by Andrew Walden
Quietly, with no media notice, two House Committees met February 3 to consider HB 2241, confiscating "unencumbered" Ceded Lands from native Hawaiians and other beneficiaries and transferring them in advance to any Akaka Tribe created by Congress.
Testimony in favor of HB2241 came only from four of Rep Mele Carroll's (D-Maui) constituents. David Kamai of Haiku, Maui equated passage of the Akaka Bill with "the opportunity for native Hawaiians to govern themselves." He tied the transfer to "improv(ing) the lives of native Hawaiians as written in the Admission Act."
But the Akaka Tribe--if it is ever created--is not a Hawaiian self-government. Under the new version of the Akaka Bill--foisted upon Hawaii by Neil Abercrombie, Dan Akaka, and Dan Inouye, behind the backs of even the Governor and Attorney General--Akaka Tribe membership is reserved for only those who meet very selective criteria. More than 73% of native Hawaiians are excluded. The descendants of that 73% will also be excluded. Meanwhile the tribe will admit some people with no Hawaiian ancestry.
Upheld by the unanimous US Supreme Court in its March, 2009 decision on the Ceded Lands case, the Hawaii Admission Act explains:
The lands granted to the State of Hawaii...together with the proceeds from the sale or other disposition of any such lands and the income therefrom, shall be held by said State as a public trust...
1. for the support of the public schools and other public educational institutions,
2. for the betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians, as defined in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, as amended,
3. for the development of farm and home ownership on as widespread a basis as possible
4. for the making of public improvements,
5. and for the provision of lands for public use.
The Akaka Tribe does not exist and its chances in Congress are lessened thanks to overreaching by Inouye, Akaka, and Abercrombie and the victory of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown in the recent Senate Special Election. In the meantime, the State of Hawaii would lose its right to sell or lease these lands because any sale would remove acreage from the pre-arranged settlement with the as-yet non-existent tribe. There would be no benefit to public education, public improvements, public lands, or "development of farm or home ownership."
HB2241 introducers are Carroll, Berg, Bertram, Hanohano, Belatti, Brower, Har, C. Lee, Luke, Morita, B. Oshiro, Rhoads, Sagum, and Saiki. SB2303 is co-sponsored by English, Galuteria, Hee, Kidani, and Sakamoto.
Akamai readers will note that the Admission act refers explicitly to "the sale or other disposition of any such lands." Reference is also made to "development of farm and home ownership." Obviously then, the sale of ceded lands has been explicit policy since 1959. In fact Republican William Quinn was elected Hawaii's first State governor campaigning on distribution of State-owned lands to promote home ownership which he called a "second mahele."
This contradicts the bald-faced liars from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, UH Richardson, UH Ethnic Studies, and the Native Hawaiian Bar Association who spent much of last year loudly claiming that the sale of ceded lands was a policy invented by the Lingle Administration. More often than not, these lies went un-contradicted in the local media.
In fact the ceded lands case originated when OHA sued the to block construction of affordable housing in two of Hawaii's most expensive communities, Lahaina and North Kona. The lack of affordable housing is a primary reason for the departure of thousands of Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians from these isles. Thus, OHA is clearly the enemy of native Hawaiians, not the representative. The Akaka Tribe would be OHA with more power and less oversight--maybe even its own tribal police, courts, and jails.
The Waihee administration initiated the two projects in 1994. The administration of Ben Cayetano elected to defend the State's right to sell ceded lands in order to carry out the projects. In January, 2008, fourteen years after OHA's suit was filed, the unanimous Hawaii Supreme Court elected to decide the case in the midst of legislative debate over OHA revenues.
The US Supreme Court 15 months later would overturn the Hawaii Supreme Court's decision--rejecting the claim that the symbolic 1993 Apology Resolution of Congress outweighed the Admission Act of their own State.
Testifying against HB2241, DLNR Chair Laura Thielen wrote:
"...the targeted lands are held in the public trust for all Hawaii residents and serve multiple public interests. Dedicating public trust lands to a single interest would deprive all other public interests that are equally entitled to support from such resources."
Attorney General Mark Bennett wrote:
"This bill contradicts article XII, section 4 of the State Constitution, which requires that '[t]he lands granted to the State of Hawaii...be held by the State as a public trust for native Hawaiians and the general public'....This bill, therefore, cannot be enacted without first amending the State Constitution."
The House Committees on February 3 voted to defer consideration of HB2241. The Senate has yet to take action on SB2303 and is not likely to do so at this late date. Voters may take action on the 14 House Representatives and some of the five senators on November 2.
· Akaka Bill: More than 73% of Hawaiians not "Qualified" for membership in Akaka Tribe
· Reservation for a Broken Trust?
· Akaka Bill Preview: Tribes Boot Members Keep Loot
· “Hold” placed on Akaka Bill in Senate could effectively prevent passage
· Bennett: New Akaka Bill guarantees years of litigation
· Rejected: Akaka rewrite blows up in Abercrombie's face--but original version passes