Native Hawaiians Should Beware the Benefits of Federal Recognition are Often Tied to the Cost of Political Patronage-TDX Corp., a Native Alaskan Company with Ties to Hawaii, is a Good Example Why

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I read with interest your article, “Native Americans Issue Warnings About Akaka Bill, Federal Recognition”

The Native Americans’ warnings about Federal Recognition, bring to mind the sad case of TDX Corp. which is currently happening here in Hawaii. A little background.


TDX Corp. is a Native Alaskan company, which is based on St. Paul’s island in the very remote Pribilof chain, north of the Aleutians. The Native Alaskans who come from St. Paul’s are of Aleut ancestry and as such qualify for Federal Recognition.

There is practically no industry other than fishing and seal hunting on St. Paul’s, so the islanders wanted to better the future of their young people by investing in industries where jobs and skills could be obtained. One industry the St. Paul islanders thought would be beneficial was ship building and ship repair because of their close association with the surrounding ocean and fishing.

So they formed TDX Corp, which by virtue of the Aleuts’ Federal Recognition, was given a “preference” in bidding for U.S. Government surplus property. The surplus property TDX wanted was the AFDM-6, a U.S. Navy surplus dry dock located at Pearl Harbor.

The plan was for the dry dock to be used to lift and repair ships and for the Aleuts to travel to Hawaii for training. TDX entered into a partnership with local Hawaii company Marisco, Ltd. Marisco has been in the ship repair business for over 30 years and had a perfect location (Barber’s Point Kaleloa Harbor) for the drydock as well as the expertise and staff to train the Aleuts in the business.

TDX was successful in its bid for the AFDM-6 and was awarded the dock by the Government Services Administration (GSA). The dock was towed to the Marisco facility and immediately Aleuts eager to learn the ship repair skills moved to Hawaii for training.

There were some accusations that the dock should have been taken to Alaska, however that was never considered due to the harsh weather conditions and lack of a suitable harbor in the Pribilof Islands to berth the 18,000 ton dock.

For several years the project was going well. The Aleuts were learning valuable skills, the TDX profits from the business were used back on St. Paul’s Island to better the living conditions of the islanders, and Hawaii’s reputation as a competent ship repair facility was gaining worldwide recognition. But it was not to last.

Throughout the past few years a series of unsuccessful lawsuits (including a recently dismissed racketeering charge) were levied against the Aleuts of TDX Corp. by competitors in Hawaii’s ship repair industry. TDX was forced to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees defending their right to own and operate the dock in Hawaii.

Finally, the competitor of the TDX/Marisco partnership convinced U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye that the ADFM-6 was obtained illegally by TDX through the GSA.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye used his considerable influence to insert a small provision into the recently signed Transportation Bill, that TDX return the AFDM-6 to the GSA. The language reads, “Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the donee (TDX Corp) shall transfer all of the rights, title and interest of the donee in and to the vessel (AFDM-6) to the Administrator (GSA).

Thus ends the Aleuts of St. Paul Island attempt to enter the ship repair business and provide marketable skills for their young persons.

Yes, the Native Hawaiians should beware the benefits of Federal Recognition are often tied to the cost of political patronage.

”’Anne V. Stevens is the Office Manager for State Sen. Gordon Trimble, R-Waikiki”’

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