Senate Bill 1520, which formally recognizes Native Hawaiian people as “the only indigenous, aboriginal, maoli people of Hawai’i,” was approved today by a joint conference of the Hawai’i State Senate and House conferees.  The bill will now move to both houses of the State legislature for a final vote.  If passed, it will then go to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

Senator Malama Solomon (D/Sen. Dist.1 – Waimea, Hamakua, North Hilo, portions of South Hilo), who has been a lead negotiator for Native Hawaiian recognition in the 2011 session, said “this is a historic and positive step in the reconciliation process between the State of Hawai’i and the Native Hawaiian people.  By having the formal recognition by all of the people of these islands, this bill serves as strong evidence and testimony for our case pending before Congress for federal recognition of the Native Hawaiian people.”

Sen. Solomon, who represents a large portion of the Island of Hawai’i, has been working on the issue of Native Hawaiian recognition for more about three decades.  “I well remember meeting with kupuna in the 1960s and ‘70s, and hearing stories of how they felt mistreated or discriminated against because of their ancestry,” she said.  “Some progress towards reconciliation has certainly been made since then, but there is still much more to do and hopefully this Bill will move things forward.”

Senator Brickwood Galuteria (D/Sen. Dist 12 – Iwilei-Downtown-Kaka’ako-Waikiki), another lead negotiator of the legislation, echoed Solomon’s remarks.  “Native Hawaiians are the original people of this land,” he said “and it’s only right that they be recognized as such and receive the same rights and benefits that are now given to all other native peoples in this country.

In addition to formal recognition by the State of Hawai’i, SB 1520, if passed and signed into law, also formally begins a process of creating a list of people who are of Native Hawaiian descent.  Funds will be set aside to create a commission that will collect and register such names.

“We are the native people of this land,” said Sen. Solomon.  “Nonetheless, we need to create a roll, a verified listing, of who we are by name and status, so that the whole world will know who we are … and that we stand up to be counted.”

Submitted by Hawaii State Senate communications office

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