Is rest of U.S. listening to sovereignty debate?

Congressional hearings last week on Oahu were filled with testimony on the

controversial federal bill that would formalize a relationship between the

United States and Native Hawaiians. Now comes the question: Is anybody

listening outside Hawai’i, and how much do they care?

The state’s most

powerful figure in Washington, D.C., Sen. Daniel Inouye, acknowledged after the

hearings were over and before they began that there’s no guarantee of wide

support of the bill from the rest of Congress. He noted that members of two

congressional committees that conducted the hearings-the Senate Indian Affairs

Committee, of which he’s chairman, and the House Resources Committee-might be

too busy with matters more important to their own constituencies to advance the

Native Hawaiian measure to a full debate in the Senate and the House.


strong possibility is no fault of Inouye or the rest of Hawaii’s congressional

delegation. The unavoidable fact is that whether, as the bill proposes, Native

Hawaiians receive a governing body recognized as sovereign by the U.S., or some

other form of self-determination, is a process involving people who ultimately

have little direct interest in the outcome.

That’s simply the way federal

laws are made. Hawaiians, in getting a crash course in how local issues are

played out on the national stage, can’t reasonably expect high interest from

the mainland in matters involving islanders.


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