Native Hawaiian-Owned Companies and the Militarization of Hawai’i

December 27, 2010 

Jim Dooley wrote a revealing article for the Hawaii Reporter on the growth of Native Hawaiian Owned Companies (NHO) since the passage of legislation that gave them special preferences in federal contracting.  Under special provisions for Native American, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, these NHOs can get no-bid, unlimited sized contract awards, nearly all of it related to military funding.   Here’s an excerpt:

A handful of Native Hawaiian-owned companies used federal contracting preferences authored by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-HI, to land some $500 million in non-bid or reduced competition government work since 2005, according to federal purchasing records.

Officials, employees and partners of many of the same companies donated nearly $100,000 during the same period to the Inouye election campaign and $100,000 more to other members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, files of the Federal Election Commission show.

Much of the contract work involved installation of computer and communications systems for the armed services. A wide range of other jobs have been performed, including security guard work, explosive ordinance disposal and even provision of mental health professionals for treatment of U.S. Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

The article gives several specific examples of NHOs, including those associated with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and their military contracting programs.

A note on the source: the Hawaii Reporter is a conservative-right news outlet that has opposed programs for Native Hawaiians, Hawaiian sovereignty in any form or federal spending on social programs.   DMZ-Hawai’i / Aloha ‘Aina usually disagrees with the editorial stances of the Hawaii Reporter on many of these issues. However, while our reasons may differ, we do agree with them on this point, that the public must be wary of the rise of NHOs in the context of corruption and lack of accountability in military pork barrel spending.  In our view, this system of NHO military contracting has increased Native Hawaiian dependency on and participation in a corrupt military-industrial complex.  In that way, NHOs promote the increasing militarization of Hawai’i.

In a perverse twist, Ken Conklin, known for his extreme anti-Native Hawaiian views, wrote a follow up editorial heavily drawing on original research by Hawaiian sovereignty activist and journalist Keala Kelly that lays out connections between NHOs, Alaska Native Corporations and leading proponents of the Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill.

Paul S. Schultz and Mun Won Chang (Fenton), a husband-wife team and two central figures in the Project Kai e’e/ Navy UARC scandal - a federal contracts fiasco involving the Navy, several high tech research programs at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, University of Hawai’i researchers and administrators and congressional earmarks by Senator Inouye – have recently turned up in the NHO fray.   It seems they have teamed up with former Governor John Waihe’e to form a NHO as a way to cash in on the Native Hawaiian military contracting bonanza. Their new entity is called Aina Kai Environmental.  But since neither Schultz nor Chang appear to have Native Hawaiian ancestry, Aina Kai with a Native Hawaiian principal appears to be a front for its partner company Hawaiya Technologies to access NHO for Super 8(a) contracts.

Recently the Army created a Native Hawaiian Advisory Council to counter community resistance to Army expansion plans. An example of how the military is using NHO contracting preferences to co-opt Native Hawaiians is a recent workshop sponsored by the Army Native Hawaiian Advisory Council to promote NHO military contracting opportunities.

The rise of “Tea Party” politics and the turning political tide in Washington D.C. may signal an end to the era of unbridled military earmarks in Hawai’i, at least temporarily.  The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports that “141 Hawaii earmarks worth $321 million were in the omnibus 2011 spending bill that recently died in the Senate.”  This could be an opportunity to imagine and work for more peaceful, just and sustainable economic alternatives for Hawai’i.

Blackwater is operating in Guam and Shariki, Japan

May 4, 2010 

Another blogger shared the following articles about Blackwater and their involvement in Guam and Shariki, a tiny village in Japan that hosts a missile defense radar facility.  She points out:

• In 2006, Blackwater’s aviation division won a $91 million contract for air charter work in Guam, a contract the Navy had set aside for small businesses. Two losing bidders challenged the award, saying Blackwater had more than 1,500 employees, the threshold for an aviation contract. An administrative judge ruled for Blackwater, saying the company’s 1,000-plus guards working overseas did not count as employees…

• Blackwater teamed up with the Chenega, an Alaskan Native American tribe of 69 people, to guard a missile defense installation in northern Japan. As a native-owned company, Chenega can win special no-bid contracts because of rules crafted by Alaska’s powerful U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

• And this is from Wikipedia:  In Asia, Blackwater has contracts in Japan guarding AN/TPY-2 radar systems.

More:  A U.S. military mobile BMD radar (AN/TPY-2, i.e., “X-Band Radar”) was deployed in June 2006 to the. ASDF Shariki Sub-base in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. A new detachment, consisting of a small team of military service members and contractors who will operate and maintain the Forward Based X-Band Radar Transportable (FBX-T) system, was honored during an activation ceremony 26 September 2006 at Camp Shariki in Aomori Pref., hosted by Brig. Gen. John E. Seward, commanding general of 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command of the U.S. Army Pacific Command. The FBX-T radar is designed to provide early detection and tracking of ballistic missile threats while providing a key element to the layered defense strategy. The radar is a defensive system with no offensive capability and will fall under the command and control of the 94th AAMDC, which is based at Fort Shafter, Hi. The command officially joined USARPAC in Oct. 2005.

I found the information fascinating that Blackwater was teaming with Chenega, an Alaska Native Corporation that has “Special 8A” status to get no-bid, unlimited contracts from the federal government.   This arrangement is ripe for corruption.  The federal government has issued scathing reports on the abuses of the Special 8A status whereby, native corporations get the sole source contract as a front for a larger military contractor.

Native Hawaiian Organizations also get special 8A status for military contracts thanks to Senator Inouye.  However, since Native Hawaiians are not listed as a federally recognized tribe, every year Senator Inouye must add Native Hawaiians into the existing statutes via provisions of defense spending bills.  The so-called Akaka Bill to list Native Hawaiians as a native tribe under the U.S. government would solidify Native Hawaiian access to these special 8A contracts.  Some of the leading proponents of the Akaka Bill are already getting the no-bid contracts for defense projects.  The passage of the Akaka Bill will further militarize Hawai’i by co-opting Native Hawaiians into the military industrial complex.


Blackwater’s Aggressive, Entrepreneurial Culture Keeps its Business Growing

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

May 17, 2008

Blackwater was all over the news last fall, and the news wasn’t good. The North Carolina company created a diplomatic crisis when its guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad square.

The Iraqi government promised to evict the company from Iraq. Blackwater’s reclusive owner, Erik Prince, was called to Congress to testify; and afterward, he began a PR blitz of the national media. He even appeared on “60 Minutes.”

