For Hawai`i the first thing on the new political agenda created by the Democrat sweep in the national elections will be the Akaka Bill. With Democrat majorities in both Houses, and president-elect Barack Obama pledged to sign, the Akaka Bill will be an early and politically easy item just as the 1993 Apology Resolution was under the Clinton Administration.
The result will be another huge step towards creation of a tribal legal system which will be used to shield corrupt trustees of Hawaiian trusts from all state and most federal oversight. The model for the Akaka Bill is the unused 1995 Kamehameha Trustees plan to relocate KSBE HQ to the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. In 1999 the ‘broken trust’ trustees were forced from their $1 million per year positions by IRS threat to end KSBE’s tax-exempt status, just a few months later the Akaka Bill was first introduced to Congress. After the Akaka Bill is enacted, Hawaiians who choose to participate by signing up for Kau Inoa will elect representatives to draw up governing documents for the new Hawaiian tribe.
Efforts to protect Hawaiians and Hawai`i from the Akaka Tribal Government will now have to shift to efforts in the US Congress to require that the tribe be modeled on Alaskan Native Corporations and not establish a separate legal jurisdiction. Democratic elections should also be required and the Akaka Tribe should be required to recognize that all tribal members have the full rights of US citizens guaranteed under the US Constitution. Most Indian tribal members are not covered by the Bill of Rights.
There will also be a fight to continue the four amendment points insisted upon by the Bush Administration Justice Department in 2006—among them protection for the US military against tribal claims. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs can be expected to even more vigorously assert its claims over other people's property as enshrined by the 1995 Hawai`i State Supreme Court PASH decision.
The so-called sovereignty movement now pretending to oppose the Akaka Bill will quickly be transformed into shock troops pressuring for the most ‘sovereign’ possible Akaka Tribe. Studies have already shown that many native Hawaiians are intimidated from speaking out by physical threats and implied threats from the sovereignty activists. This is shown most clearly in Ka`u where the Ka`u Listening Project report recounted hundreds of interviews with Ka`u residents who felt threatened by the OHA-backed Ka`u Preservation, Inc.
Legal challenges to the Akaka Bill after passage will focus on the fact that Congress will be creating a ‘tribe’ where none has previously existed since the Hawaiian Kingdom was not a tribal government. Although the argument is strong, history also shows that no court has ever reversed Congressional recognition of a tribe.