July 22, 2005
Written by C.N.
The New York Times reports that there’s currently a bill in Congress that would recognize the sovereignty of hundreds of thousands of Native Hawaiians, and would them the same kinds of rights as Native Alaskans and Native Americans:
112 years after United States troops helped overthrow the independent Kingdom of Hawaii and 12 years after Congress apologized for it, that Hawaiian distinctiveness appears close to being formally recognized by the United States government. A bill that for the first time would extend sovereignty to the native Hawaiian people is poised for a vote – and likely approval – in the United States Senate despite opposition from many Republicans who denounce the measure as unworkable and as promoting racial Balkanization.
The bill, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, is considered the most significant development for native Hawaiians since statehood in 1959. The measure would give them equivalent legal standing to American Indians and native Alaskans and lead to the creation of a governing body that would make decisions on behalf of the estimated 400,000 native Hawaiians in the United States. . . .
But [the bill’s supporters] acknowledge there are basic questions that will take years of negotiations to answer, like how native Hawaiians would go about governing themselves, whether native Hawaiians in and outside the state would live under different laws from other citizens, and who would qualify as a native, given the large degree of assimilation through marriage and the many Hawaiians living on the mainland.
The article goes on to describe two groups that stand in opposition to the bill — each from both sides of the debate. On the one hand, many conservatives oppose the bill, saying that it promotes racial/ethnic separatism and a “rejection of the American melting pot ideal,” as Arizona Senator Jon Kyl put it. On the other hand, there are other critics who contend that the bill does not go far enough to end the “foreign colonialism” of the U.S. over Native Hawaiian rights.
As one of my favorite saying goes, “I don’t know what’s the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” On the other hand, the practical reality is that sometimes, compromise is the only way to get things done, particularly when it comes to politics. I’m not sure if this bill is trying to please everybody, but it does seem to be a workable compromise. In the end, I suppose that’s the best that both sides of the debate will get.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Native Hawaiian Sovereignty" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/07/native-hawaiian-sovereignty/> ().
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