Today, however, the trouble has subsided. Last month, the State Department renewed its contract with Blackwater to provide security in Iraq. It’s still in Afghanistan for the military. In the fall, Blackwater won a new contract, for $92 million, to fly soldiers and cargo around Pakistan and Afghanistan for the Army. And the company was one of five picked to support the Pentagon’s Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program, a five-year contract worth up to $15 billion.

As the company grows, so do its headaches: a persistent congressional investigation, several high-profile lawsuits and a federal weapons investigation. Still, Blackwater is thriving because of its aggressive and entrepreneurial business culture and a strong network of Republican connections. The company has hired extensively from the top levels of the CIA, Defense Department and State Department, and named the former No. 2 official at the CIA to its Board of Advisors.

“Their connections certainly help a lot,” said Peter Singer, an expert on military contractors at the Brookings Institution. “But they may be a vulnerability in the future, if the regime changes in Washington.”

This is a company that barely existed at the start of the decade; Blackwater grew from $204,000 in federal contracts in 2000 to almost $600 million in 2006. Its rise is a case study in business timing and the power of financial and political capital to take advantage of a new market.

Blackwater Lodge and Training Center was the brainchild of Al Clark, a Navy SEAL and instructor. Dissatisfied with the Navy’s rented training grounds, Clark told colleagues he would open his own when he left the service. Clark hooked up with Erik Prince, a young Navy SEAL who shared his interest in training. Clark didn’t know it at the time, but Prince was an heir to a billion-dollar auto-parts fortune.

When the two broke ground on Blackwater Lodge and Training Center in Currituck and Camden counties in northeast North Carolina in 1997, the timing was good. The military had closed and consolidated bases after the Cold War and neglected training facilities. Blackwater built the largest shooting facility in the country, with indoor ranges, mock urban landscapes, a 1,200-yard firing range, driving tracks and a lake for naval training. Blackwater boasted it could design any sort of training a client might want.

The location was excellent, within four hours of the Pentagon in Washington, and Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The country’s biggest naval base in Norfolk, Va., was less than an hour away. Despite the steady stream of business, Blackwater wasn’t making money. Clark recalled how Prince summoned him to his office, on Christmas Eve 1999 and said, “I want this place profitable tomorrow.”

Clark said his relations with Prince went downhill when Prince complained that he was training the students so well that no one would come back for more training.

Clark left Blackwater in the summer of 2000. Business was growing steadily, Clark said, but the company wasn’t making a profit.

“There are two people who put Blackwater on the map,” Clark said _ “Al Clark and Osama bin Laden.”

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the demand for training from military and law enforcement filled Blackwater’s ranges and classrooms.

Blackwater’s most lucrative line of business wouldn’t be in the Eastern North Carolina town of Moyock, but overseas. It was the brainchild of a former CIA employee, Jamie Smith.

While working at Blackwater before Sept. 11, Smith had suggested that Blackwater go into the private security business, guarding businessmen or government officials. Prince was initially skeptical, but warmed to the idea after the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

Prince contacted Alvin “Buzzy” Krongard, the No. 2 official at the CIA. Krongard had known Prince since at least 1999, when Krongard’s son, a Navy SEAL, had trained at Blackwater, according to Al Clark. Krongard had visited Blackwater and shot at the firing ranges, Clark said. (In October, Krongard stepped down from Blackwater’s Board of Advisors because his brother, Howard Krongard, was the State Department inspector general responsible for investigating Blackwater. Howard Krongard later resigned.)

The CIA was stretched thin in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. Blackwater landed a sole-source, no-bid contract to provide security at CIA stations in Afghanistan.

When Blackwater won the contract, the company had no one to staff it. Smith advertised for security contractors in the Washington Post, according to author Robert Young Pelton. Smith led the security team when it arrived in the early spring of 2002.

The contract was not a big one; it called for 16 Blackwater security personnel, plus dozens of Afghan guards hired locally. But it was profitable, a Blackwater budget spreadsheet shows. Blackwater expected a 26 percent profit on the job.

Most important, the contract was a start, a foot in the door of what would expand into a billion-dollar industry once the U.S. invaded Iraq.

The invasion created a huge demand for private security in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld sent about half the troops recommended by his Army chief of staff. There weren’t enough soldiers to secure the country, let alone protect U.S. diplomats and civilian workers.

In August 2003, Blackwater won a $27 million sole-source contract to guard Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority and probably the top assassination target of insurgents.

The contract called for helicopters to fly Bremer around Iraq. Blackwater was well positioned for that; the company had bought a Florida aviation company four months earlier.

Peter Singer, an expert on private military contractors, said this was typical of Blackwater’s business savvy.

“They are very good and very savvy at identifying market needs and pushing hard to enter into those markets, even before clients have recognized the need,” Singer said.

The private security business turned Blackwater into a heavyweight government contractor; the company went from $204,911 in government contracts in fiscal 2000 to $593 million in 2006, an average annual growth rate of 277 percent. Blackwater went from having 16 guards in Afghanistan to more than 850 personnel in Iraq.

By the end of 2006, Blackwater had received more than $1 billion in government contracts. That doesn’t include classified contracts, including providing security at CIA sites overseas.

The CIA contracts are lucrative, according to a document Blackwater filed in a federal lawsuit.

Blackwater had a contract since 2003 to protect a CIA site in Pakistan, the document said. “The profit potential is high (25%+ margin),” because of the classified nature of the budgets, and the knowledge gained from past performance on existing contracts.

During congressional testimony in October, Erik Prince said that Blackwater made a 10 percent profit on his State Department contracts, but he declined to elaborate or discuss the company’s annual profits. He also declined to comment for this report. But there is a healthy markup for the company’s services: Blackwater bills the State Department $1,221 for a security guard earning $500 a day.

For all the controversy, Blackwater has an unblemished record on its main task in Iraq: None of the diplomats in the company’s care have been killed or wounded. Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy recently told The New York Times that the diplomats could not function in Iraq without Blackwater: “If the contractors were removed, we would have to leave Iraq.”

A company that has banked more than $1 billion in federal payments since Sept. 11, 2001, doesn’t sound like a small business, but Blackwater says it is.

For a company providing security services, the threshold for a small business is $17 million in annual revenue. Blackwater passed that threshold in 2003, yet continued to list itself as a small business.

