public comments began on Sept. 29.

“We’ve listened to the feedback we received during the public meetings and in writing, and worked to improve the proposal to reflect those comments,” said Jewell. “We appreciate the many voices on this topic and look forward to hearing from the public on this proposal.”

In 1993, Congress enacted the Apology Resolution that offered an apology to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the U.S. for its role in the overthrow and committed the federal government to a process of reconciliation.

As part of that process, in 2000 the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice jointly issued a report identifying as its lead recommendation the need to foster self-determination for Native Hawaiians under federal law.

It will be interesting to see how Hawaiians react to the proposal and process. Based on attending nation-building conferences in the past, the challenge will not lie in establishing government-to-government relationships. The hard part will be creating the new Native Hawaiian government.