Sen. Dan Akaka has just wrapped up his committee’s hearing about the federal government’s difficulties in recognizing indigenous groups. While the main thrust was about Native American tribes, Akaka brought things back to Native Hawaiians’ struggles in his opening and closing statements.
Akaka said that the U.S. government has a responsibility to fulfill all three pillars of recognition: to allow tribes to seek self-sufficieny; to afford them rights as indigenous peoples; and to establish government-to-government relationships.
He said fulfilling all three is a “matter of justice.”
Akaka called witnesses to talk about the high costs and long delays of seeking recognition from the Department of the Interior. They asked for legislative help, though they acknowledged that politics can get make Congressional action tricky.
A representative from the administration said there are problems with implementation. Asked by Akaka if those problems can be fixed by the time the 112th Congress wraps up its work, he said it’s unlikely.
That timeline is important to Akaka, the first U.S. senator of Native Hawaiian ancestry, because he’s not running for re-election and will be retired after this session ends.
— Michael Levine