In 2006, Blackwater’s aviation division won a $91 million contract for air charter work in Guam, a contract the Navy had set aside for small businesses. Two losing bidders challenged the award, saying Blackwater had more than 1,500 employees, the threshold for an aviation contract. An administrative judge ruled for Blackwater, saying the company’s 1,000-plus guards working overseas did not count as employees.

Blackwater’s contention that its guards are not employees has generated a lot of controversy.

Last year, an Internal Revenue Service hearing officer ruled that a Blackwater security guard was an employee, not an independent contractor. U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman has asked the IRS to investigate whether the company used the independent contractor designation to avoid paying federal taxes. Blackwater disputes Waxman’s complaint. If that ruling were applied to Blackwater’s entire work force, the company could be on the hook for $50 million in unpaid Medicare and Social Security taxes that companies must pay for their workers.

Prince, Blackwater’s founder, is known for his libertarian views. He touts the virtues of the free market and entrepreneurs. But the company is not averse to exploiting contracting loopholes and government giveaways.

Blackwater teamed up with the Chenega, an Alaskan Native American tribe of 69 people, to guard a missile defense installation in northern Japan. As a native-owned company, Chenega can win special no-bid contracts because of rules crafted by Alaska’s powerful U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

But to fulfill the terms, Chenega needed a partner to supply the guards, so it turned to Blackwater. The contract was worth $5 million for Blackwater in 2006 and $6 million for the first half of 2007.

In North Carolina, the Department of Commerce approved a $120,000 grant for Blackwater to support the company’s production of its Grizzly armored vehicle. The department projected that Blackwater would file for $637,500 in tax credits for the same project.

Despite the phenomenal growth, Prince has been quietly looking for more investors. At the end of April, the giant hedge fund Cerberus said it had decided against investing as much as $200 million in Blackwater. After news broke of Cerberus’ interest, Blackwater President Gary Jackson sent an e-mail message saying the company was anticipating even more growth, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“The company has “had two successive quarters of unprecedented growth,” Jackson wrote, and is “exploring multiple avenues to finance our continued expansion.”

© 2008, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).

External link:


Tiny base assimilates into Japanese town

To allay locals’ health fears, housing built close to radar

By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, October 8, 2007


In Shariki, selecting the right place for American workers’ housing involved more than worrying about a daily commute.

For the 100 or so government contractors and two U.S. Army soldiers now living in and around the tiny Japanese village near the Sea of Japan, setting up a homestead also sent a message about their mission, according to the company commander at Shariki Communications Site.

“There were some people that told us, if you build that housing (elsewhere), it will be a public relations disaster,” said Capt. Will Hunter, whose unit in Shariki is attached to the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command in Hawaii. “It implies that you don’t think it’s safe to live around the radar.”

The radar is the AN/TPY-2, which points high-powered radio waves westward toward mainland Asia to hunt for enemy missiles headed east toward America or its allies. The system is serious — it could burn a person standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, Hunter says.

That hasn’t happened, he says, and occasional testing by the Americans and Japanese has found the radar does not interfere with local cell phones or harm local farming. Still, showing is better than telling, and that means building a housing complex for the Americans only a five-minute drive from the site.

It’s an apt example of how community relations can take on special meaning when a seaside village of 5,500 Japanese residents finds itself hosting several dozen Americans.

Hunter, the first commander of the year-old unit, has spent much of the past year making and implementing decisions like housing location. He’s also become a local ambassador of sorts at festivals, parades, Japanese military ceremonies and even afternoon cookouts.

“I think that’s my bigger job,” he said when weighing building relationships with local residents against his other tasks, working with the contractors and ensuring security of the radar site.

First Sgt. Ben Williams, the only other soldier in the unit, has picked up the role as well. Williams has been in the Army 16 years, and this is his first assignment without soldiers to lead and with a foreign language to negotiate. “I’m still feeling this out,” he says.

On one of his first days in town, he, Hunter and about 20 other workers from base helped drag a 16-ton float for a festival in Goshogawara, the biggest city about 45 minutes from base. “I was drenched,” he said of the sweaty work on the humid summer night.

For Hunter, much of the community relations means establishing safety procedures and conveniences for the Americans. He has set up phone lists and emergency procedures with local police and other officials so languages won’t be barriers to a response to Americans in need.

He’s even collected menus from local restaurants and had them translated to make it easier for the Americans to dine out and for local businesses to attract more customers.

The local community has responded as well. Lt. Col. Masaru Ohta, the Japan Air Self Defense Force’s 21st Air Defense Missile Squadron commander, ensures Americans get invited to festivals and meetings. And the city of Tsugaru, which oversees the smaller community of Shariki, has built a police koban in the village.

“I choose to say this police box was built for us, not because of us,” Hunter says.

Vehicle accidents have been the one sore spot for Hunter. There have been quite a few since the Americans came to Shariki, where an average of 12 meters of snow falls each winter.

Most of the accidents involve simple mistakes, not paying attention or slipping on ice, Hunter says. Still, a couple of Japanese people have been injured and gomen money, traditional compensation and condolence money, has been paid.

“In all honesty, I have beat up the contractors a lot about making their people drive correctly,” Hunter says while driving on a narrow two-lane road through rice paddies. The highway connects Shariki and Goshogawara, the closest place to big-city life that includes karaoke parlors, a dance club and two malls.

It’s hard to have absolute control, however, over a workforce that reports to a private company rather than a company commander, he says.

The Americans work for Raytheon and Chenega Blackwater Solutions, who, respectively, run the missile radar and provide security at the base.

In the past year, a couple of workers were sent home as punishment. But Hunter has no direct control over their privilege to hold a license, as he does over soldiers.

At the Shariki police station, inspector Yoshifumi Nakagawa warmly welcomes Hunter and gives business cards printed in English and Japanese to the two members of his staff – Williams and translator Yuko Akita.

Nakagawa was happy to learn Hunter has an interpreter, his first even though the Army unit officially stood up on Sept. 26, 2006. Previously, the captain relied on a handful of the contractors who speak Japanese, or a few of Ohta’s command staff who speak English.

The police official and the translator exchange cell phone numbers, then Nakagawa praises Hunter for participating in a recent community walk. It’s a formal thank-you for two men who see each other regularly. Both take the same language exchange course on Fridays, and the group has dinner together once a month.

Ohta credits the Americans’ involvement in the community with appeasing some of the fears first raised when the radar was built. “Because they participate in local events,” he says through a translator, “now there are no objections.”

The objections haven’t quite gone away. A Japanese Ministry of Defense office, at Shariki city hall, is where the Defense Facilities Administration Bureau works as liaison between the community and the U.S. Army base, Hunter says. It’s also where locals can go with concerns about the radar site.

