Native Americans throughout the county working to help tribal members with a variety of issues say they are trying to warn native Hawaiians who may be considering supporting the Akaka Bill, about the problems with federal recognition and how it affects their world.
The Akaka Bill, which is pending a vote before the U.S. Senate this September 6, would, according to its own author U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, allow Hawaiians to gain federal recognition as a Native “tribe” and could even lead to secession or an independent nation of Hawaiians-only. “That could be. As far as what’s going to happen at the other end, I’m leaving it up to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Akaka said when asked by a NPR reporter if the bill could lead to sovereignty or outright independence.
Many Native Americans who understand the Akaka Bill are worried enough about its potential impact on Hawaii, the nation, and individual Hawaiian citizens that they, and their associates in states across the mainland, are lobbying against the bill in Congress.
Here is why.
There are so many problems, that 4 out of 5 Native Americans no longer live within reservations or submit themselves to tribal governments.
That is in part because Federal Indian policy promotes tribalism and tribal governments, and depends upon the those governments to act in the best interest of their members.
Some tribes do represent their people well, but most don’t, according to Elaine Willman, a Native American of strong Cherokee ancestry through her mother and father’s lineage.
Since 2002, Willman has served as Chair of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, formed in the early 1980s to assist enrolled tribal members with oppressive tribal governments. More recently the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance assists non-tribal members and communities confronting aggressive tribal overreaching, land claims and off-reservation tribal casinos.
She says Native American tribal governments and federal Indian policy, are not only a failure, in terms of providing quality of life for American Indians, but in many cases, have caused great disruption, disappointment and desolation within their own reservations, and nearby communities they border.
Accompanied by Kamie Biehl, a videographer, Willman recently made a 6,000-mile journey across 17 Indian reservations between Washington State and New York. On camera, they captured the voices of tribal members, local elected officials, law enforcement personnel, farmers, bankers and teachers. Many of these Americans of diverse cultures who spoke with Willman have grown up together and are now bonded, not only by their past experiences, but by their deep worries about the spread of tribalism in America, which they see is not in the best interest of individual American Indians. It’s all about promotion of power and influence of tribal government leaders, they say.
There are certainly exceptions, say Willman. A few tribes, such as the Puyallup in Washington State, The White Earth in Minnesota and Seminoles in Florida, have greatly enriched their members with gambling revenue. Most tribal members, even those whose tribes have lucrative casinos, still live in severe poverty and in the despair of addictions, crime and family dysfunction.
Willman and Biehl have produced a documentary and book, entitled “Going To Pieces … The Dismantling of the United States of America.”
Within the “issues” chapters toward the end of the journey-book, Willman included a chapter on Hawaii and the Akaka Bill, because she believes the problems she sees are on the verge of becoming a reality in Hawaii. And if race-based governments focused on collectivism, and not individual citizen protections, continue to spread — if the Akaka Bill passes — the precedent is set wherein Congress defiles the principles of equality in the Constitution and permits separate, balkanized governments apart from the United States.
“Every individual Hawaiian needs to consider the current freedoms and protections they enjoy, and how willing they are to enroll in some undisclosed