Statement at the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs 52nd Annual Convention
by Senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka October 27th, 2011
Aloha! I am so happy to join you today at the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs fifty-second Annual Convention. I want to say mahalo nui loa to the Convention Committee and all of you who worked to put this event together. I know a lot of effort goes into making this convention so successful year-after-year.
This year, you have chosen a fitting theme incorporating a core Native Hawaiian value: Pu’uhonua Ho’onua Aloha – Peaceful Haven Where Aloha Inspires.
As you know, Aloha is a term that not only embodies warmth and compassion, it inspires harmony and respect. As we continue together on this important journey to improve the welfare of our people and perpetuate and preserve our language, culture, and traditions, let us not forget the importance and value of aloha.
Throughout my career in Congress, I have done my best to extend the spirit of aloha in our Nation’s Capitol.
It is important to me that, despite differences, I have good relationships with my colleagues.
As many of you have seen, today’s political climate in Washington is challenging! It is more partisan – and there is less willingness to compromise – now than at any other time in my long career. Despite this, I am committed to working in a bipartisan manner and seeking middle ground.
Since taking over the Chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs earlier this year, I have worked closely with Vice Chairman John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, to move legislation in a bipartisan way. It is my hope that as we extend aloha, we will see aloha returned.
I am pleased that right now we have so many leaders from Hawaii in important roles in our country, because they understand the significance of aloha, and more importantly, they lead with aloha.
I am glad that the Association recognizes this and has made a commitment to train our future leaders.
As Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, I am pursuing all available options in order to bring federal recognition to a Native Hawaiian governing entity in this 112th Congress, before I retire in 2013. Native Hawaiian self-governance and self-determination is long overdue.
I am pleased that the State of Hawaii has taken steps to complement my efforts in the Senate, and I commend state lawmakers for their work on behalf of Native Hawaiians. With Act 195 now law, the State of Hawaii has once again expressed its commitment to Native Hawaiian self-governance.
Governor Abercrombie recently appointed the five members of the Native Hawaiian Enrollment Commission. I believe the Commission he has assembled represents the wide diversity found in our Native Hawaiian community.
I encourage all Native Hawaiians to participate in the enrollment process created under Act 195. Our community must come together, be counted, and take the next steps towards greater self-determination.
As a result of the enrollment process which is already beginning under Act 195, I am now reviewing my bill and looking for ways to streamline it. I am committed to advancing the core goals of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act-to create a process for reorganizing a Native Hawaiian governing entity that is recognized by the United States.
As I look at opportunities to advance the bill in Congress, I will focus on these goals and be mindful of all the mana’o I have received from the community over the years.
In the legislative process,
- There is a time to contemplate
- There is a time to discuss and receive input
- And then there is a time to move forward.
We have been working on this for over a decade. Now is the time for us to move forward-together.
I have worked tirelessly to ensure Native Hawaiians are afforded the same rights as the other indigenous peoples in this country. I assure you that I will continue to fight for this parity, and will use all avenues available to me to make parity a reality.
I want to thank the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs for your unwavering support of my efforts in Congress. I also thank you for your commitment to Native Hawaiians and for providing a voice for our community.
Your work is vital and far from over. I encourage you to continue your efforts on behalf of our people.
We have a lot to offer the world. Sharing the aloha spirit is just one example of how we can make a difference here in Hawaii, in our country, and around the world. My hope is that you take the lessons from this year’s Convention and, with aloha, strive to make a brighter future for Native Hawaiians today and for generations to come.
We must chart this voyage together — and use our paddles to steer our canoe on a path forward. Together we will strengthen our community and ensure our language, history, and traditions are carried on forever.
Aloha and mahalo.