In the past year, complaints have fallen off so much that the office has reduced its hours twice.

A couple of months ago, Hunter met with the bureau to hear about any recent complaints. One resident said his pacemaker had acted oddly when he drove on Shariki’s main street. Another man said his radio transmitted only static at 5 a.m. on a recent day. Both men suspected the radar.

“Things like that still come up,” Hunter said. “I think for the most part, people understand the radar is not going to hurt them.”

Akaka Bill in trouble?

February 10, 2010 

The so-called Akaka Bill, which would establish Native Hawaiians as a federally recognized native tribe under U.S. law and powers, has been strongly opposed by the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement.   The bill would place Native  Hawaiians under the Department of Interior and effectively extinguish claims to land and independence.   The bill would also exempt the U.S. military from any claims that could be brought by Native Hawaiians, say for the illegal taking of Hawaiian national lands. Republicans and racist anti-Native Hawaiian groups also oppose the bill, but for different reasons.

While progressive activists oppose the  anti-gay politics of the author of the following article, he provides a good summation of recent events that may have set back the Akaka Bill.


by Leon Siu
February 5, 2010

The Akaka Bill is in big trouble. Earlier this week, Republican Senator Jim DeMint placed a ‘hold’ on the bill, which in essence freezes the bill from moving forward. This is the newest setback in a series of catastrophic hits over the past six weeks that took the bill from certainty of passage by Christmas, to certainty of passage by February, to being dead in the water.

How did this happen? Let’s go back about eight weeks…the Akaka Bill was literally days away, closer than it’s ever been, to passing…

Monday, December 14, 2009, independence protesters assembled at the corner of Beretania and Punchbowl to protest an attempt by Hawaii’s US senators Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye to sneak the Akaka bill into one of the large US federal appropriations bills while congress and the nation were distracted by the epic battle over the huge healthcare reform bills.

Senator Inouye in Washington, D.C. hurriedly issued a strong denial, but it was way over the top, like that of someone caught with his hand in the cookie jar. No one believed his denial as everyone knows sneaky back-door deals is his specialty, his modus operandi.

Our SNEAK ATTACK protest triggered inquiries by Governor Lingle, and uncovered a scheme (brokered by Robin Danner) between Akaka and the White House to amend the Akaka bill in two days. State Attorney General, Mark Bennett, sent a scathing letter to Akaka and the members of the house and senate committees, strongly objecting to the unexpected changes and withdrawing the state’s support of the bill. He also suggested that public hearings be held in Hawaii before Congress takes further action on the bill. This constituted a major blow to the Akaka bill, as the State of Hawaii is the most vital player in the scheme of things.

The demand for ‘congressional-hearings-in-Hawaii’ grew to a clamor coming from many diverse quarters. Even President Obama caught the hint from protestors at the entrance to his vacation compound while in Hawaii over the holidays. Of course it was hard to miss the huge banners and signs for ‘congressional hearings in Hawaii.’ Sources tell us that upon returning to DC, the White House asked questions about why there had not been hearings in Hawaii.

Apparently the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was also caught off guard by the amendments. OHA was strangely silent about the crisis for quite some time. Eventually OHA responded with yet another dog-and-pony TV forum. Their purpose? To squelch the growing demands for congressional hearings in Hawaii and assure everyone that everything was still on track. The OHA show was unbelievably shameful and pathetic.

[Ironically, the day of OHA’s televised forum hyping the Akaka Bill, Senator Akaka was on Maui holding a “public hearing” for Maui veterans for a proposed vet complex (as they deservedly should get). This insult by Senator Akaka (the vets get a hearing, Hawaiians don’t) has not been lost on the people of Hawaii.

Co-sponsors of the bill like Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, were also kept in the dark about the amendments. Murkowski has hedged her support.

Trying to regain composure, Inouye arrogantly tells the press that the governor’s balk was just a matter of miscommunication and that he would get it straightened out over the holidays, and the bill will pass by mid February.

On January 20, the State AG and OHA submitted a list of 30(!) changes they would like to see made to the Akaka Bill, in essence crippling any chances of it being passed any time soon, certainly not “by mid-February.”

The surprise upset by Scott Brown in Massachusetts left Democrats in the US Senate one short of the 60 needed for a super majority to dislodge a ‘hold’ or stop a ‘filibuster.’ Sure enough, Senator Jim DeMint placed a hold on the Akaka bill. For all intents and purposes, the bill is dead.

One of the bonuses of the last six weeks is that the long, unholy alliance between Inouye and the Danner sisters has been exposed. The last-minute amendments (that caused the eventual collapse of the bill) would have contracted CNHA (the Danner’s non-profit corporation) to be the interim administrator of the Native Hawaiian tribe, until such time that negotiations were ever completed for the creation of a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity.

In a supreme display of poor judgment, Robin Danner has been sent out into the Hawaiian community to put out the wildfires of growing opposition to the Akaka bill. But Hawaiians are ma’a to what’s going on and Robin’s presence is like pouring gasoline on the flames. The more she tries to extinguish the fires, the larger the conflagration gets.


Kauanui: Understanding both versions of the Akaka bill

January 13, 2010 

Understanding both versions of the Akaka bill

By J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

When the U.S. Congress resumes business later this month, the “Akaka bill” will be back on the table in both the House and the Senate. This controversial proposal, officially named The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, was first introduced by U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) in 2000. Since then it has gone through numerous revisions to appease conservative opposition, especially during George W. Bush’s presidency. But with the Obama administration in the White House, and Democrats holding the majority in Congress, the bill has a strong chance of passage. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs passed a newly amended version on December 17, 2009, with changes developed by the Department of Justice in conjunction with the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, and the Native Hawaiian Bar Association meant to improve it. The day before, U.S. Congressman Neil Abercrombie had tried to pass the same heavily amended version of H.R.2314 in the House Committee on natural resources, but last minute letters of opposition from Hawaii’s Republican governor, Linda Lingle, prompted him to set aside the proposed revisions (no surprise that he backed off since he had already announced his plans to resign his seat next month to run for governor himself) and the committee passed the unamended version.

Although the House bill could be amended later to conform to the amended Senate version, the fact remains there are two different versions in the works. What difference does it even matter to those who oppose the Akaka Bill and federal recognition for Kanaka Maoli (Indigenous Hawaiians)?

