The fact that our country overthrew the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 is a great injustice and something that weighs heavily on my heart. As I consider this unjust act, I think of my two years working with Senator Akaka, watching him work tirelessly trying to get the Akaka Bill passed into law. Now, that Senator Akaka is retiring, I look to making the passage of this legislation to recognize Hawaiians as an indigenous people one of my top priorities. This is Senator Akaka's legacy and something that's got to be done for the Hawaiian people.
I realize that not everyone supports the Akaka Bill, but at its core, it's about giving Hawaiians some form of self-determination and protecting all the important programs and services for Hawaiians, which are constantly under attack in the courts. Having said that, I want to be clear that my door is always open. I'm willing to sit down and listen to your concerns and/or suggestions about this issue and all issues that affect you and your ohana.
I believe the U.S. government through an act of Congress should more formally recognize the special legal/political status of Native Hawaiians. Pending re-organization of a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity, through the process commenced by Act 195 (2011) or a Native Hawaiian-driven process, I would immediately work with the delegation to pass a bill or administrative regulation acknowledging this status, without the government building components that would be difficult to pass at this time.
SENATOR AKAKA'S LEGACY
In 2006, I served as volunteer coordinator for Senator Akaka's re-election campaign. I was then invited to work with him in Washington D.C. I assisted Senator Akaka with programs and legislation directly benefitting Native Hawaiians. Specific efforts included supporting Native Hawaiian 8(a) businesses, and working with Senator Akaka to introduce the Kalaupapa Memorial Act, which passed as part of the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009.
Formal recognition of Indian Commerce Clause status of Native Hawaiians would help reauthorization of these important acts. Additionally, tying such reauthorizations to Native Alaskan health and education acts is good strategy because Republican Don Young of Alaska needs Democratic support. Congresswoman Hirono successfully used this strategy in 2011 to obtain reauthorization of $41 million in education funds for Native Hawaiians.
What really strikes me is that we in Hawaiʻi nei have so much to give our nation and the world. What the world desperately needs right now is the spirit of aloha. This aloha is in our collective DNA as a state. It's what our visitors always comment on when they return to their homes. They say, "Yes, Hawaiʻi is beautiful--spectacular oceans, mountains, valleys, waterfalls but there's something intangible about the people who live there." Each of us who live here have the potential of being ambassadors of that aloha spirit to offer to the world.
HAWAIIAN HOME LANDS
The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921 isn't working and it needs to be revisited. Hawaiians have every right to be on their land and it's wrong that the DHHL has 200,000 acres of land under their control, but meanwhile people wait for generations to get on the land. We need to think out of the box and look at practical things we can do to free up land, such as loosening the regulations. Many homesteaders don't care about the condition of the land, whether it has water and sewer, etc.
Another problem we've got is that many Hawaiians can't afford the homestead homes that are being offered by DHHL. So, we've got to do a better job of assisting Hawaiians to be financially prepared for home ownership. This speaks to the different programs, like HOAP (Hawaiian Ownership Assistance Program) under DHHL, that need continued federal financial support and appropriate oversight.