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BY MALIA HILL – Rumors of the death of the Akaka Bill have been highly exaggerated.

Of course, in Hawaii, where the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is proceeding with its plan to create a “roll” of Native Hawaiians to be part of an eventual Reorganization (as envisioned in various ways in the different iterations of the Akaka Bill, or Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act), this is not exactly a surprise.

But in Washington, DC, which should be long inured to backdoors dealing and “hidden” legislation, there was still some surprise when it was discovered that Senator Dan Inouye had added an Akaka Bill-like provision to an appropriations bill.  Specifically, Section 420 of the proposed draft of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill would grant the Secretary of the Interior authority to recognize Native Hawaiians as a federal Indian tribe.  This particular version of the Akaka Bill has been called, “even more radical,” than previous efforts, as it lacks reference to future Congressional or state action and contains none of the compromises and limits of earlier versions.

It is well known that the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has long opposed all versions of a Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act.  It is our position that such legislation would be a route to larger, more intrusive government at all levels, culturally divisive and economically damaging to Hawaii.  However, even those who support the Akaka Bill in some form should be concerned about Senator Inouye’s latest gambit.

Putting aside the question of whether it is a good idea to go about creating a Native Hawaiian tribe at all, or even whether you think it would be a good thing for Native Hawaiians to be managed as the federal government has managed American Indian tribes—it cannot be denied that this bill would have a significant and transformative effect on Hawaii.  Nor can we ignore the fact that there is far from a public consensus on the bill—which is why so many support the idea of a public referendum on Reorganization before any Congressional action is taken.

That is why attempting to use “backdoor” legislation to pass such a controversial measure leaves so many people inHawaiiquestioning whether their concerns are really being heard byHawaii’s Congressional delegation.

Fortunately, there is still time to let your feelings be known is this issue.  No matter where you stand on the Akaka Bill, you can still contact Senators Inouye and Cochran (ranking Republican member of the Appropriations committee) and tell them what you think about creating a Native Hawaiian “tribe” under the Department of the Interior (or any other Native Hawaiian Reorganization plan).

To contact Senator Inouye’s office, you can call his office at 808-541-2542 or 202-224-3934 and you can email him through his website here.

To contact Senator Cochran, you can call his office at 202-224-5054 or email him through his website here.

The lobbyists and special interest groups have all had plenty of opportunities to state their case on the Akaka Bill.  Millions of dollars have been spent lobbying politicians on the issue.  If this is an issue you care about, this is your opportunity to make sure your own voice is heard.  The more these Senators here from the people ofHawaiion this issue, the better informed they will be when it comes time to vote on it.

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