The Senate version potentially gives the Native Hawaiian Governing Entity (NHGE) more power than the House version. In H.R.2314, Section 9, the bill titled “Applicability of Certain Federal Laws,” clarifies that certain laws pertaining to federally recognized Indian tribes would not apply to the NHGE, and they all happen to be the same laws that greatly benefit tribal nations. Perhaps the most important exclusion is that the NHGE would not be allowed to have the Secretary of the Interior take land into trust. This is important because only land held in trust by the federal government on behalf of tribal nations is allowed to be used as part of their sovereign land base where they can assert jurisdiction. Most notably, this section of the bill also states that “Nothing in this Act alters the civil or criminal jurisdiction of the United States or the State of Hawaii over lands and persons within the State of Hawaii.”

The Senate version does not make the same stipulation from the get go. S. 1011 states that the NHGE, the federal government, and the state “may enter into negotiations” that are “designed to lead to an agreement” addressing: land, governmental authority, the exercise of criminal and civil jurisdiction, and more. None of these are guaranteed in the bill-no land, no jurisdiction, no assets, no governmental power. They are all up for grabs (and we know who will grab what) once representatives of a NHGE sit down with the federal and state agents. There is no equal footing here; all negotiations must take place within the framework of U.S. federal law and policy with regard to Indian tribes.

This means that although S. 1011 seems better that H.R 2314 on the face of it, and Abercrombie says he wants to amend H.R. 2314 to make it identical to S. 1011, the outcome could end up looking the same either way, which is why there is substantial Kanaka Maoli opposition to the legislation.

The name of the bill itself perpetuates at lie. It’s called the “Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act” instead of “The Native Hawaiian Government Organization Act,” which misconstrues the government to government relationship the United States had with the Hawaiian Kingdom. Under the U.S. Constitution, the Hawaiian Kingdom was regarded as a foreign nation (and not an “Indian Tribe”) because the U.S. recognized the Kingdom as an independent sovereign state.

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui is an associate professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She is the author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity (Duke University Press, 2008). Kauanui is the producer and host of a public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond” on WESU, which is syndicated on five Pacifica radio affiliate stations across seven states. All past episodes are archived online: Kauanui can be reached at: For more information, see:

Kauanui: Pro-Independence Talking Points on the ‘Akaka Bill’

January 7, 2010 


The Akaka Bill legislation, first introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2000 and now before Congress in two different bills (H.R. 2314 and S. 1011), proposes that the U.S. Government recognize a “Native Hawaiian governing entity” that is to be certified by the U.S. Department of the Interior in conformity with U.S. federal law and practice regarding Native American tribal nations. Why support a federally driven bill that serves both the state’s interests and wraps things up for the federal government that aims strangle our national claims under international law (i.e. the right to restore an independent nation)?

This bill must be rejected for the following reasons:

  • Our claims to independence under international law stem from the fact that our loss of self-determination at no time amounted to a legal termination of political sovereignty, which was not lost via conquest, cession or adjudication.
  • The historical harm the United States first committed in Hawai‘i in 1893 brought down, not a “Native Hawaiian governing entity” but the government of the independent State of Hawai‘i composed of Kanaka Maoli as well as non-Kanaka Maoli subjects. Consequently, the Kanaka Maoli people and other Hawaiian Kingdom heirs have, since that time, accumulated fundamental political and other claims against the United States under international law that the United States must recognize.
  • The bill attempts to sabotage the rightful return of our people to our status prior to 1893-98 by imposing on us a colonial U.S. “wardship” that is anchored in the U.S. judicial doctrine of the plenary power of Congress over Native American nations.
  • The U.S. apology of 1993 recognizes that “the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.” Passage of the bill would mark the first time in history that we could be accused of acquiescing to the illegal U.S.-backed overthrow in 1893.
  • Proponents of the bill insist it will not foreclose our claims under international law, and not acknowledge how the United States asserts its plenary power to keep indigenous sovereigns both domestic and dependent. Moreover, these proponents depend on the Indigenous Peoples Model within the United Nations, whereas independence supporters opposed to the bill rely on the model of either De-Ocupation or Decolonization.
  • This is a FEDERALLY DRIVEN BILL that did NOT spring from our people. Locally, it has been DRIVEN BY OHA – A STATE AGENCY. Although there are Kanaka Maoli running OHA, it is still a STATE AGENCY working on behalf of the STATE’S INTERESTS. The trustees do not even have the mandate of the Kanaka Maoli people since they are ELECTED BY ALL STATE RESIDENTS (since 2000 when the ruling in Rice v. Cayetano found Hawaiian-only voting for OHA trustees unconstitutional).
  • Hawa

Kauanui: Three key arguments against Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (“Akaka Bill”)

January 7, 2010 

Kauanui’s Comments on Three Key Points Re: H.R. 2314, The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009, Passed by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources on December 16, 2009 (Introduced by Rep. Abercrombie):


Why is the bill called the “Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act” instead of “The Native Hawaiian Government Organization Act”? To name this legislation in this way misconstrues the government to government relationship the United States had with the Kingdom, which was distinctly different from the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and tribal nations within what are now known as the 48 contiguous states. Under the U.S. Constitution, the Hawaiian Kingdom was regarded as a foreign nation, an independent sovereign state. The bill offensively refers to the treaties between the U.S.A. and the Hawaiian Kingdom to try and claim Native Hawaiians as a Native Nation with the special political and legal relationship to the U.S.A. like the relationship the U.S. government asserts in relation to tribal nations. This bill attempts to graft our political genealogy of independence onto a different political lineage with regard to how the U.S.A. treats “Indian tribes” and “foreign nations” differently under U.S. law.


This section titled “Reaffirmation of delegation of federal authority, negotiation, claims” reaffirms the U.S. government’s position that it delegates U.S. authority to the State of Hawai`i to address condition of Native Hawaiians under the Hawai`i state admissions act. With regard to negotiations, this section specifies that after the Native Hawaiian governing entity is created, both the United States and the State of Hawaii may enter into negotiations with the Native Hawaiian governing entity. This sets the bill apart from other forms of federal recognition of Native Nations, which do not typically allow the state into any part of the negotiations with the exception of matters related to Indian gaming.

In this bill, the state of Hawai`i is allowed to sit at the table to negotiate over matters including: the transfer of lands, natural resources, and other assets, and the protection of existing rights related to such lands or resources; the exercise of governmental authority over any transferred lands, natural resources, and other assets, including land use; the exercise of civil and criminal jurisdiction; the delegation of governmental powers and authorities to the Native Hawaiian governing entity by the United States and the State of Hawaii; any residual responsibilities of the United States and the State of Hawaii; and grievances regarding assertions of historical wrongs committed against Native Hawaiians by the United States or by the State of Hawaii.

