Poll shows support for Hawaiian recognition - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Poll shows support for Hawaiian recognition

Clyde Namuo Clyde Namuo
Mark Bennett Mark Bennett
Sen. Daniel Akaka Sen. Daniel Akaka

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By a two to one margin people think Hawaiians should get special recognition from Congress.  Younger people are far more supportive and not surprisingly so are Native Hawaiians.

Ward Research asked 604 people, "Do you think Hawaiians should be recognized by Congress and the federal government as a distinct group, similar to the special recognition given to American Indians and Alaskan Natives?"  66 percent responded yes.  23 percent said no and 11 percent don't know.

"To me it's a clear message that it's time to move along with the legislation," said Clyde Namuo, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Administrator.

Attorney General Mark Bennett says he's all for federal recognition, but he's against the newest changes to the Akaka Bill which says the Native Hawaiian government is exempt from following state and county laws.

"Under the new version of the Akaka Bill laws that protect environment, laws that protect against certain types of development even possibly some criminal laws, they could all be laws that the entity, its officers and employees could be exempt from and we think that isn't the direction to go in," said Mark Bennett, State of Hawaii Attorney General.

Bennett says if the question asked should the Native Hawaiian government follow different laws than everyone else fewer people would support it.

"I think there will always be a little bit of anxiety not knowing exactly what federal recognition actually means for the state of Hawaii. It doesn't surprise me that people are a little bit concerned. Rightfully everyone should be concerned because there will be sweeping changes that will occur in our community once federal recognition is actually accomplished," said Namuo.

Senator Daniel Akaka has tried to ease concerns by saying Native Hawaiians will have the same level of sovereign immunity already given to 500 other native governments in the United States.  But the attorney general says Hawaii's case is different because unlike tribal reserves, Native Hawaiians live throughout the islands.

"The difference with the other entities is they almost all have a land base where they exercise sovereignty. The Hawaiian governing entity with up to 200,000 members is not going to start off with a land base so what you'll have is two different sets of rules over people that are living next door to each other.  You're going to have 20 percent of Hawaii's people being subject to a government that may be exempt from the laws that the other million of Hawaii's people are subject to," said Bennett.

"There is some concern that exactly what are those powers that Hawaiians would actually experience and when we look at other indigenous people, Alaska Natives and Native Americans those powers are not abused," said Namuo.  "Some of the concerns that have been raised by Mr. Bennett and others can be addressed in the future."

The Akaka Bill already passed the House of Representatives in February.  Senator Akaka is trying to get it to a vote in the senate this year.

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