Impact of the Akaka Bill on Local Businesses and Local Communities

article top

When a major project is proposed, an
environmental impact statement might be required.
Nowadays an environmental impact statement must also
include a cultural impact statement. What effects
will a proposed project have on historical treasures
and cultural practices? If more telescopes are placed
on Mauna Kea, will the construction work adversely
affect an ancient adz quarry and religious shrine near
the summit, and will the presence of too many
telescopes and scientists adversely affect the ability
of Hawaiian traditional practitioners to worship
Poliahu and Wakea?

The Akaka bill is a proposal for drastic change
in the social and legal framework of Hawaii. It
would permanently establish a race-based government
with powers comparable to those of the State of
Hawaii. That new tribal government could then
negotiate with the state and federal governments to
acquire money and land exclusively for its
racially-defined members. Surely an environmental
impact statement should be required before such a bill
could be passed. The cultural impact portion of that statement would
be extremely dire. Unfortunately no
EIS or CIS is required for legislation. Good
political decisions depend on a vigilant citizenry.


This essay will only barely begin to identify
some of the concerns that must be addressed about the
Akaka bill. Let’s look at the way federal recognition
of an Indian tribe affects local businesses and local communities. OHA
officials are quick to say that the Akaka bill will not establish an
Indian tribe. They’re worried because too many ethnic Hawaiians have
been complaining that they don’t want to be Indians!
But OHA is playing a word game. The bill, S.344, is
introduced in the Senate Committee on INDIAN Affairs.
Native Hawaiians are referred to as aboriginal,
indigenous people, just like Indians. The procedure
for establishing a roll of members and electing a
ruling council is the same as for an Indian tribe,
including certification by the Secretary of Interior.
Native Hawaiian lands (if any) would be held in trust
by the federal government, not owned by the tribe.
The lands and laws of the tribe would be subject to
the plenary power of Congress. If it looks like a
duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck …

Federal recognition of an Indian tribe has
devastating consequences for local governments and
local businesses in areas where the tribe “owns” land,
and for the social fabric of nearby communities.

Federally recognized tribes enjoy sovereign
rights comparable to those of the States, and
generally superior to the rights of cities and
counties. Sovereignty means tribes can do as they
please on their tribal lands, exempt from local zoning
laws and environmental regulations. Tribal businesses
on tribal lands are exempt from federal, state and
local income, sales, and excise taxes; and also exempt
from laws regulating minimum wages, unions, workers compensation, and
racial discrimination. Thus they can operate gas stations, liquor
stores, grocery stores, tobacco shops, etc. at significantly lower cost
and make huge profits while underpricing their fully-taxed
and fully-regulated non-tribal competitors across the
street. Before too long, those competitors are driven
out of business and the tax base supporting local and
state government is reduced. Nevertheless, local and
state government must continue to pay for building and
maintaining roads, schools, water, sewage, electric,
police, fire, etc.; including upgrades to state and
county roads and utilities leading to or from the
growing tribal businesses.

Keep in mind that OHA and other Hawaiian activist
groups strongly maintain that all the ceded lands (or
at least a large part of them) belong to Native
Hawaiians, and such ceded lands will be transferred to
the control of the newly recognized Akaka tribe where
they will become tribal lands enjoying all the
sovereign exemptions mentioned above. For information
about the ceded lands, see:

Also keep in mind that in Hawaii those ceded
lands are scattered in numerous neighborhoods
throughout all the islands, so that tribal lands and
tribal businesses would be in close proximity to
non-tribal lands and businesses (not isolated in
remote areas, as on the mainland). There would be
constant jurisdictional disputes and lawsuits between
the Akaka tribal government and local governments, and
also between tribal and non-tribal businesses and
suppliers, police and fire departments, etc. Some of
those disputes would have to be tried in tribal courts
under tribal laws, or in federal courts. State and
local courts do not have jurisdiction over sovereign
tribes, or their commercial activities. Also bear in
mind that tribal governments enjoy sovereign immunity
from lawsuits, which makes it difficult to enforce
contracts between businesses and tribes unless a
waiver of sovereign immunity is negotiated along with
the contract.