Notice that none of these things are guaranteed in the bill—no land, no jurisdiction, no assets, no governmental power. They are all up for negotiation once representatives of a Native Hawaiian governing entity sit down with the federal and state agents. There is no equal footing here. All negotiations must take place within the framework of U.S. federal law and policy with regard to Indian tribes and under U.S. plenary power, where the U.S.A. asserts total and complete power.

This section of the bill also includes a disclaimer that states that nothing in the Act can create a cause of action against the United States or any other entity or person, nor alter “existing law, including existing case law, regarding obligations on the part of the United States or the State of Hawaii with regard to Native Hawaiians or any Native Hawaiian entity.” Further more, it states that nothing in the bill can create any new obligation to Native Hawaiians under federal law. It also specifically outlines and protects the federal government through sovereign immunity to prevent lawsuits for breach of trust, land claims, resource-protection or resource-management claims, or similar types of claims brought by or on behalf of Native Hawaiians or the Native Hawaiian governing entity.

It also protects the state of Hawai`i by asserting that it “retains its sovereign immunity, unless waived in accord with State law, to any claim, established under any source of law, regarding Native Hawaiians that existed prior to the enactment of this Act.”


This section titled “Applicability of Certain Federal Laws,” clarifies that certain laws pertaining to federally recognized Indian tribes would not apply to the Native Hawaiian governing entity. Note that all of these laws that exclude the Native Hawaiian governing entity happen to be laws that greatly benefit tribal nations. The Native Hawaiian governing entity would not be allowed to claim rights under Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Native Hawaiian governing entity would not be allowed to have the Secretary of the Interior shall not take land into trust on behalf of the native Hawaiian governing entity. This is important because only land held in trust by the federal government on behalf of Native Nations is allowed to be used by Indian tribes as part of their sovereign land base where they can assert jurisdiction. The Native Hawaiian governing entity would not be allowed to rely on The Indian Trade and Intercourse Act to challenge how the State of Hawaii acquired the Hawaiian Kingdom Crown and Government Lands. No other Native Hawaiian group would be eligible for recognition under the Federal Acknowledgment Process. The Native Hawaiian governing entity would not be eligible for Indian Programs and Services.

Most notably, this section of the bill (e) states that “Nothing in this Act alters the civil or criminal jurisdiction of the United States or the State of Hawaii over lands and persons within the State of Hawaii.” It further states that “The status quo of Federal and State jurisdiction can change only as a result of further legislation, if any, enacted after the conclusion, in relevant part, of the negotiation process established in section 8(b).” In other words, when the representatives of the Native Hawaiian governing entity sit at the table to negotiate with the federal and state agents, they cannot negotiate for and civil or criminal jurisdiction over any land. In order to do so, there would need to be more legislation passed.


Lingle turns against Akaka Bill

December 16, 2009 

After Hawaiian independence activists protested on Monday, joined by a chorus of right wing anti-Hawaiian think tanks and media outlets to denounce alleged secret plans to slip the Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill (Akaka Bill) into the Defense Appropriations Bill, Senator Inouye publicly denied that such a rider was in the works.

Now Governor Lingle has come out against the latest markups of the bill, which the administration claims would grant Native Hawaians “inherent powers and privileges of self-determination”.   This is laughable on two counts: 1) The Lingle administration contradicts itself, saying it suppports Native Hawaiian self-determination through the Akaka Bill, but objecting to too  much self-determination under the proposed latest amendments; and 2)  The Akaka Bill was never meant to truly provide for self-determination; it was always about pre-determining the shape and status of a Hawaiian governing entity,  limiting the powers and claims of Native Hawaiians and terminating future claims to land and restoration of Hawaiian independence.

The Akaka Bill should be called the “Hawaiian Sovereignty Termination Bill”.  At the heart of the conflict over Hawaiian sovereignty is the U.S. interest in securing its hold on Hawaiian land for use by the military. For more than a hundred years, this is all it’s been about.


Posted on: Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hawaii governor opposes Akaka bill revisions

Governor opposes latest draft, which would make

Inouye denies Akaka Bill ‘sneak attack’

December 15, 2009

Posted on: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

‘Sneak attack’ claims dismissed

By John Yaukey

Gannett Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Sen. Daniel K. Inouye denied accusations yesterday by a group of mostly Native Hawaiians that he is trying to avoid public scrutiny of legislation that would grant them historic new status by hiding it in a defense bill.

The legislation in question — known as the Akaka bill for its author, Hawai’i Sen. Daniel Akaka — would grant Native Hawaiians the same status as American Indians. It would create a process for Native Hawaiian self-governance.

“I have never suggested that the Akaka bill be passed and adopted as part of the defense appropriations process,” Inouye said. “I don’t know where this nonsensical suggestion originated.”

The accusations and response come as the decade-old Akaka bill approaches perhaps its best chance for passage yet.

It is scheduled to come before key House and Senate committees this week for votes that would open it up for full congressional consideration. President Obama has promised to sign it.

The group of critical Native Hawaiians, which includes separatists, accused Inouye of a “sneak attack” yesterday and said he was trying to avoid “any public review or input” on the bill.

About 100 people gathered for a demonstration opposing the Akaka bill process yesterday morning at the state Capitol.

‘Ehu Cardwell, a spokes-man for the group, said protesters want Hawai’i’s lawmakers to hold public hearings on the Akaka bill in Hawai’i.

“We need to get the feedback of the people,” he said. “What we’re asking for is a transparent process.”

Akaka was as unhappy as Inouye about the accusations.

“It is very frustrating that opponents intentionally seek to spread misinformation about the bill,” Akaka spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke said last night. “This should call their credibility into question once again.”

The Akaka bill has strong support among some Native Hawaiians, but others oppose it for multiple reasons. Separatists, who believe Hawai’i should be released from statehood, don’t believe it goes far enough.

Other critics say they are worried about how claims for land under the Akaka bill would be handled.

The legislation would develop a process for organizing a Native Hawaiian government. It would rewrite the political landscape in Hawai’i, giving Native Hawaiians virtually the same rights conferred on American Indians and Native Alaskans. Eventually, it could give Native Hawaiians greater control over their highly valuable ancestral lands — some 1.8 million acres annexed in 1898.

Some prominent members of the Native Hawaiian legal community have issues with the Akaka bill, although their objections focus on details and not the overall thrust of the legislation.

