by Kekuni Blaisdell
September 13, 2000
Honorable Sen. Ben Nighthourse Campbell, Chairman US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
Dear Mr. Chairman:
We of the Kanaka Maoli Tribunal Kömike strongly oppose and urge you to reject S. 2899: To express the policy of Congress regarding the United States' relationship with Native Hawaiians, and for other purposes.
While some Känaka Maoli (Indigenous Hawaiians) may support this measure introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka and Sen. Daniel Inouye of your Committee on July 20, 2000, such advocates are mainly government officials or those associated with US Federal programs. Substantial numbers of others who oppose this bill are largely taro-roots Känaka Maoli who have had to make special efforts to inform themselves about the bill and its grave implications, as described below. Nevertheless, most Känaka Maoli, unfortunately, remain uninformed on this crucial legislation.
Opposition to Sen. Akaka's initiative was already forcefully evident during the December 1999 "Reconciliation" Hearings, six years after the 1993 US Apology Resolution in our homeland on six major islands of Ka Pae'äina (The Hawaiian Archipelago). This opposition was mainly because the terms of "reconciliation" for the US's role in the 1893 invasion and taking of our government and lands were imposed by US government officials. The hearings, arranged by Sen. Akaka and conducted by US Interior Department's Mr. John Berry and US Justice Department's Mr. Mark Van Norman, were video-taped. We urge you to view these videotapes.
Such overwhelming resistance among our Känaka Maoli people who testified was intensified during the recent August 28 to September 1, 2000 hearings on S. 2899 and companion H.R. 4904 in Honolulu when hearings scheduled on our neighbor islands were cancelled. The videotaped replays of the hearings refute government officials' and communications media reports of witnesses' majority support for the companion bills.
In spite of statements by Senators Akaka and Inouye that this legislation "has been developed by Native Hawaiians for Native Hawaiians following extensive consultation with the Native Hawaiian community," the evidence is otherwise. The bills were drafted and redrafted in Washington, not in Ka Pae'äina, before their formal introductionin both houses of Congress on July 20.
Neither drafts nor the bills and amended bills have been distributed in our major island communities for discussion and input.
On September 9, eight days after the Honolulu hearings, the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper reported that as a result of the hearings, S. 2899 was being "substantially amended" for a hearing by your Committee in Washington, originally scheduled for September 13.
In spite of our requests to all Hawai'i Congress members' offices and the press, we were not able to procure a copy of the amended bill to be heard by your Committee until early this morning, September 13, on the eve of your Committee's scheduled hearings in Washington.
We consider this confirming evidence that the rush and predetermined content of this Washington legislation concerning our Kanaka Maoli political status, without the knowledge of, nor input and final consent by, most of our Kanaka Maoli people, to be in itself a grave violation of our Kanaka Maoli inherent sovereignty and right to self-determination.
Senators Akaka and Inouye may feel that they are protecting current US Federal Kanaka Maoli programs from being ruled "race-based" by proposing in S. 2899 US recognition of a government-to-government trust relationship via a Native Hawaiian Governing Body under the US Interior Secretary and a Native Hawaiian Commission appointed by the US Congress to certify as "Native Hawaiian" descendants of aboriginal people who resided in our islands on or before January 1, 1893.
However, the creation of such a Federal wardship, similar to that of American Indians and Alaska Natives, is instinctively repulsive to us Känaka Maoli. For we are well aware that because of such recognition, US indigenous peoples have lost their lands; their trust funds have disappeared, such as in current scandals under investigation; and their health, education, social and economic disparities have persisted or worsened.
Senators Akaka's and Senator Inouye's urgency in pushing S. 2899 seems to based on the belief that S. 2899 has a better chance of passage while President William Clinton is in office. But we Kanaka Maoli people do not want to be manipulated by "party politics."
Senators Akaka and Inouye also appear to have ignored Hawai'i Representative Patsy Mink's September 1, 2000 plea that since the Kanaka Maoli people appear to be divided on the issue, the US Congress should first abide by the Kanaka Maoli people's will through a referendum. Only if a Kanaka Maoli majority approves in advance, Representative Mink says, should the US Congress proceed with recognition of a Native Hawaiian Governing Body. And then, such an entity should be created by the Kanaka Maoli people, not by the US.
For the foregoing reasons, we call upon you, Mr. Chairman, and other members of your Senate Indian Affairs Committee to reject S. 2899.
Kekuni Blaisdell Convenor, Kanaka Maoli Tribunal Kömike
Published in In Motion Magazine November 4, 2000
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