US Senator Daniel Akaka
US Senator Daniel Akaka

BY SEN. DANIEL AKAKA, D-HI – U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) spoke last week at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s 10th Annual Native Hawaiian Convention at the Hawaii Convention Center. Here are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Aloha! I am so honored to join you at your 10th annual convention. This is a very special convention because it also celebrates the 10th anniversary of CNHA.

I extend my heartfelt aloha to Robin Danner for her unwavering support and advocacy on behalf of the Native Hawaiian community.

Mahalo also to the CNHA staff, board of directors, member organizations, and the convention’s sponsors, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Bishop Museum, Hawaii Convention Center, Hawaiian Way Fund, and Sandwich Isles Communications.

I am so pleased as I look across this room. This is the largest attendance in the history of this convention.

There are more representatives of Pacific island nations joining us than ever before. There are American Indians, Alaska Natives, and peoples from throughout the Pacific here today demonstrating our collaboration.

Much has been accomplished since this Convention began 10 years ago.

I am so proud of everyone working on cultural and language education. The number of keiki learning the Hawaiian language continues to grow and the demand for immersion education is rising. Many of our keiki are now attending Hawaiian culture-based charter schools throughout the state.

In the past, there was a fear that the language and the traditions of our ancestors might be forgotten.

Now we know: this will never happen.

Our moopuna now have the opportunity to learn our language, culture, and traditions – alongside contemporary education curricula.

Our schools, our kumu, and our haumana, serve as examples for other Native peoples in the United States of America.

Earlier this year, I became the first Native Hawaiian ever to lead the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

I am proud to be the first Native Hawaiian Chairman and only the second Native person ever to lead the committee. The first was my friend Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, an American Indian.

My new role as Chairman gives Native Hawaiians a seat at the table.

Last week, I held the first Indian Affairs field hearing in Hawaii since 2004. My mainland Senate colleagues sent their staff here to participate in cultural activities and site visits, gaining first-hand knowledge of Native Hawaiian people, our history, and culture to take back to Washington.

Every Native culture across our country is unique, but we share challenges and solutions. Our identities are built on our homelands. We can teach each other and move forward together.

Two of my top legislative priorities are the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act and a bill to fix a flawed Supreme Court ruling, known as “Carcieri.”

My Carcieri Fix reaffirms the Secretary of the Interior’s ability to take land into trust for tribes, regardless of when the tribe became recognized. This is an issue of great importance in Indian Country.

And let me assure you, I remain fully committed to advancing the rights of our people — Native Hawaiians — to self-determination and self-governance. I will use all available opportunities to secure these rights. It may be a challenge, but I will not be deterred. It is pono – it is right – and it is our time.

We have the support of other groups across the country, including American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders. We must work together toward a positive outcome.

The United States’ policy of supporting self-determination and self-governance for indigenous peoples has benefitted Native peoples across the country. With a similar government to government relationship, Native Hawaiians could access the most powerful tools in federal law to perpetuate our culture and our traditions.

For these reasons, the Hawaii Congressional delegation re-introduced the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act earlier this year. Federal recognition of Native Hawaiians’ right to self-governance is long overdue.

The power of self-determination is you. All of you, working together to solve our challenges and advance our goals. All of the great work you are doing in our communities is a clear expression of Native Hawaiians’ desire for self-determination.

This past July, I was so pleased that the State of Hawaii enacted Act 195 into law, reaffirming the state’s recognition of the Native Hawaiian people and demonstrating the widespread support of all the people of Hawaii.

I encourage everyone in our Native Hawaiian community to participate in this process, to work together and advance the collective will of our people.

Our Indian Affairs Committee field hearing on Maui last week dealt with barriers to economic development that often challenge us here in Hawaii, such as our remote location, limited infrastructure and access to capital, and trust land status.

As an island economy, we must become more self-sustaining, produce more local resources, and invest in clean renewable energy.

All of the people of Hawaii, Native Hawaiian and non-Native Hawaiian, must become more familiar with the sustainable land stewardship practiced by our kupuna: malama aina and aloha aina.

Who better to lead in these critical areas for Hawaii’s future than the Native Hawaiian community?

This convention moves our community forward. The attendees, educators and homesteaders, small business owners and government officials, are fostering relationships in meeting rooms, hallways, luncheons and breakout sessions. This is exciting, because this is only the beginning.

The theme of this convention: Community Leaders and Solutions – Where Success Happens! Lalawai Kakou – E Hana Kaiaulu! demonstrates that we, working together, will be the change necessary for our people. Lalawai Kakou — we are succesful, — E Hana Kaiaulu! – work as a community.

We are the most successful when we work as a community. Take all that you have learned this week and help facilitate that change.

The course has been set on our voyage together.

We all have the paddles, and must work together to guide the canoes in the same direction. Let’s all work to strengthen our island community, and to forever perpetuate the Native Hawaiian culture, language and traditions.

Imua kakou, a hui hou.

Na Ke Akua e hoopomaikai ia oukou.

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