Akaka Bill

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Updated 2017

The Akaka bill — officially the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act — would have directed the U.S. Congress to allow for the creation of a governing entity organized by Native Hawaiians who are able to demonstrate ancestry requirements. An enrollment commission was created by the Hawaii Legislature in 2011 to collect those names.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation has consistently supported having a governing entity, which would have a government-to-government relationship with the United States. It has also passed the U.S. House of Representatives several times.

But Republicans in the Senate have halted the bill, saying it is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

 

Contents

History

The Akaka bill, named after former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, was to make amends for the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 in disregard of an order by President Grover Cleveland to forestall a takeover of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Instead, under newly elected William McKinley, the Congress was invited to annex Hawaii as a protectorate of the United States.

Queen Liliuokalani was held under house arrest and eventually convicted of treason because a cache of weapons was found on the palace grounds. She was sentenced to prison in her own home, while a provisional government set up by a small group of powerful missionaries and wealthy businessmen, divided up the spoils and began rule of Hawaii.

The queen denied any acts against the U. S. and refused to willingly abdicate her kingdom stating, “I Liliuokalani, by the Grace of God and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the Constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom

No one to this day denies that any of this happened, nor has there been any meaningful recognition of the Hawaiians or reparation of any sort to their descendants. The U. S. government, however, has apologized for all kinds of injustices it owned up to including the My Lai massacre in Vietnam; the cruel practice of enslaving hundreds of thousands of Africans over a 100 years; and the genocide and economic enslavement of thousands of American aboriginal people.

The Politics

Even Akaka’s valiant crusade to pass a measure granting recognition and some sort of reparation fell on deaf Republican ears every time he opened each of numerous sessions with the now well-worn Akaka Bill, which he continually redrafted in hopes of winning over enough Republicans to get a bill passed. That never happened and he finally retired in 2012 after 22 years of Senate service.

The Akaka Bill — that is, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act — is arguably the most significant legislation affecting Hawaii since the Congress voted to allow Hawaii to enter the union in 1959.

The governing entity would have a government-to-government relationship with the United States and has been supported by all members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation. It has also passed the U.S. House of Representatives several times.

The recognition proposed in the Akaka bill is similar to that granted to American aboriginal tribes provides for the formation of a single governing entity known as the Kingdom of Hawaii. This entity would have to right to a government-to-government relationship. This would be in line with previous negotiations with aboriginal tribes who gave up their legal rights and grievances against the United States in exchange for a portion of disputed land, rights and resources. But that would not include the right to gaming enterprises such as the American aboriginals enjoy.

The only provision enacted was the Hawaiian enrollment commission created by the Hawaii Legislature not by Congress. Akaka was appointed to the enrollment commission after his retirement.

Hawaiians have had a love-hate relationship with “haoles” or foreigners since the Hawaiian awakening began in the 1960s. The idea was that reparations should be made for the loss of land and the right of self-determination as a kingdom. It is also believed by many Hawaiians they are owed these rights.

One of the main stumbling blocks to such an idea is how to reconcile that restoration with the present day Hawaii of private land, commerce, large corporations and melting pot of people who represent multiple cultures. A small group of corporations with roots to the missionaries of the 1800s carry a great deal of influence in the state. So much so that they are seldom challenged. They are certainly not likely to give up their economic empires or lands to appease the Hawaiian community.

The issue of a Hawaiian kingdom lies dormant like many of the volcanoes in the state.

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