by Andrew Walden
One day after House Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee stopped Rep. Neil Abercrombie's (D-HI) efforts to amend HR2314 -- the House version of the Akaka Bill -- Sen. Dan Akaka (DHI) has forced a similarly amended Akaka Bill--S1011--through the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
The amended bill was "marked up" over the objections of Senate Republicans, and Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, and Attorney General Mark Bennett who have been consistent supporters of previous versions of the Akaka Bill.
Like the failed House amendments, the new version of S1011 creates a previously unknown category of "Qualified Native Hawaiian Constituents" which will exclude tens of thousands of Native Hawaiians from membership in the Akaka Tribe while at the same time opening the doors to people who are not ethnically Hawaiian. It is likely that the vast majority of Hawaiians living outside of Hawaii will be excluded from becoming the Akaka Tribe under the rules laid down in Section 12 of the S1011.
If the two different versions pass both House and Senate, the differences would be worked out in a House-Senate Conference Committee--which would be dominated by the forces which favored the amended version.
The bill was written secretly, released to the Governor only hours before the House hearing. Senator Akaka, Rep Abercrombie, the Native Hawaiian Bar Association, and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement have all admitted playing a role in redrafting the bill. Supporters of the new bill also claim that Obama's US Department of Justice was involved, but that has not yet been independently confirmed.
If the Akaka Bill passes, President Obama has pledged to sign it into law.
Neil Abercrombie has announced his intention to resign from Congress in order to concentrate on his flagging campaign for Governor. Hawaii's next Governor would play a key role representing the State in three-way Tribe-State-Federal negotiations necessary to create the Akaka Tribe. Abercrombie's failed effort to pass the amended version of HR2314 indicates that as governor, he would tip the balance against tribal inclusiveness in favor of a Tribal Membership Roll consisting of only a smaller group more easily controlled by OHA cronies. This rump Hawaiian Nation would then receive control over land and assets presumably belonging to all native Hawaiians.