Congress: Let Hawaii do the Dirty Work!

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BY KELI’I AKINA, PHD – Dr. Akina is a philosopher who lectures on business and government ethics in Chinese and American universities. He is a candidate for Trustee-at Large of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in the upcoming General Election. His website is He can be reached at

As a going away present to Senator Akaka, his colleagues on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs successfully passed a watered-down version of the Akaka Bill by removing its most controversial portion. The excised content, comprising approximately 15 pages, had transformed the original intent of the bill from providing federal recognition of Hawaiians as Native Americans into a bill for the enrollment of a Hawaiian nation.


In defense of the lighter version, committee members emphasized that the federal government no longer needs to address the issue of Hawaiian nationhood because the State of Hawaii has done so itself in the passing of Act 195 during its most recent legislative session.

Act 195 establishes the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission which will administer a racial test to enroll a nation of exclusively blood-Hawaiians descended from pre-Captain Cook Hawaiian ancestors. A five member commission will additionally scrutinize applicants and add a further test based on whether an individual has “…maintained a cultural, social, or civic connection to the Native Hawaiian Community.”

One questionable aspect of Act 195 is that it allows the State of Hawaii to define a Hawaiian nation in a manner antithetical to Hawaiian values. At the time of the overthrow of Queen Lili’uokalani (circa 1893), the Hawaiian Kingdom boasted an inclusive citizenry that included Japanese, Chinese, Caucasians, and other non-Hawaiians.

Another questionable aspect is that the five-member commission, in absence of any objective criteria, is given authority to decide who is not a “qualified” Hawaiian.

For U.S. Senators to suggest that recognition of a nation merely requires an act of one state legislature and its governor is peculiar and suggests what really is the case. Congress has no intention of sullying its reputation by recognizing in Hawaii a nation that excludes the majority population by way of a racial litmus test and the subjective judgment of an autonomous panel.

Let Hawaii do that dirty work.