Hanabusa’s Pipedream: Akaka Tribe to be Created Without Congressional Approval?
by Andrew Walden
At first glance, the Akaka Tribe has never seemed deader. Seven months into the 113th Congress, no bill advancing the Akaka Gang’s scheme to invent a fake Indian Tribe and use it to seize control of the Native Hawaiian patrimony has been introduced into either house. Few Native Hawaiians are signing up for Kana’ioluwalu, the latest incarnation of the Akaka Tribal roll, a disinterest for which the Office of Hawaiian Affairs blames, “the lack of imminent threats to Native Hawaiian programs, such as lawsuits, which creates a lesser sense of urgency.”
But behind the scenes there is a frenzy of activity. Scrambling for the votes and contributions of well-heeled Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) cronies, Senate Democratic Primary opponents Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Sen. Brian Schatz are peddling the idea that President Obama will create the Akaka Tribe without Congressional approval.
(Parallel to this is a push by Robin Danner and the Coalition for Native Hawaiian Advancement for US Department of Interior oversight of the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands—a separate effort which also encompasses a longshot attempt to create a fake Indian tribe in Hawaii, but that is a subject for another article.)
Coming out of a July 23 meeting between Obama and 22 members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Hanabusa stated:
“As a Keiki O Ka Aina, President Obama understands the importance of Native Hawaiian recognition and what it means to our host culture. We know he will seriously consider our request to use his executive branch authority to achieve this elusive goal. Federal recognition of the Native Hawaiians right to self-governance is long overdue.”
But Schatz spoke of less specific ‘federal action’ rather than ‘executive branch action’ saying:
“During the meeting, President Obama showed his clear commitment to prioritizing key issues that are important to Hawai‘i and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, including … federal action to ensure that Native Hawaiians have a government to government relationship….”
At issue is 25 CFR Part 83, the US Department of the Interior (DoI) “Procedures For Establishing That An American Indian Group Exists As An Indian Tribe.”
Since 1978 this administrative procedure has existed alongside Congress’ right to recognize Indian tribes, but the Akaka Tribe is excluded because application is limited to geographic locations where real Indian tribes might actually exist*, specifically the “Continental United States, mean(ing) the contiguous 48 states and Alaska.”
The DoI Office of Federal Acknowledgement is currently considering revisions to the Part 83 regulations with public comments open until August 16.
At a March 19 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs, Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn responded to questions from Hanabusa and Samoa Rep Eni Faleomavaega: "Our regs now leave out Native Hawaiians. We are not able to consider Native Hawaiians under our current regs.” According to Washburn’s written testimony, in which he did not mention Hawaii, the Part 83 process focuses on rectifying administrative errors. Said Washburn:
“The Part 83 Process is used by the Department to acknowledge Indian tribes that are not currently acknowledged as Indian tribes by the Department. The Department may also reaffirm a nation-to-nation relationship with tribes by rectifying previous administrative errors by the Bureau to omit a tribe from the original Federal Register list of entities recognized and eligible to receive services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs or by resolving litigation with tribes that were erroneously terminated.”
After Washburn’s April 24 testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, in which he mentioned neither Part 83 nor Hawaii, Schatz released a statement emphasizing his desire to pass the Akaka Bill, making no mention of “executive branch authority”, and thanking Washburn for his support.
Washburn then authored the ‘Preliminary Discussion Draft’ of potential revisions to Part 83 which retains the limitation to “the contiguous 48 states and Alaska.”
It is likely that any effort to administratively invent the Akaka Tribe via a procedure intended to rectify clerical errors would provoke a backlash from Congress and from the real Indian tribes. The final version of the Akaka Bill introduced by Sen Dan Akaka in September, 2012, broke a decades-long deal with the real Indian tribes by grabbing for Indian program money and setting itself up to buy mainland properties, take them into trust, and establish Indian casinos.
LINK: ‘Preliminary Discussion Draft’
2012: Akaka Tribe: We Can Kick Out Anybody Anytime for Any Reason
*The Hawaiian ethnicity was never tribal in nature. Hawaiian national identity emerged only with the creation of the Hawaiian Kingdom under Kamehameha I. The Hawaiian Kingdom was a national state originally organized along feudal lines. ‘Hawaiians’ were never a tribe. The Marquesan tribal groups which originally inhabited what we now call the Hawaiian Islands were subjugated, hundreds of years before the first Europeans arrived, by Tahitian invaders who set themselves up as feudal lords (alii) with a separate bloodline ruling over a subject peasantry (makaainana).
* * * * *
CAPAC Members Meet with President Obama
News Release from CAPAC Jul 23, 2013
Washington, DC – Today, 22 Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) met with President Barack Obama at the White House. The meeting covered immigration reform, increasing diversity among presidential appointments, improving language access in enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, and pressing issues impacting Native Hawaiians and the Pacific Island territories. Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements following the meeting….
Senator Mazie K. Hirono (HI): “I was pleased to have this opportunity to speak with President Obama about critical issues that are facing Hawaii, our country and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. During our group’s discussion, I asked the President to support Native Hawaiians, who are often overlooked when we talk about the AAPI community. The President committed to continue working closely with me and the rest of our Hawaii delegation on issues important to Native Hawaiians. He also committed to continue pushing for immigration reform – a mobilizing issue for the AAPI community.”
Senator Brian Schatz (HI): “During the meeting, President Obama showed his clear commitment to prioritizing key issues that are important to Hawai‘i and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, including passing comprehensive immigration reform in the House, federal action to ensure that Native Hawaiians have a government to government relationship, and diversity in the President’s cabinet. Today’s meeting marked an important step in a partnership between the President and Congress when advancing measures that will benefit Hawai‘i. I will continue to work with my CAPAC colleagues and the delegation to ensure that the people of Hawai‘i are heard in Washington, D.C.”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02): “In our meeting with President Obama today, I appreciated the opportunity to highlight the concerns of Native Hawaiians, and critical issues facing our diverse communities in Hawai‘i. The President has been a strong ally of Asian American and Pacific Islanders across the country, and I’m encouraged by the dialogue we had today about the need for passing immigration legislation that includes family reunification measures. I look forward to continuing to work with the President and my CAPAC colleagues on issues like comprehensive immigration reform, Native Hawaiian recognition, and the reauthorization of the Native Hawaiian Education Act.”
Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01): “As a Keiki O Ka Aina, President Obama understands the importance of Native Hawaiian recognition and what it means to our host culture. We know he will seriously consider our request to use his executive branch authority to achieve this elusive goal. Federal recognition of the Native Hawaiians right to self-governance is long overdue. The Congress of the United States has created and continues to fund programs that assist Native Hawaiians with housing, healthcare, and education yet a government to government relationship does not exist. I am working with my colleagues to carry on the work of the many legislators, activists and concerned citizens who have fought long and hard to solidify the trust relationship with Native Hawaiians. I would like to say mahalo to the President for taking the time to meet with us today.”
read … The Rest of the Statements
News Release: CAPAC Chair Statement on Meeting with President Obama
White House Schedule: July 23, 2013 10:45AM