Native Hawaiians are close to obtaining their own government separate from Hawaii’s state government. The bill, US.1101, would recognize some 400,000 Native Hawaiians as an official tribe. Tribal designation would grant tax exemptions and other exclusive ethnic-based federal benefits.
Independence for Native Hawaiians has been a staple in Washington since 2000 when Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) first introduced the bill to congress. The move to establish a separate government for natives in Hawaii has been met with disdain, according to a recent Zogby poll, in which 51 percent of the state’s residents disapprove of establishing a separate government for natives and/or granting them special privileges. The bill passed the senate in February and awaits approval from the house.
Examining the history of Hawaii, the native people have never been fully included in the political process. In 1898, a faction of natives opposed to annexation petitioned a U.S.
Congressional Commission, which was sent to finalize the annexation process and draft laws for the new territory. Natives pacefully called on the United States to end its occupation of the islands and for the restoration of their queen. In addition to those demands, native Hawaiians asked the U.S. government for military protection, and to recognize their sovereignty. The greedy ambitions of the U.S. government, still evident today, would not allow native Hawaiians any special privileges-given they had been abruptly stripped of their land and customs.
The bill is supported by President Obama, who at first glance, seems to want to change how the American government operates, especially in dealing with indeginous peoples.
The president, who is a native of Hawaii, has a golden opportunity to “right” something that has been wrong for hundreds of years-American imperialism and its exploitive nature.
Historically, native Hawaiians suffer from poverty, high rates of unemployment and low educational achievement when compared to other groups in Hawaii.
Though granting the natives a special status will not be a cure all for their plight, it will provide reparations for native Hawaiians and their descendants who will always suffer from the impacts of colonization.