When Kauaians showed up Monday at Lydgate Park to make their feelings known on
the relationship of Native Hawaiians and the United States government, there
was little-if anything-new to say. But the point of the exercise was to say
And that’s why two congressional committees erred grievously by
cancelling their hearing originally scheduled for that day in Lihu’e on
proposed legislation giving Native Hawaiians special status within the halls of
federal government. The issue was also to be the subject of hearings throughout
this week on other islands, all in the interest of giving people a fair say.
But because U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawai’i), recovering from hip surgery,
was forbidden by doctors from traveling to the various sites-and because he was
the prime sponsor of the sovereignty measure and deemed an integral participant
in the proceedings-Oahu was designated as the sole location for
Sovereignty activists on Kaua’i were rightfully indignant when
told last Friday about the change in plans. The short notice effectively left
them out of the loop, except for allowing them to fly to Oahu, testify via
long-distance phone call or submit written testimony.
No explanation of how
the cancellation decision was reached can mend the sense that the goal of
gathering public input got second-class treatment. Not involving each island
directly through its own hearing cast a chill over the process.
committees will head back to Washington, D.C. after this week. The question for
many Native Hawaiians will be whether their opinions really mattered to the
committee members who ultimately will help decide the scope of the legislation,
when and if the measure goes before the full Congress for debate.
committees had a chance to reach out and address that kind of concern. They