The ceded lands are not the only places in
Hawaii where tribal reservations or tribal businesses
could be established, free from taxation and
regulation. Bishop Estate, now known by the kinder,
gentler name Kamehameha Schools, is the largest
private landowner in Hawaii. It is incorporated
under the laws of the State of Hawaii and the U.S.
government as a tax-exempt charitable foundation. However, it is under court challenge because of its
racially exclusionary admissions policy, and it
worries constantly that it might lose its tax
exemption under Internal Revenue Service policies that prohibit racial
discrimination. If the Akaka bill passes and a tribal government is
formed, it would be very logical for KSBE (Kamehameha Schools Bishop
Estate) to switch its incorporation from the state and
federal governments to the Akaka tribal government in
order to preserve the tax exemption along with the
racially exclusionary admissions policy. As a result,
all the land holdings of KSBE would be considered
tribal lands, where tribal businesses could operate
untaxed and unregulated. The implications are
mind-boggling, since KSBE owns valuable commercial
property scattered throughout Hawaii including, for
example, Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in Waikiki,
and Windward Mall in Kaneohe. For information about
KSBE’s racially exclusionary admissions policy, and
its tax exemption, see:

Other racially exclusionary ethnic Hawaiian
institutions with substantial assets and land holdings
might also follow a similar path. For example, the
Queen Liliuokalani Childrens Center had a huge battle
with Honolulu City Council in 2002 over forced
conversion of leasehold to fee simple residential
condominium ownership. To read about the legal issues involved, and
also the racial demagoguery on Bill 53 by Haunani-Kay Trask, see:

Leasehold owner-occupants of homes or residential
condos on Bishop Estate or QLCC land might suddenly
find themselves living on an Indian reservation (i.e.,
land controlled by a tribe) where their rights as
tenants and homeowners would be “protected” only by
tribal courts operating under sovereign immunity from lawsuits, with
tribal judges quite possibly sharing the racist attitudes of Ms. Trask.

The main supporters of the Akaka bill are huge,
wealthy institutions whose administrators and staff
stand to profit enormously if the bill is passed.
These people are shamelessly exploiting the Hawaiian
grievance industry, getting land, money, and power for themselves by
claiming to work on behalf of poor, downtrodden Hawaiians. Passing the
bill might let them administer resources intended for housing,
healthcare, education, and infrastructure development. There are
already some outrageous examples of nepotism, sole
source contracting, and possible corruption in the
relations among the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the
Department of Hawaiian Homelands, Kamehameha
School/Bishop Estate, and government officials.

A Web page focuses on the following: (1) Text and analysis of the
“Ethics” section of the Akaka bill that could easily be interpreted as
a license for nepotism in relations between the federal office
overseeing the Akaka tribe, the Akaka tribal council
members, and contractors; (2) Beadie Dawson’s role in
writing the Native Hawaiian Recognition bill, and her
family corporation’s history of profiting from
sole-source government contracts; (3) The Office of
Hawaiian Affairs plan to spend up to $9 Million for
media propaganda and to lobby for the bill’s passage;
(4) A sole-source contract for OHA Chairman Clayton
Hee’s brother, family members, and political cronies
to spend $400 Million of federal funds to provide
fiber-optic cable exclusively to interconnect all
203,000 acres of the racially exclusionary Hawaiian
Homelands; (5) The upscale Kalawahine Streamside
housing development on racially exclusionary Hawaiian
Homelands overlooking downtown Honolulu, where wealthy
professionals get free land for homes that were valued
as high as $385,000.00 even in the depressed real
estate market of 2000. See:

Further evidence of current and future greed is
provided by the Council for Native Hawaiian
Advancement. CNHA was formed specifically to be an
umbrella organization for the Hawaiian institutions
supporting the Akaka bill, especially the large
wealthy institutions, and “service providers” who live
off of race-based federal grants — OHA, DHHL, Alu
Like, Papa Ola Lokahi, Kamehameha Schools, Native
Hawaiian Legal Corporation, Queen Liliuokalani
Childrens Center, U.H. Center for Hawaiian Studies,
Native Hawaiian Leadership Project, Ka Lei Naauao
(consortium of Native Hawaiian “public” charter
schools), etc. All these organizations are either
racially exclusionary or race-focused. All are
threatened by lawsuits specific to them, or more
general lawsuits or administrative actions, that
eventually will put them out of business unless the
Akaka bill passes. CNHA aims to share information on
how to squeeze more money out of government through grant-writing; how
to pool their lobbying efforts to pass federal legislation to send more
money to these organizations; and how to pass the Akaka bill.

