Today, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, chaired by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), amended the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2011 (S. 675) by voice vote and favorably reported it to the Senate floor.
Earlier this year, the State of Hawaii's Native Hawaiian Roll Commission began developing a roll of Native Hawaiian constituents for the purposes of reorganizing a Native Hawaiian government. As a result, significant portions of the bill, which was approved by the Indian Affairs Committee last spring, are no longer required.
Chairman Akaka said: "My amendment, guided by extensive consultation and witness testimony, streamlines my bill, builds on recent efforts by the State of Hawaii, and incorporates longstanding principles of federal Indian law.
"The Native Hawaiian people are the only federally-recognized Native peoples without a government-to-government relationship, and no clear path to securing one without legislation. This bill will create parity in federal policy so that Native Hawaiians will be treated the same as all other recognized indigenous peoples - no more no less.
"Congress has created and continues to fund programs to address the Native Hawaiian needs in the areas of health, education, welfare and housing, but has failed to uphold the final and most important piece of the trust relationship with Native Hawaiians, a guaranteed right to self-governance.
"By approving this amendment today, the members of this Committee took a stand for justice and a step towards equity."
Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) said: "Federal recognition for Native Hawaiians is long overdue and I will continue the fight started by my longtime partner and friend, Senator Akaka. Whether it be during this Congress or the next, I will not rest until the sovereign rights of Native Hawaiians are recognized and Senator Akaka's legacy is fulfilled."
The committee also approved S. 1345, the Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Grand Coulee Dam Equitable Compensation Settlement Act, and S. 1684, the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2011.
S. 1345 would provide compensation to the Spokane Tribe for the generation of hydropower by the Grand Coulee Dam and would absolve the Secretary of the Interior of any trust responsibility for the investment, supervision, administration, or expenditure of any amounts paid under the Act. S. 1345 was introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).
S. 1684 would streamline the process for approving tribal energy resource agreements and make the approval process for these agreements more predictable for Indian tribes. S. 1684 was introduced by Vice Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and co-sponsored by Chairman Akaka.
"I applaud my colleagues' efforts to take up the priorities of their tribes and to work to make lives better for tribal people throughout their states and throughout Indian Country," said Chairman Akaka. "Although we do not have much time left in this Congress, the members of this Committee and I will continue to fight for what is right."