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The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009 (Akaka Bill) is a proposed law that seeks to reorganize the lives of native Hawaiians by recognizing them as native indigenous tribe using federal laws. The Akaka Bill has raised a lot of debate over the recent past with different sides calling for the support while others calling for the stop of the bill. The bill once passed would recognize native Hawaiians in the same manner as native Indians although the bill seeks to ban native Hawaiians from participating in gaming. On December 2009, an un-amended version of the Akaka bill was passed by a Congressional House Committee however the bill was amended a day later causing inconsistencies with the earlier version of the Akaka bill. The bill is yet to be passed into law as it awaits a vote at the senate.
Questions and Issues on Akaka Bill
Many questions or issues have been raised about the Akaka bill, though the main issue is that of formation of a governing entity to take care of native Hawaiian life and culture. The Akaka bill seeks for the formation of a governing entity that will be solely responsible for native Hawaiian interests and it will negotiate with the United States based on a government-to-government relationship. The bill will lead to formation of a Kingdom which according to many will exclude non-Hawaiians from participation in the governing entity.
The provisions of the Akaka bill seeks to give powers to the new governing entity to negotiate on issues dealing with land, rights and resources, the bill provides for negotiations to be based on what the native Hawaiian government will decide and what the federal government will get in return (Dyke, 116). Another question that has been raised by various stakeholders is the fact that the Akaka bill does not meet the requirements set out by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the recognition of native Hawaiians as a tribe. According to the Akaka bill, a native Hawaiian will be recognized by the apology resolution of 1993, this has raised questions that might spur other interested parties in seeking recognition as native tribes or special groups.
Support for Akaka Bill
The Akaka bill has received support from many quarters based on the provisions of the bill which will seek to recognize and protect the identity of native Hawaiians in a new governing entity. Those in support of the bill argue that by passing the bill the American government and people will exercised their duty of recognizing minority tribes and races. According to the Senator Akaka, the sponsor and supporter of the bill, he contends that the bill will set a legal parity between the native Hawaiian government and federal government.
This relationship according to him is similar to native tribal governments with the federal government and thus it will propel the fight for interests of native Hawaiian within a new governing entity (Rowland 1). Another factor that has led to the support of the Akaka bill is that the bill seeks to enhance and protect programs that help native Hawaiians. Programs such as the Kamehameha schools, health-care and housing programs are some of the programs which the Akaka bill seeks to provide under the new governing entity (Okamura, 77). Within the Akaka bill, the native Hawaiian government will form a coordination agency for federal agencies and policies as stated in section 6 of the bill. This has found support in a lot of native Hawaiians and other stakeholders.
The Akaka bill has also found support based on its provision for an interim governing council which will lead to formation of a new governing body. This provision will oversee the placement of native Hawaiians in direct governing and leadership on many issues in Hawaii. Moreover the formation of a new native Hawaiian government will lead to the deferment of all pending cases involving historical injustices cases against native Hawaiians. According to section 8 of the Akaka bill, all land issues concerning native Hawaiians will be sought out through negotiations between the new native government and the federal government.
Section 9 of the Akaka bill prohibits native Hawaiians from engaging in gaming with specific mention against casinos and gambling (Okamura, 84). This section also clarifies that the state or federal government shall not held land in trust on behalf of non-native Hawaiians, those in support of the bill are of the idea that this section shall protect native Hawaiian land and help in solving historical injustices. The provisions of section 9 of the Akaka bill will make more land available to native Hawaiians and lead to equitable distribution of resources thus making more opportunities available to native Hawaiians.
Opposition for Akaka Bill
The Akaka bill has attracted a lot of support and criticism with equal or greater measure however those opposed to it state that the bill will lead to racism and problems which are not good for America. People are opposed to the provisions of the Akaka bill articulating that the bill seeks to recognize native Hawaiians at the expense of other local Hawaiians. According to several activists, the Akaka bill seeks to establish a government that will segregate and discriminate others based on race as the bill only seeks to recognize native Hawaiians (Rowland 1).
Another reason fronted by opponents to the Akaka bill is the fact that programs such as the Kamehameha schools and Office of Hawaiian Affairs projects will limit benefit from these programs to native Hawaiians. Other provisions that have been opposed include the formation of a governing committee that will comprise of native Hawaiians in the new native government, because this move will lead to exclusion of non-native Hawaiians from government participation. The creation of a race based government and the division of resources among the native Hawaiians is an issue that has led to opposition of the Akaka bill, opponents of the Akaka bill are of the idea that the bill will continue to widen racial segregation problems in the state of Hawaii.
Opponents of the Akaka bill are of the idea that it will create conflict of interest in governing of the people. Provisions of the Akaka bill give power to native Hawaiian leaders to make decisions concerning land, taxation and control over other agencies. Therefore leaders will be in a position to favor their native relations over other local Hawaiians creating conflict (Dyke, 122). Some business people are opposed to the Akaka bill stating that its provisions will unfair in terms of taxation, stating tax will be levied upon non-native Hawaiians while native Hawaiian will have undue advantage over other people.
Negotiations to be conducted between the native Hawaiian government to be formed and the federal government could take a long time over issues such as division of land, public resources and jurisdiction. Opponents of the bill bear testament to the fact that other native Indian governments have outstanding issues with federal government thereby also the native Hawaiian government could the same fate. One major reason that opponents to the bill are afraid of is that of cessation. The bill which seeks to establish an independent native Hawaiian government under a federal government system might lead to native Hawaiians calling for cessation from the United States of America to create a Hawaiian nation.
The Akaka bill has created a lot of controversy ever since it was envisaged by Senator David Akaka; the bill which seeks to reorganize the lives of native Hawaiians has been supported and criticized in equal measure. But recently the bill has gained support from minority groups and the Democratic Party with most important support coming form native Hawaiians and the Hawaiian state government. However many other groups and people are opposed to the passing of the Akaka bill and they have formed pressure groups to organize the killing of the bill.
All stakeholders in Hawaii have valid and reasonable reasons for the support or opposition of the Akaka bill (Dyke 88). The main reason for the opposition of the bill is the formation of an independent native Hawaiian government which is not similar to other Indian native governments. While support for the bill stems from the ruling in the Apology Resolution of 1993 which seeks to recognize existence of native Hawaiian and the protection of their civil rights. Nevertheless further amendments could be made to the bill so as to reconcile and cater for the rights of every Hawaiian including recognition of native Hawaiian in the spirit of building unity in the United States of America.
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Dyke, Jon Van. Who owns the Crown lands of Hawaii?. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008.
Okamura, Jonathan. Ethnicity and inequality in Hawaiʻi. Honolulu: Temple University Press, 2008.
Rowland, Dick. Akaka Bill: Three Questions. Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, 2010. Web.