Congressional debate coming to Kaua’i

NOTE: use a mug of Akaka or Inouye if they’re available

Lawmakers want

input on Native Hawaiian issue

By LESTER CHANG

TGI Staff

Writer

LIHU’E — Kaua’i will be the site of the first of five statewide

meetings the federal government plans to hold beginning next week to discuss a

stronger relationship between Native Hawaiians and the United States.

The

first meeting on pending congressional legislation will be held at the

Performing Arts Building at Kaua’i Community College on Aug. 28 from 8:45 a.m.

to 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 to 4:45 p.m.

All the meetings will be conducted by

the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the U.S. House of

Representatives Committee on Resources.

The legislation has been challenged

by some sovereignty groups who say the measures, if they become law, will

prevent Hawaiians from securing independence from the U.S. Critics also

complain the bill was drafted without their input.

The Lawful Hawaiian

Government exists legally and won’t recognize the bill if it becomes law, said

group spokesman Kane Pa.

Based on testimony received by the

congressional committees, the bill will be refined before its brought back to

them and then to the full Senate or full House.

The U.S. attorney general

and the Secretary of Interior also have been invited to give testimony at

hearings.

The proposed legislation proposes an office of Native Hawaiian

Affairs with the Department of Interior. The bill would also designate

Department of Justice representatives to help implement programs protecting the

rights of Native Hawaiians.

The legislation also would allow Native

Hawaiians to create a native governing body that would be recognized as

sovereign by the U.S.

Hawaii’s U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka, chairman of the

Task Force on Native Hawaiian Issues, and Daniel Inouye introduced the bill to

clarify the legal and political relationship the United States has with Native

Hawaiians.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie introduced the bill in the House of

Representatives.

The measure affirms the United States’ special trust

relationship with Native Hawaiians and the constitutional authority of Congress

to address the conditions of Native Hawaiians. The bill also responds to their

right to self determination and self-governance.

The bill, if it becomes

law, will open the way for a government-to-government relationship between

Native Hawaiians and the U.S., Akaka has said.

The other hearings in

Hawai’i are scheduled on Molokai Aug. 29, Honolulu Aug. 30., Hilo on the Big

Island Aug. 31 and Maui on Sept. 1. Additional information on the meetings is

available from Paul Cardus or Noelani Kalipi at (202) 224-6361.

Staff

writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or

lchang@pulitzer.net

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