The Role of Alaska Native Corporations in Pushing the Akaka bill

article top

BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN PH.D. — Many thanks to Jim Dooley for his outstanding investigative report on federal contract preferences for ethnic Hawaiians published in Hawaii Reporter on December 22, 2010 at

One important aspect of Mr. Dooley’s report dealt with the major role played by Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) in federal contracting in Hawaii, and some of the relationships between those ANCs and various ethnic Hawaiian-owned companies. The present essay reaches back to the beginnings of the Akaka bill and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to focus on the heavy involvement of Alaska’s oil industry and the Alaska Native Corporations. This essay should be seen as a footnote to Mr. Dooley’s report.


The Akaka bill was first formally introduced in Congress in the Summer of 2000. It was primarily an attempt to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rice v. Cayetano (February, 2000), by creating an Indian tribe out of thin air in the hope that racially exclusionary entitlements and institutions for ethnic Hawaiians could survive court challenges.

During the August 2000 Congressional recess Hawaii’s two Senators (Inouye and Akaka) and two House members (Abercrombie and Mink), plus the Territorial Delegate from American Samoa (Faleomavaega), listened to testimony on the Akaka bill for five days at the Blaisdell Pikake Room. They called it a joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Attending those five days of hearings was Julie Kitka, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives. Why was she there? Because she and AFN were beholden to Senator Inouye on account of the billions of dollars he had directed to ANCs over the years in his role as chairman or ranking member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Inouye had scratched her back; now she was expected to scratch his.

During the following two years the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement was created, headed by Robin Danner and her sister Jade, who had “come home to Hawaii” rather suddenly and mysteriously. They had lived in a Native Alaskan tribe for 25 years along with other family members, where they worked as community organizers and grant-writers. CNHA was assembled as a consortium of ethnic Hawaiian institutions, primarily for the purpose of pushing the Akaka bill. Senator Inouye had probably engineered the Danner sisters’ move to Hawaii for the purpose of having them create CNHA.

The first annual convention of CNHA was held in September 2002 at Hilton Hawaiian Village. Major sponsors of that convention included such Alaska institutions as the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which gave a grant of $25,000; and the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation and several of its subsidiaries. The Inupiat tribe later gave public support to legislation for oil drilling in the Alaska Native Wildlife Refuge hundreds of miles away from its village. The Gwich’n tribe, whose home is right where the drilling would be done, depend on the caribou migration for their sustenance and were strongly opposed to oil drilling. Democrat Senators Inouye and Akaka would normally oppose drilling in ANWR like all other Democrats; but had promised to support it at the request of Alaska Senators Stevens and Murkowski (both Republicans) in return for the Alaska Senators’ support for the Akaka bill (which nearly all Republicans opposed). Thus, the desire of Alaska politicians to open ANWR for oil drilling, and the business interests of the Alaska Native Corporations, were a major source of money and political power to push the Akaka bill.

Two webpages which explore the Alaska-Hawaii connection, and the relationship among the ANCs, the Danner sisters, and the CNHA are:

“Danners, the Oil-igarchy, Alaska and Hawai’i”

“CNHA Exposed !!!”

To download an exposee of the Alaska oil connection to the Native Hawaiian Recognition bill, taken from the Hawaii Island Journal of October 16-31, 2003, click here (the first page of this article is a wonderful cartoon showing a pipeline of money flowing from Alaska to Hawai’i):

The following three items are offered in a webpage entitled “Akaka bill, Alaska Oil money, Native Alaskan Corporations, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, Gambling Casinos, and Alaska Senator Ted Stevens — How They’re All Related” at

(1) A compilation of a 5-part article by Anne Keala Kelly serialized from December 19, 2003 through January 19, 2004 in the newspaper “Indian Country Today.” This article is an investigative report of the connections between Alaska oil money, the billion-dollar Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (Inupiat Tribe), Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, the Danner sisters, and the Akaka bill.

(2) A newspaper article from the Denver Post of January 14, 2004 reporting that Senator Stevens and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation have been trying to get local approval in Denver for the construction of an Alaska native-controlled gambling casino near Denver International Airport. The article also reports that Senator Stevens has tried to pass legislation in Congress that would allow the Alaska native corporations to build casinos throughout the United States.

(3) A newspaper article from the Honolulu Advertiser of April 19, 2005 describing the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement fourth annual convention to be held in August says “In addition to Native Hawaiian representatives and leaders, the [ENTIRE!] 38-member board of directors of the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN), representing hundreds of Native Alaskan nonprofits, governments and communities, will join the conference.” And other Indian tribe businesses will also be attending. Clearly, these business interests from outside of Hawai’i expect to make some huge profits in Hawai’i if the Akaka bill passes.