Courtesy White House
President Clinton signs Public Law 103-150, the "Apology Resolution" to Native Hawaiians, on November 23, 1993, as Vice-President Al Gore and Hawaii's Congressional delegation look on, from left: Sen. Daniel Inouye, Rep. Patsy Mink, Rep. Neil Abercrombie, and Sen. Daniel Akaka.

No Aloha: Native Hawaiians Against Interior’s Relationship Proposal

Gale Courey Toensing

The Interior Department asked in a recent press release if the United States and the Native Hawaiian community should enter into a government-to-government relationship.

Judging from the response of Native Hawaiians at a meeting with Interior officials in Honolulu Monday (June 23), the answer is a resounding “No.”

With a rapidly growing nationalist or sovereignty movement in Hawaii, an overwhelming majority of Native Hawaiians at the emotionally charged meeting expressed anger and mistrust of the federal government with many saying a government-to-government relationship with the U.S. would end their quest to restore their country to the status of a sovereign independent nation – the way it was before the U.S. overthrew its government and Hawaii became the 50th state, the Huffington Post reported.

The meeting was the first in a series of public meetings and consultations in Hawaii and Indian country over the next 60 days. The schedule is listed in Interior’s press release. The release says the meetings are to solicit comments to help Interior decide if it will move ahead and develop a formal, administrative procedure for “reestablishing” an official government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community and if so, what that procedure should be.

RELATED: Working on Acknowledgment – Interior’s New Hawaiian Recognition Initiative

Congress has enacted more than 150 statutes dealing specifically with the Native Hawaiian community, but the U.S. has had no formal relationship with the Native Hawaiian community since its illegal military overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893 and its backing of a U.S.-controlled ''provisional government'' in violation of treaties and international law. Congress passed an Apology Resolution in 1993, acknowledging that the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States. And in 2000, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice jointly issued a report called The River of Justice Must Flow Freely that recommended self-determination for Native Hawaiians under federal law as a priority.

Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, who retired in 2012, tried unsuccessfully for a dozen years to get Native Hawaiians federally recognized through Congress. Many Native Hawaiians supported the effort and it was almost universally supported by Native Americans. The National Congress of American Indians passed more than one resolution favoring federal recognition for Native Hawaiians and the organization still supports it, President Brian Cladoosby told ICTMN.

Interior officials said they were at the meeting to listen and find out if Native Hawaiians wanted to pursue an official relationship.

The vast majority of Native Hawaiians who spoke were indignant, and even outraged, that the federal government would try to insert itself in their affairs, Watchdog reported.

They scolded, shouted at and questioned the motives of Interior Department officials. Many want the Hawaiian monarchy restored to power and the U.S. government out of Hawaii, the report said.

Bumpy Kanahele, who heads the organization Nation of Hawaii, told Interior officials: “We don’t need you to come in to tell us how to govern ourselves. Let us figure it out.”

Jonathan Osorio, professor of Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii, said the feds shouldn’t intervene and impose additional “aggression upon our nation,” Watchdog reported.

Michael Lilly, former Hawaii state attorney general, said Interior’s efforts are unconstitutional, because under the Constitution only Congress the plenary power to recognize tribes and ratify treaties. “That power does not reside in the executive branch of the federal government or with the various states. So the current effort aimed at creating a tribe of Hawaiians has no legal basi,” Lilly said, according to Watchdog.

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation who spent four years working in the civil rights division at the U.S. Department of Justice specifically on such issues, said Interior’s efforts were not only unconstitutional, but beyond its boundaries. “The administration has no authority to enter into such a relationship. … They continue to divide up our country and raise the walls between different races. I find it disgusting that they want to do this,” von Spakovsky said.

"I'm hearing a lot of 'No's' so far," Interior spokesman Sam Hirsch said, according to the report.

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