In a four-page analysis of the legislation, the Native Hawaiian Bar Association said some provisions would grant the federal government too much immunity against potential claims by Native Hawaiians, especially for land.

“The bill’s provisions on claims and federal sovereign immunity appear to be overly broad and may prohibit lawsuits by individual Native Hawaiians,” the bar association wrote. “They create an extraordinarily unusual circumstance in which Native Hawaiians are barred from bringing an action.”

Congress has taken up the legislation seven times since it was first introduced in 2000. The bill has passed the House twice but has never cleared the Senate, where legislation sometimes requires 60 of 100 votes, and where a single senator can place a hold on a bill.

Akaka has said he expects he’ll need 60 votes to eventually pass the bill.

Opponents of the legislation, which has changed shape several times, say the bill challenges the American principle of equality and opens doors to political volatility among Native Hawaiians.

In 2006, the Justice Department under President George W. Bush argued that the Akaka bill would “divide people by their race.”

Justice Department officials from the Obama administration have been negotiating with the Hawai’i delegation about fine points in the bill, but the department support

Opponents of Akaka Bill stage protest, accuse senator of ‘back-door’ tactics

December 14, 2009 

This morning approximately forty Hawaiian sovereignty supporters staged a demonstration at the State Capitol in response to reports that Congress might amend the Defense Appropriation Bill to include the controversial Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill (Akaka Bill), thereby expediting its passage.  A press release stated:


A few select individuals headed by the Hawai`i delegation in Washington DC and locally are working to “sneak” the Akaka Bill into the Defense Appropriations bill this coming week.

These individuals have scheduled mark-ups of the Akaka Bill in both the House and Senate Committees for this coming week, which will allow them to “jam” a version of the bill into the Defense Appropriations Bill or similar piece of legislation.

It should come as no surprise that this attempt is spearheaded by none other than Daniel Inouye, who is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

If they are able to do this, the Akaka bill will pass and become law.

Where is the voice of the people in this process? Why are the people not allowed to review bill mark-ups and share their input to those who are elected to serve us? Why is the Akaka Bill being snuck into the Defense Appropriations or any other bill?

Everyone needs to be alerted, so they can voice their concerns and opposition. Please forward this email to your friends and family.

Everyone should be outraged at these individuals who are working overtime to sneak the Akaka Bill into the Defense Appropriations Bill, while the issues such as: war, homelessness, unemployment, health care, and education are unresolved issues.

One would think that these individuals would be spending their efforts towards resolving these crises, rather than forcing the Akaka Bill down our throats. It?s obvious these individuals are doing “business as usual”, behind closed doors and without transparency. What happened to CHANGE?

Whether you live in Hawai`i or not, whether you?re Hawaiian or not, now is the critical time to help, especially if you see your representative?s name and contact info below.

Please, everyone should begin Monday morning contacting as many of the following individuals via phone calls and written testimony as you can to express your outrage.

Tell them you demand a transparent and open process for the Akaka bill as stand alone legislation. Insist that they not bury it by attaching it to any other bill.

Also visit and http://FreeHawaii.Info for the latest updates and information.

The demonstration was sparked by a tip from anonymous Washington D.C. sources that once the markup on the Akaka bill was completed this week, the bill would be amended to the Defense Appropriations Bill to ensure a speedy passage, a familiar trick in Congress.  While it is impossible to know for sure that such an amendment was in the works, the action surely preempted that possibility.

Senator Inouye issued the following statement in response to the accusations:

“I have never suggested that the Akaka Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill be passed and adopted as part of the defense appropriations process. I don’t know where this nonsensical suggestion originated. The Akaka Bill for the past many years has been considered under what we call the regular order. It has had hours upon hours of hearings, many, many revisions and amendments and has gone through the scrutiny of three administrations. We have had hearings in Washington and in Hawaii. It is not a measure that has been shepherded in the dark of the night. It has been fully transparent.”

Pro-Hawaiian independence groups have opposed the Akaka bill because it will ‘settle’ (read ‘extinguish’) sovereignty and land claims while subordinating Native Hawaiians to the Department of the Interior.  Meanwhile, right wing anti-Hawaiian groups such as the Grassroots Institute, Aloha For All and the Heritage Foundation have opposed the Akaka Bill as “race-based” “special rights”.   What gets confusing is that there is a Christian Right element active in the Hawaiian independence movement, some of whom have worked closely with the right wing Anti-Hawaiian groups like the Heritage Foundation.  In fact, the “sneak attack” language of the protest, troubling because of its oblique reference to the Pearl Harbor attack and its tinge of anti-Japanese racism, was consistent with the theme emanating from the right wing think tanks.  And it seems that it was the conservative media here and here that carried the story far and wide on the internet, causing Inouye’s angry response.   However, this episode raises important questions for the Hawaiian independence movement: Do you know who you are in bed with?


Opponents of Akaka Bill stage protest, accuse senator of ‘back-door’ tactics

Posted: Dec 14, 2009 2:04 PM Updated: Dec 14, 2009 4:47 PM

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Opponents of the Akaka Bill staged a protest Monday morning near the Hawaii State Capitol, accusing Senator Daniel Inouye of planning to “jam” the Native Hawaiian recognition bill into a defense spending measure, virtually guaranteeing its passage. Senator Inouye’s office responded quickly, calling the suggestion “nonsensical”.

Ehu Cardwell of the Koani Foundation said in a statement that Inouye was “planning to insert the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009 into the Defense Appropriations Bill or one of several others coming before Congress this week.

“The effort would virtually guarantee passage of the Akaka bill through a “back-door” tactic, thus circumventing any public review or input” Cardwell said.

“I have never suggested that the Akaka Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill be passed and adopted as part of the defense appropriations process. I don’t know where this nonsensical suggestion originated” said Inouye in a statement.

In his statement, Inouye referenced the numerous hearings and proposed amendments that the bill has undergone since it was originally proposed in 2000. He said the proposed law “has gone through the scrutiny of three administrations…it has been fully transparent.”

The Akaka Bill is officially known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009. It would establish a process whereby Native Hawaiians would be able to set up a governing entity similar to those of numerous Native American nations on the mainland.

Sovereignty advocates disrupt Akaka Bill presentation

September 16, 2009 

Who speaks for Hawaiians?

A meeting on the Akaka Bill reveals a divided community

By Alan D. Mcnarie
Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:30 AM HST

“We don’t want nobody to give huhu,” said ILWU business agent Wallace Ishibashi. “We agree to disagree on that issue….”

