Hawaiian Homes Commission supports Akaka bill

By Audrey McAvoy
Honolulu, Hawaii (AP) July 2010

The Hawaiian Homes Commission said during late July it voted unanimously to support a measure that would give federal recognition to Native Hawaiians.

Commission Chair Kaulana Park said the bill before Congress would protect Hawaiian Home Lands. It was recently amended to accommodate requests by Gov. Linda Lingle.

“We’re asking for everyone – our homestead communities, our homestead leadership, our people on the waitlist to become involved in supporting the passage of the bill,” Park said.

The commission voted during July to support the new version of the bill named the Akaka bill after its main sponsor U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.

Clyde Namuo, chief executive for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said he hopes the U.S. Senate will pass the bill before it recesses during August.

But he noted the Senate should still have time before the end of the year to take up the legislation if it doesn’t pass the bill in the next few weeks.

“We are probably closer than we have ever been to getting this bill actually enacted into law,” Namuo said.

The bill was amended to clarify that a future Hawaiian government wouldn’t provide immunity from the state’s laws unless Congress agrees following negotiations.

The bill would go to the House of Representatives for approval if it passes the Senate.

Numerous American Indian tribes and Alaska Native communities already have the right to establish their own governments.

Earlier attempts to get the Akaka bill passed have failed over the years.

“This is a long journey in terms of the ups and downs, ins and outs, moving forward and setbacks over the last 10 years,” said OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona.

“It’s always going to be important where we end up at the end of the road, what we do at the finish line.”