Senate Bill 1520 intended to facilitate Akaka Bill

HONOLULU—Next week, Gov. Neil Abercrombie will be holding a bill signing ceremony for Senate Bill 1520, which the governor says will significantly improve protection of cultural rights, “ceded lands” and other entitlements, advance self-governance, and heal the “kaumaha”—the heaviness or sorrow.

Specifically, the bill establishes a five-member Native Hawaiian roll commission in the Office of Hawaiian affairs for administrative purposes to prepare and maintain a roll of qualified Native Hawaiians. The commission will publish the roll to facilitate commencement of a convention for the purpose of organization. The governor of Hawaii is required to dissolve the commission after publication of the roll.

The bill signing ceremony will occur at Washington Place, former home of Queen Liliuokalani, on Wednesday, July 6 at 2:00 p.m. 

The governor said the bill is intended to move in concert with the efforts by Senator Daniel Akaka and Hawaii‘s Congressional Delegation to achieve federal recognition of Native Hawaiians via the Akaka Bill.

The bill, which passed with only one “No” vote (from Republican Sen. Sam Slom) out of 76 legislators on May 3, 2011, is seen as an act of “reciprocal healing recognizing Hawaiians as equal partners, rather than a conquered people,” said Sen. Malama Solomon, who was the bill’s chief negotiator in securing passage. She worked closely with Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz and members of the joint conference committee to finalize the measure. Members of the joint conference committee on Hawaiian Affairs included:  Senate Chair Brickwood Galuteria, co-chairs Sen. Clayton Hee and Sen. David Y. Ige, Sen. Gil Kahele, Sen. Malama Solomon, House co-chairs Rep. Faye Hanohano and Rep. Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Rep. Chris Lee and Rep. Blake Oshiro.

“Every generation of Native Hawaiians since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 has struggled with not legally being recognized as equals,” Solomon said in a statement. “So many have given so much; many have fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam—some losing their lives—for a country that doesn’t recognize them. ... While much has been done including the creation of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act in 1921, formation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 1978, and the signing of the ‘Apology Resolution’ by President William Clinton in 1993, we are still not equals in our own land.”

When signed into law, the measure adds a new chapter to the Hawaii Revised Statutes, which would establish a process for Native Hawaiians to organize themselves.

“Hawaiians are very different from the American tribes; we had a kingdom that was recognized by the United States and many other nations around the world before the overthrow,” Solomon said. “Many of us today are directly connected to this history and heritage through our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. This new law will begin the healing.”

The bill specifies how individuals shall be nominated for consideration for the commission, and requires that each of the four counties be represented, with the fifth individual serving at-large. Funding to facilitate the activities of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission will be provided by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.