Signing of Akaka Bill companion measure divides Hawaii’s people

Hawaii Independent Staff

HONOLULU—A bill intended to move in concert with the Akaka Bill was signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday, July 6 at Washington Place amid praise and protest.

Senate Bill 1520 formally recognizes Native Hawaiian people as “the only indigenous, aboriginal, maoli people of Hawaii.”

The bill also establishes a five-member Native Hawaiian roll commission in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to create a roll of qualified Native Hawaiians. The commission is tasked with then publishing the roll prior to a convention. The governor of Hawaii is required to dissolve the commission after publication of the roll. Funding to facilitate the activities of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission will be provided by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

“For Kanaka Maoli, this measure is one more important step in a very long and arduous journey toward justice,”  said Sen. Malama Solomon, chief negotiator of the bill. “For all people of Hawaii, it marks a historic and positive step in the reconciliation process mending relations between the State of Hawaii mending relations between the State of Hawaii and the Native Hawaiian people.”

During the signing ceremony, protesters opposing the Akaka Bill and Senate Bill 1520 held signs at the State Capitol and outside of Washington Place.

P. Kaanohi Kaleikini said in previously written testimony against the bill: “I oppose this measure because, like the Federal level Akaka bill, they would set up a Native Hawaiian governing mechanism that would further ensnare and entrench Hawaii into the U.S. system by turning the Hawaiian people into an American Indian tribe, ‘indigenous’ to the United States. This would further the U.S. goal of extinguishing Hawaiian Nationals’ claims to our lands and our national identity.”

To read more testimony on Senate Bill, 1520, click here

Across the Pacific, J Kēhaulani Kauanui criticized Senate Bill 1520 in a column for The Guardian, calling the measure “a scam built to undercut the restoration of the Hawaiian Nation under international law.” Kauanui is an associate professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She is also the author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity (2008).

Kauanui writes: “From the start, Hawaii’s congressional delegation attempted to ram through the bill despite massive opposition to it among the Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiian) people whom it affects first and foremost. The delegation held just one five-day hearing, back in 2000, on the bill since its inception, and only on the single island of Oahu. Although there was overwhelming opposition to the bill, the delegation reported quite the opposite to Congress.”

The Akaka Bill, officially titled the “Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act,” which would extend parity in federal recognition to Native Hawaiians, was last approved by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee in April.