Native Hawaiians' Own Paradise

In 1893, the US participated in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Five years later, it embarked on a wave of imperialist takeovers in Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, Wake Island - and Hawaii. Native Hawaiians have been angling for a form of self-rule ever since.

Though Congress finally apologized for the overthrow in 1993, many of the 400,000 native Hawaiians still feel the federal government hasn't treated them as fairly as it has American Indians and native Alaskans. That's why they're hopeful Congress will soon grant them a limited form of self-government. The US should at least be consistent in its approach to the indigenous peoples it's affected.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D), the first native Hawaiian elected to Congress, has spearheaded the proposed Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act and expects it to move forward soon. The bill would formalize a process for native Hawaiians to pursue federal recognition by creating a single governing body, which could then better negotiate native Hawaiian land assets and other issues with federal agencies. Thankfully, the bill does not include a right to create casinos.

The move would help preserve native Hawaiian culture and tradition, which are so intertwined with the Aloha State's tourism. Indeed, native tribes in the US have shown that with such control, they can better perpetuate their cultural heritage, including language and religious practices.

If they are granted self-government, native Hawaiians would remain citizens of a state - the last one admitted to the union, in 1959. As they work to preserve their heritage, they can also embody a sentiment expressed in a 2000 Supreme Court opinion concerning native Hawaiian voting rights. In it, one justice noted that "The Constitution..., too, has become the heritage of all citizens of Hawaii."

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