Schatz speech seeks support for Native Hawaiians

Published: Jun. 11, 2013 at 7:58 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 12, 2013 at 12:33 AM HST
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Senator Brian Schatz
Senator Brian Schatz
Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa
Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa
Senator Mazie Hirono
Senator Mazie Hirono
Sarah Keahi
Sarah Keahi

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The effort to get the Akaka Bill passed has started again. Today Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz delivered a speech on the Senate floor for Native Hawaiians.

Senator Brian Schatz used King Kamehameha Day to relaunch support for Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization widely known as the Akaka Bill.

Senator Schatz spoke of the more than 300,000 Hawaiians who greeted Captain James Cook when he arrived in 1778 and how they were unjustly overthrown by an abuse of American power.

"The legitimate government of the Native Hawaiian people was removed forcibly, by agents and armed forces of the United States," said Senator Brian Schatz, (D) Hawaii, in his speech to colleagues.

He said Native Hawaiian families rank last in the country in annual pay and face higher rates of homelessness. The people lack the benefits of democratic self-government and it's time they were recognized.

"Separate is not equal and that is why I urge the federal government to treat Native Hawaiians fairly. It is long past time for Native Hawaiian people to regain their right to self-governance," said Sen. Schatz.

It will be an uphill battle especially since influential Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka themselves weren't able to get it passed.

"We will do it with a lot of help," said Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, (D) Hawaii District 1, by phone from Washington. "In addition to that don't ever forget that we have a President of the United States who is a keiki o ka aina and I believe he is committed to this issue as well."

The four members of Hawaii's delegation are said to be working on the Bill together even though Senator Schatz and Congresswoman Hanabusa are going after the same Senate seat. Logistically it's still unknown if they will reintroduce Senator Akaka's bill or author a new version. Either way it isn't expected to have major changes.

"But in order to reach our goal we must all work together. That is why on King Kamehameha Day I call upon all of us to join in the fight for justice for Native Hawaiians," said Sen. Schatz.

People at the Kamehameha Day events in Honolulu were happy Hawaii's delegation is continuing the fight.

"Like our cousins the Native Americans, they have been recognized. The Native Alaskans, they have been recognized. We are the last indigenous people of America and all we're asking for is to be recognized," said Sarah Keahi, Daughters and Sons of Mamakakaua.

It's unknown at this point when the Hawaii delegation will introduce the bill. No timeline has been set but they will need to work quickly if they want to get it done within the remainder of President Obama's term.

For the full text of Senator Brian Schatz's speech click here.

If you would like to watch the speech click here.

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