In September 2002 the CNHA held its first annual
convention, in Waikiki. U.H. President Dobelle was the
keynote speaker and pledged to harness U.H. as an active political
supporter to help convert the dream of Hawaiian sovereignty into a
reality (no academic freedom for opponents of Hawaiian sovereignty!). For the first annual conference, there was a registration
fee of $350 and an exhibitor fee of $450. The Arctic
Slope Regional Corporation donated $25,000.00 as one
of the conference sponsors. If the Native Hawaiian
recognition bill passes, ASRC might be hoping to make
major profits in Hawaii in partnership with the Akaka
tribe. Also sponsoring and attending the conference
were Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation, numerous banks,
insurance firms, construction firms, law firms, and
Rural Community Assistance Corporation. The RCAC was
probably there in relation to Al Hee’s Sandwich
Islands Communication company’s $500 Million cable
wiring project on Hawaiian Homelands. Poor,
downtrodden Hawaiians, indeed!

The organizations in CNHA are already thriving
and engaging in questionable practices. The second
annual convention of CNHA is being held August 27-30,
2003 at the Sheraton Waikiki. The sound that can be
heard above the chanting and praying is lip-smacking
at the prospect of unlimited wealth and power after
the Akaka bill gets passed. That wealth and power will
come at the expense of companies driven out of
business by untaxed and unregulated Native Hawaiian businesses, and at
the expense of ripping apart the multiracial fabric of Hawaii to
create an apartheid government.

Hawaii Should Learn From Trouble in Connecticut and Other States

Tribal recognition in Connecticut has been so
corrupt that a book was written about the process
whereby the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe got recognized:
Jeff Benedict, “Without Reservation: The Making of
America’s Most Powerful Indian Tribe and Foxwoods, the
World’s Largest Casino.”

Connecticut offers an interesting parallel with
Hawaii. Both states have rural areas, industrial
areas, and also urbanized residential areas. The
concept of an Indian tribe somehow seems out of place
in Connecticut, as in Hawaii. Also, in Connecticut, so-called
“tribes” which could not get federal recognition through the Bureau of
Indian Affairs in the normal way (because they weren’t real tribes!)
used insider influence-peddling and campaign
contributions to get their Senators and
Representatives to push bills through Congress to get
federal recognition, greatly assisted by Hawaii
Senator Dan Inouye, who was chairman of the Senate
Select Committee on Indian Affairs whenever the
Democrats held a majority.

Conflict between tribes and local communities in Connecticut has
become so bad that leaders at the state level are pleading with
Congress to stop recognizing new tribes and to regulate the way
existing tribes can exercise sovereignty. Connecticut
Senators Joseph Lieberman and Christopher Dodd have
introduced bills in Congress to stop further tribal
recognitions until improvements are made.

On March 10, 2003 Attorney General Richard
Blumenthal of the state of Connecticut sent a 3-page single-spaced
letter pleading with Senator Daniel Inouye, Ranking Member, Senate
Committee on Indian Affairs. Here are excerpts from Blumenthal’s
letter which are very relevant to what Hawaii neighborhoods

“… Given the immense, far-reaching significance of recognition
decisions for affected states, municipalities and the public, the
potential denial of the right to judicial review is fundamentally
unfair. It deprives those affected parties — particularly
sovereign states — of their rights to due process and
other constitutional guarantees … A decision by the
federal government to recognize an Indian tribe has
profound and irreversible effects on tribes, states,
local communities, and the public. Tribes that receive
federal recognition may be permitted to operate
commercial casino gaming. They are exempt from most
state and local laws and land use and environmental
regulations. They enjoy immunity from suit. They may
seek to expand their land base by pursuing land
claims, or seeking to place land into trust under the
Indian Reorganization Act. They may be insulated from
many worker protection statutes relating, for example,
to the minimum wage or collective bargaining as well
as health and safety codes … For these reasons, I
urge you to reject S.297 and support reform measures,
such as S.463, that will restore public confidence,
integrity, and fairness to the recognition process.”