“That issue” was the Akaka Bill, which would set up a framework for creating a native Hawaiian governmental body that the U.S. would recognize. With the Obama Administration’s support, the long-stymied bill now appears to be headed for passage. Ishibashi had organized a series of meetings with native Hawaiian leaders at the ILWU’s leadership hall to disseminate information and exchange views about the bill. The ILWU’s state leadership supports the bill, but the Hilo meetings recognized both sides of the issue. In one meeting, union members had talked with OHA Trustee Bob Lindsey, who supports the bill; another had tapped the views of Hawaiian sovereignty groups that opposed it.

The Sept. 7 meeting, where Ishibashi made his “no huhu” remark, brought the opposing sides together: Lindsey shared the podium with Jade and Robin Danner of Hawaiian Homestead Technology, Inc., who had testified on the bill and who supported the it with some amendments; the audience held far more sovereignty activists than union members. The idea of the meeting was for the Danner sisters to brief everyone on the exact contents of the current bill, which had undergone major revisions over its 10-year history. But Ishibashi’s “no huhu” dream was quickly shattered, as the meeting turned from a briefing session into an acrimonious debate, and sometimes into a literal shouting match between supporters and opponents.

“That’s treasonous,” said one sovereignty activist of the bill. “You’re creating a native uprising among our countrymen.”

Over the course of the five-and-a-half-hour meeting, the Danners outlined how the bill would grant recognition to a government formed by Native Hawaiians. First, the U. S. Secretary of the Interior would appoint a nine-member commission to create a list of eligible Native Hawaiian voters who wanted to participate in the new government. “Native Hawaiian,” here, is defined by a 27-line-long description, but basically would be determined by whether or not someone could prove he had an aboriginal ancestor in Hawaii prior to the overthrow, or who could trace an ancestor who was “eligible in 1921 for the programs authorized in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.” No blood quantum would be involved. Those Native Hawaiian voters would then elect an assembly to create a constitution, which would then have to be ratified by the voters on the eligibility roll and accepted by the Secretary of the Interior. After that, a native Hawaiian “governing entity” would be elected, whose powers would include authorization to negotiate with the “federal, state and local governments and other entities,” to protect the civil rights of participating Native Hawaiians, and to “prevent the sale, disposition, lease or encumbrance of lands, interests in lands, or other assets of the Native Hawaiian Governing Entity.”

That “governing entity” would still fall well short of a sovereign state, however. It could not, for instance, negotiate treaties with foreign governments or raise a standing army. And, thanks to a Bush-era concession, it could not authorize gambling.

The Danners’ presentation was repeatedly interrupted by sovereignty supporters who disagreed with the bill’s language and/or content. The Danners and audience members sometimes argued over who had interrupted whom.

Kale Gumapac of the Kanaka Council said that the account of Hawaiian history included in the bill skipped a large section of history that was key to the case for sovereignty. Others asked why the document hadn’t been translated into Hawaiian, why kupuna councils hadn’t been consulted, and why the nine appointed commission members were not required to be Hawaiians themselves. The answer, according to Jade Danner: Originally, the panel members were required to be Hawaiian, but that language was deleted in order to avoid a legal challenge, such as the ones Kamehameha Schools and OHA had faced about racial discrimination. Instead, the bill requires a person to know the Hawaiian language and to have at least “10 years of experience in the study and determination of Native Hawaiian geneology.” Most of all, the bill’s opponents challenged the right of any government to take over lands and assets that, they claimed, belonged to the Kingdom of Hawai’i.

Among those assets, according to Lindsey, would be those controlled by OHA, which gets revenues from former crown and government lands — lands usually called “ceded lands,” but which some sovereigns call the “Mahele Land Trust.”

“The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, once this government is created, disappears. It will be absorbed,” Lindsey said, though Jade Danner disagreed that OHA’s demise was inevitable.

“That is a likely outcome of the negotiations, but it’s not an absolute,” she told the Big Island Weekly afterward.

Also up for negotiation could be the property administered by Department of Hawaiian Homelands — which raises the stakes for everyone in the state, because of the DHHL’s habit of leasing its land for public and commercial facilities. In Hilo, for instance, DHHL land sits beneath the airport, the sewage treatment plant, and Prince Kuhio Plaza, Wal-Mart, Office Max, Ross, Home Depot, and the future Safeway and Target sites, among other assets.

Many sovereignty supporters maintain that those assets still belong to the Kingdom of Hawai’i, which they claim was illegally overthrown and so, according to international law, still exists.

They disagree among themselves about who exactly the legal heir to the kingdom is — several different groups claim to be the true successors — but few people in the union hall audience seemed to think that those assets should belong to a government set up under the Akaka Bill.

The Danners argued that the bill would not extinguish any claims of the Kingdom; that it was federal law, dealing with the assets and problems of Native Hawaiians under an existing federal framework.

Jade Danner said she supported the reinstatement of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. But she argued that re-recognition of the kingdom was a long-term project that could take a century or more. When one Hawaiian elder suggested that “What we need is the blue hats (United Nations peacekeepers)” to come in and enforce Hawaiians’ rights, Danner said currently 75 percent of the “blue hats” were U.S. troops, and the U.S. was hardly likely to send them in to fight its own troops. A long-term campaign was needed, she said, to change the American peoples’ minds.

In the mean time, she contended, Native Hawaiians could use the Akaka Bill to tackle problems such as the high rate of diabetes among their people, and give legal weight to their own customs, such as the reconciliation process of ho’oponopono.

She didn’t appear to win many converts.

“You’re actually allowing the perpetuity of an illegal system,” argued one sovereignty supporter.

“It’s just another form of capture,” said another of the Akaka Bill framework.

“It’s as though you’re creating a wholly separate government for a fictitious Hawaiian people,” said Gumapac.

“The people who are pushing this bill are trying to divide the Hawaiian people,” contended Rev. Ron Fujimoto, a non-Hawaiian who has worked for years with Hawaiian groups.

But others recognized that Hawaiians were already divided, and their internal conflicts were making them easier for outsiders to exploit.

“As long as we are as divided as we are, Congress is saying, hey, let us go….” said one elder. “There is a wealth of knowledge here. Let us come together as one common force.

But as the meeting broke up, that unity had yet to be achieved. Toward its end, when one Hawaiian corrected another about the origins of the Hawaiian flag, Ishibashi sighed.

“We can’t even get together on one flag,” he said.


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