by Andrew Walden
California gaming tribes have infamously tightened their blood quantum to kick out members and keep a larger cut of the casino royalties for the survivors. Sen Dan Akaka's final version of his eponymous bill allowed the Akaka Tribe to: "grant, deny, revoke, or qualify membership without regard to whether any individual is considered to be a member of the Native Hawaiian people under this Act." And likewise, blood quantum disputes have been a feature of internal politics within the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.
Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono March 21 introduced SJR12, the so-called "Hawaiian Homeownership Opportunity Act of 2013" which would loosen Hawaiian Homelands blood quantum restrictions by allowing leaseholds to be inherited by a larger class of 25% Hawaiian heirs of the original 50% Hawaiian assignee.
It is doubtful that SR12 will ever become law, more likely the Senators--with an eye towards the 2014 Senate Democratic Primary--are one-upping their arch-enemy, Rep Colleen Hanabusa, whose HR231 version of the "Opportunity Act" includes nothing about expanding the list of possible heirs for DHHL leaseholds.
For most of its 92 years--the recent tenure of Micah Kane being the one notable exception--DHHL infighting has prevented the Department from fulfilling its mission. The infighting is perpetuated by the fact that beneficiaries possess no equity in the land on which they live. The leasehold structure of Hawaiian Homelands keeps beneficiaries at the mercy of DHHL trustees. DHHL leasehold rules are enforced erratically, creating a condition where some beneficiaries are in technical violation and therefore maintaining their lease solely because DHHL officials choose not to notice.
Just this February, blood quantum was at the center of a dispute over the termination of former DHHL Deputy Director Michelle Kauhane who was fired by incoming DHHL director after Kauhane refused to enforce a mandatory re-check of the blood quantum of already-approved DHHL waitlisters.
Kauhane had earlier replaced Bobby Hall who stepped down amid allegations of improprieties involving the alleged purchase of an executive treadmill with Department funds.
Kauhane explained: "Once we issue a lease to a Native Hawaiian and say you're on the waitlist or you're 50%, you're eligible for this benefit, what would prompt us then to say, 5 years from now, 10 years from now, you're less than 50 percent?"
KHON's Gina Mangieri asked viewers to “Imagine living on Hawaiian home lands for most of your life, only to be told you're now not Hawaiian enough.”
Those kinds of imaginings can make waitlisters beholden to the politicians who control the list. And apparently Schatz, Hirono, and Hanabusa know it.
Related: Akaka Bill Preview: Tribes Boot Members Keep Loot
Akaka Tribe: We Can Kick Out Anybody Anytime for Any Reason
SJR 12 would federalize the first section of each of the following three Hawaii laws:
CNHA: Hawaiian Policy Center Applauds Department of Interior and Hawaii Senators on Hawaiian Homes Amendments