A Web page includes the following items: (1)
Longer excerpts from the letter from the Attorney
General of the State of Connecticut, Richard
Blumenthal, to Senator Dan Inouye, dated March 10,
2003; (2) A book review of Jeff Benedict’s “Without Reservation,”
documenting the corrupt Congressional recognition of a phony Indian
tribe in Connecticut (a process that threatens to be repeated with the
Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill); (3) A newspaper article
describing continuing corruption, in the case of the
Congressional recognition of another phony Indian
tribe in Connecticut several years after the
Mashantucket Pequot recognition documented in Jeff
Benedict’s book. The newspaper article points out that
Senator Inouye’s most important staffer is married to
the attorney who was representing the “tribe” seeking
recognition through a bill before Inouye’s committee.
Interestingly, in 2003, the Senate Indian Affairs
Committee has several important staffers who have long
represented Native Hawaiian interests. Their presence
in key positions on the committee staff guarantees an
overwhelming positive attitude by the committee toward
the Akaka bill, an immediate compliance to any
amendments or further hearings that might be requested
by bill supporters, and immediate suppression of any
negative input. For further information about items
(1), (2), and (3) see:

But Connecticut is not the only place where
tribal recognition has been disastrous for local
businesses and communities, and casinos set up by
phony new “tribes” are often not the main issue.
Indeed, genuine tribes that have been federally
recognized for over a century and previously reached
land settlements have been reasserting old claims in
ways that cause havoc for local communities. Here are
a few samples:

Upstate Citizens for Equality, Inc.; P.O. Box 24;
Union Springs, NY 13160

Upstate Citizens for Equality (UCE) is a growing, not-for-profit
corporation composed of concerned citizens that stand against
discrimination, and supports the continuation of free enterprise and
equality in our communities. UCE was formed in August
1997 to give the landowners facing the Oneida Land
Claim a voice in what will determine their future. In
1999 the Seneca-Cayuga Chapter was formed in part due
to the Cayuga Land Claim. The Niagara Frontier Chapter
of Upstate Citizens for Equality was formed in
December 2002 as a result of increased inquiries to
the Seneca-Cayuga and Madison-Oneida Chapters from
people in the western portion of New York who are
currently facing claims by the Seneca Nation of
Indians in Grand Island and Cuba Lake as well as the
proposed increase of “sovereign” land in the middle of
their communities. Each Chapter of Upstate Citizens
for Equality has its own mission statement to reflect
the unique issue each is faced with. These mission
statements are available through the links …
Generally our organization seeks equality under the
law and the rule of law applied equally. We believe
that the current federal Indian policy is fatally

United Property Owners, headquartered in the State of Washington,
founded in 1989

United Property Owners (UPO) is a nonpartisan,
nonprofit umbrella organization representing more than
78,000 individual citizens, elected officials, local governments,
property owner groups, small businesses, and trade associations in
thirty-eight states, who joined together in 1989 in a mutual effort to
defend our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties and
property rights. As a coalition of concerned citizens
from across the country, UPO acts as your eyes, ears
and voice in Washington, DC, working hard to defend
the private property and civil rights of all citizens,
taxpayers, and small business owners, Indians and
non-Indians alike. We seek to bring more balance to
federal Indian policy by giving local communities more
voice in the government decision-making process, which
impacts your daily life in so many significant ways.
For the past few decades, federal bureaucrats and
tribal activists have been eating away at our
individual liberties, little by little. Aiding this
process has been too many elected officials, who take
an oath to defend and protect our Constitution, but
who instead have often trampled it in exchange for
campaign contributions and political expediency. UPO
is committed to returning our great Nation to the
principles of our Founding Fathers and championing
individual rights over group rights and special

Everything above here comes from a webpage which provides more
extensive information. See:

