Governor Signs Landmark Native Hawaiian Rights Law
State Senate News Release
A 118-year-old deep-rooted obligation to formally recognize Native Hawaiians as “the only indigenous, aboriginal, maoli people of Hawaii” will take a major step forward when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs Senate Bill 1520 into law on Wednesday, July 6, 2011.
The law will significantly improve protection of cultural rights, ceded lands and other entitlements, advance self-governance and heal the “kaumaha” – the heaviness or sorrow. When signed into law, the measure adds a new chapter to the Hawaii Revised Statutes, which would establish a process for Native Hawaiians to organize themselves.
“This new law recognizes Hawaiians as equal partners and sets out a procedure to organize ourselves that is very grassroots driven,” said Sen. Malama Solomon, who was the bill’s chief negotiator in securing passage. “The power will percolate up from the community, not top down. It establishes a process to let Hawaiians set forth their goals and desires to define themselves…This is what ‘sovereignty’ means.”
Solomon worked closely with Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz and members of the joint conference committee to finalize the measure. Members of the joint conference committee on Hawaiian Affairs included: Senate Chair Brickwood Galuteria, co-chairs Sen. Clayton Hee and Sen. David Y. Ige, Sen. Gil Kahele, Sen. Malama Solomon, House co-chairs Rep. Faye Hanohano and Rep. Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Rep. Chris Lee and Rep. Blake Oshiro.
“Every generation of Native Hawaiians since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 has struggled with not legally being recognized as equals,” Solomon said. “So many have given so much; many have fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam – some losing their lives – for a country that doesn’t recognize them. While much has been done including the creation of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act in 1921, formation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 1978, and the signing of the ‘Apology Resolution’ by President William Clinton in 1993, we are still not equals in our own land,” she said.
It is intended to move in concert with the efforts by Senator Akaka and Hawaii‘s Congressional delegation to achieve federal recognition of Native Hawaiians. It is a commitment to acknowledging and recognizing the first people of Hawaii, while preserving the diversity that has made Hawaii home to so many.
“Hawaiians are very different from the American tribes; we had a kingdom that was recognized by the United States and many other nations around the world before the overthrow,” Solomon continued. “Many of us today are directly connected to this history and heritage through our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. This new law will begin the healing.”
The new law will require the governor within 180 days to appoint a five-member Native Hawaiian Roll Commission within the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for administrative purposes. Funding to facilitate the activities of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission will be provided by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
“We are deeply grateful to Gov. Abercrombie for his courage and commitment to empower the Kanaka Maoli to fulfill their hopes and dreams for self-governance,” Solomon said.