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Akaka Bill Stands Democracy on Its Head

Send the Native Hawaiian bill back to Hawaii

  • Even U.S. Civil Rights Commission Opposes Bill
  • "I like being Hawaiian, and I’ll do anything to keep from becoming a member of a tribe just by the stroke of a pen."
    —Tere Fase*

    We want "self-government," proclaim the advocates for the Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act (S. 3064 formerly S.147) otherwise known as the Akaka bill.

    They proclaim they are "indigenous" people like American Indians and want to be accorded the same "recognition." Then they acknowledge that Native Hawaiians are not a "tribe," as are specified American Indian tribes. One must ask, "Yet they want to be like American Indian tribes?"

    The defining characteristic of American Indian tribes and their tribal governments is a complete lack of "self-government" in the sense of personal autonomy and responsibility.

    Instead, these governments operate like fiefdoms with lords in charge and the average member a serf who owns nothing and controls nothing. Leaders may call it self-government in the sense that the dependent serfs get to vote occasionally, but serfs seldom become lords and if one does, he is a lord and the others remain dependents.

    That defining characteristic fits perfectly the vision of the Native Hawaiian leaders that are pushing so hard for the Akaka bill. In other words, they see themselves as becoming ali’i (royalty) in a new Native Hawaiian governing entity. That means that they will control the money and property as caretakers and caregivers. The individual member will be rendered moot with his very soul in jeopardy.

    As is usual in politics, the old saying "follow the money" pertains. Power and money go hand in hand. In order to assure such power evolves, have a look at the way they have structured the Akaka bill itself:

    • A brand new governing entity is created by decree of the federal government on top of or in the midst of Hawaii and perhaps the other 49 states.
    • The autonomy and sovereignty of the state of Hawaii is not considered. So much for "self-government" in the sense of democratic voting by its own people. There is to be no plebiscite giving the federal government permission. By the way, 94% of Hawaii voters voted for the 50th state to enter the USA in 1959.
    • The new governing entity has nothing in it. It is a gigantic vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum. Politics and money adore such political emptiness.

    Filing the empty space will be representatives of the three governments (new governing entity, state of Hawaii and federal). They will negotiate about property, people and laws for the new government. Only one thing is specified — that the people are defined by Hawaiian ancestry: a race-based trump card.

    The political vacuum will attact largely unknown but plentiful special-interest money to include much from the governments involved. In other words, taxpayer money. Included will probably be Indian tribe money. To the extent that the government negotiators agree to provisions that require votes can you imagine the influence peddling money floating around? Or, ensuing legal challenges? To put this into national perspective, just imagine that there was a proposed federal law in the Senate right now (the Akaka bill comes up this week) that proposes to approve a 51st state admitted into the U.S., which will include all members of the Amish "tribe" and their descendents since the year 1845. The property and laws governing the new state are not specified nor is its name or the degree it is to be dependent on federal money. All that is to be "negotiated" by the U.S. government, the new (empty) state and any state that has Amish or their descendents present. The new empty state would be imposed upon the 50 states. The reason: the Amish have suffered discrimination and we "owe" them.

    Please note that everything described above has absolutely no qualities that promote a more civil government where individual self-governors can pursue the American Dream. Nor does it fit within any of the definitions of self-government or, for that matter, states rights.

    Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a 501(c)(3) non-partisan, non-profit public policy analysis and educational institution, conducted an automated survey in May 2006 of all 314,000 homes with telephones in Hawaii. A little over 44,000 answered one or more questions.

    The results are compelling:

    • 70% of respondents want to vote on the Akaka bill before it is considered at the federal level.
    • Two out of three respondents oppose the Akaka bill.

    One definition of self-government is "government of a state, community or region by its own people; democratic government."

    For the state of Hawaii, the Akaka bill being considered in the U.S. Senate stands democracy on its head. To persist in federal action despite a lack of approval by Hawaii also stands federalism (states rights) on its head.

    In Hawaii, there is a lame, crude but accurate joke making the rounds:

    "The Ah Kaka bill describes itself."

    In Hawaiian "kaka" means excrement. It is the same sound by the way, in Yiddish and Spanish.

    * To return to the subtitle above, it is from a letter to the editor in the Honolulu Star Bulletin on June 4 from Tere Fase, who summed it all up in one sentence:

    "I like being Hawaiian, and I’ll do anything to keep from becoming a member of a tribe just by the stroke of a pen."

    The federal government now holds the pen. It should not. It must not. This week, the Senate should say:

    "We refuse to consider this bill until the people of Hawaii give their permission."

    In other words, send the proposition back to Hawaii pending action there. First things first. Return the pen to Tere Fase and other Hawaii citizens.

    Written By

    Mr. Rowland is president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

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