OHA and the State Council of Hawaiian Homeland Associations are
engaging in scare tactics. OHA warns that lawsuits threaten to
dismantle OHA and racial entitlement programs worth tens of millions of
dollars per year unless the Akaka bill is passed. SCHHA warns
the homesteaders that they will be thrown out of their
homes unless the Akaka bill is passed. OHA has been
conducting a multimillion dollar campaign of
advertising and lobbying for the Akaka bill in
Hawaii, in Washington D.C., and throughout the United
States. Pacific Business News is running a series of
articles in August that bolster OHA’s scare tactics —
PBN focuses on the loss to Hawaii business if the
bill fails to pass, while OHA focuses on the loss of
assistance for poor downtrodden Hawaiians. To read
about the scare tactics, and to take a look at the
business aspects of OHA’s marketing campaign on behalf
of the Akaka bill, see:

The Akaka bill has bad consequences for the
democratic and constitutional rights of all Hawaii’s citizens; but the
results would be especially devastating for those ethnic Hawaiians who
join the tribe. Remember that the bill is about
self-determination for ethnic Hawaiians (exclusively),
so 80 percent of our people are automatically shut out of any
decisions about whether to establish the tribe and
what its governing principles will be. But ethnic
Hawaiians are also shut out of the process to a
remarkable extent. There is no requirement for a
referendum among ethnic Hawaiians on whether to have a
tribe at all. Those who want a tribe can join, and
those who do not want a tribe can do nothing to stop
it. There is no minimum quorum necessary to establish
the tribe or to elect a tribal council or to ratify
the governing documents. Indeed, no ratification is
required at all. In the extreme, the Akaka bill would
allow the process to go forward if only a handful of
ethnic Hawaiians register for the roll of charter
members, and they choose a few among them to be the
tribal council, and the council creates a governing
document, and that document gets submitted for
approval to the Secretary of Interior without any
ratification process. There is no requirement to
admit any additional “Indians” to the “tribe” after
the charter roll has been certified; and existing
members actually have a disincentive to admit
additional members because the money allocated to the
tribe would then have to be divided into smaller
portions. As a practical reality, it is entirely
possible that fewer than ten thousand ethnic Hawaiians
might register and make all the decisions on behalf of
240,000 in Hawaii and 400,000 nationwide.

But the most devastating consequences await those
who are members of the tribe. That’s because tribes
are sovereign. They can do pretty much whatever they
want to their own members. Federal and state laws
often do not apply to tribal members or tribal
businesses on tribal lands. Tribal councils make
their own laws, which may be quite different from the
laws of Hawaii of or the U.S. Tribal laws are
enforced by tribal courts, whose judges can be
appointed and dismissed at will by tribal councils.
Abuse and corruption are commonplace. The constitution
might provide for elections of tribal officers by the
normal processes of secret ballot; but it could
instead say that officers shall be elected by
“consensus” or by a show of hands at a meeting. Or
perhaps the constitution might say that officers shall
be named by a committee of genealogists, or by an
election restricted to tribal men older than 75 (a
kupunakane council). Legal rights for women might be significantly
less than rights for men. Accused criminals might be required to
testify and not remain silent. People might be confined to jail, or
have their property confiscated, without due process of
law. Elders, tribal leaders, or prominent families
might have special rights, powers, or immunities based
on age, gender, genealogy, or political office.

For further information about the impact of the
Akaka bill on the democratic and constitutional rights
of ethnic Hawaiians, see:

Most of this essay was devoted to the impact of
the Akaka bill on local businesses and local
communities. Business owners who belong to a regional
or nationwide business association have a very
effective way to oppose the Akaka bill, by asking
their association to lobby Congress against the bill. Individuals can
send letters or faxes. Hawaii’s two Senators and two Congressmen are
strongly committed to passing the bill — it’s their top priority.
useless to write letters of protest to them. Letters
should be sent to Senators and members of Congress
from other states, asking them to oppose S.344 and
H.R.665. Friends and relatives who live in other
states should be asked to send such letters too. Contact information for selected members of Congress,
and sample letters, can be found at:
In addition, contact information about all members of
the Senate and House can be found at:
The best place to find all the information about the
Akaka bill is:
There’s also an online petition opposing the bill,

”’Ken Conklin is an independent scholar. He can be reached at:”’