Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obama Administration supports Native Hawaiian self-governance

I'm a little surprised this isn't getting more play in the news, but it would mean huge changes for the Native people of Hawaii if it were to pass. From RezNet:

Sam Hirsch, deputy associate attorney general for the Justice Department, told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Thursday that the department "strongly supports the core policy goals" of a bill allowing for self-governance by Native Hawaiians. Once established, the new government would negotiate with the state and the federal government over which assets the new government would own.

Though in none of the 200+ years of U.S. dealings with indigenous people is there a shining example of how it can be done right, I must confess I've never quite understood how, legally, morally, logically the Native people of Hawaii cannot be considered similar to Alaska Native and American Indian "tribes" (I use the term loosely, because up here, at least, "tribe" is only ever a government classification and never something used to describe any of the people groups outside of federal/state government terms.)

Of course it is complicated, but also silly to me the argument that Native Hawaiians have a "different" history from "Indian tribes" of the mainland. Of course they have - but it's only a statement made by someone who groups all Native people on the mainland of North America the same.

Although I belong to a federally classified "tribe," I can gaurantee you my people's history, with the U.S. government or otherwise, doesn't look a thing like that of the Crow tribe's history. Outside of being treated pretty poorly, there are little similarities, and the differences are at least as great as the difference in the Native Hawaiian history and any other federally recognized tribe.

The articles (one also from the Honolulu Advertiser) don't mention any real possibilities for passage of the bill from the Senate, but it is good to hear that it has support from the White House all the same. I would love to hear where each of the senators stands on it.


Stasya said...

thanks for bringing this up, I dont know much about native hawaiian history but this will definitely change. I do remember something about the media getting involved when the Kamehameha schools trustees were upholding their right to operate their private school for natives only, there are school like this in the continental united states (like Haskell University in Lawrence KS) but people were outraged all the same.

there is obviously more at issue here than school enrollment, but how the definition of 'native' and 'tribe' can be manipulated to cede land rights, produce a lack of autonomy in the indigenous nation involved and allow the nation doing the defining (US) to intervene and lessen the validity of their own affairs.

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