Washington DC –The Native Hawaiian Policy Center administered by the nonprofit, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA), issued mahalo letters to federal officials this week. The Obama Administration, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz and U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono introduced requests for the Congress to approve amendments made to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) by the Hawaii State Legislature over the past several years. The federal HHCA requires that Congress review and approve any changes made by the State of Hawaii under certain circumstances.
“The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), a federal agency, has the oversight responsibility to determine if changes require Congressional approval,” said Robin Puanani Danner, CNHA President. “We mahalo DOI Assistant Secretary, Rhea Suh, for moving forward on identifying changes to this important homestead act that require Congressional action before they can be implemented by the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.”
Senator Schatz and Senator Hirono introduced the necessary legislation for congress to consider and approve them. “It’s been a long time coming,” Danner said. “If approved by Congress, beneficiaries of Hawaiian Homes will be able to transfer homestead awards between siblings with 25 percent or more blood quantum. This is something the Hawaii legislature already approved, and we definitely support, as do the many homestead associations that worked on this several years ago.”
The Department of Interior Office of Native Hawaiian Relations is staffed by Director Kimo Kaloi. One of the primary responsibilities under the office created through legislation by former U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, is oversight of the State DHHL in properly administering the Hawaiian Home Land Trust for beneficiary homesteading, mercantile, and commercial purposes. Beneficiaries of the HHCA must be 50 percent or more native Hawaiian to receive a homestead award, and under previously approved changes, may transfer the award to family members that are at least 25 percent.
“It’s great to see the Obama Administration working with our Hawaii senators to bring this important legislation to the Congress,” Danner continued. “Prior to the existence of the DOI office created by U.S. Senator Akaka, the state and its Attorney General would decide if changes required congressional approval. Given the documented record of misbehavior at times by state government over the last 50 years, which left beneficiaries with no other option except to litigate, this is a much better result, to have the DOI implement oversight to make sure beneficiaries are protected.”
The CNHA Policy Center, along with dozens of homestead associations that are members of the Sovereign Council of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly, worked vigorously on the change to allow homestead families to pass on their homesteads to family members with less than 50 percent blood quantum
CNHA is a national network of Native Hawaiian Organizations, providing assistance in accessing capital and technical resources, and is a policy voice on issues important to Native Hawaiian communities. Its mission is to enhance the cultural, economic, political, and community development of Native Hawaiians. For more information about CNHA please contact us at 808.596.8155, toll-free at 1.800.709.2642, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at www.hawaiiancouncil.org.
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