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U.S. Senate Bill S.344 could jeopardize all indigenous peoples' rights

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On February 25, the Indian Affairs Committee of the United States Senate will hear Senate Bill S.344; "A bill expressing the policy of the United States regarding the United States relationship with Native Hawaiians and to provide a process for the recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity, and for other purposes."

In our view, S.344 is not a native Hawaiian bill and we urge Indian nation chiefs, tribal councils, attorneys general and legal departments to take notice that S.344 is a potential threat to Indian sovereignty as it would confer unprecedented new rights on the states. I urge you analyze S.344 and not accept the current public relations spin and other misrepresentations of it.

What new right that would be given to a state is a threat to sovereignty? Over many decades, the government of the State of Hawaii has received from the federal treasury the vast revenues that should have been going to us to fund native Hawaiian reservations. However, the ability of the state to continue to do so was jeopardized in 2000 when the U.S. Supreme court (Rice v. Cayetano) found the state's historic role unconstitutional. This of course places in question the state's continued ability to collect the hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the federal treasury in our name in order to pay its own overhead and to dole out to us. S.344 would have Congress sanction the State of Hawaii's questionable role. Should this bill pass, there is no reason to think your own cash-hungry state could not begin siphoning off the federal revenues other indigenous Americans receive as part of the historical bargain we all made with the United States as this country was formed by moving us off of our lands.

Having lost in the Supreme Court, Hawaii now seeks to ignore federal Indian policy, pretending it has never applied to Hawaii, and is now attempting to use Congress to confer in effect a sovereign right of America's indigenous people upon itself, one more pathetic attempt to keep this unconstitutional scheme alive by appealing to Congress.

A recent news story generated by Hawaii's newly elected Republican governor reveals the state's true intentions: "Our new chance to resolve sovereignty issues"? "Darkening the horizon, as always, is the persistent constitutional challenge to publicly supported programs and institutions that serve Hawaiians only, such as the [state] Office of Hawaiian Affairs, [state] Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and [missionary era land trust] Kamehameha Schools. These could be in legal jeopardy if the Bush Administration and Congress can't be persuaded to recognize Hawaiians (emphasis added) as an indigenous people, much like American Indians and Alaskan natives, instead of a racial minority." - Honolulu Advertiser Island Weekly, 23-29 January, 2003.

What is the difference between the "Native Hawaiian" or "Hawaiian" of S.344 and the native Hawaiian of the blood? Federal Indian law is being misused by the lineal descendants (who this bill applies to) by spinning it to make it appear it applies to lineal descendants when it does not. We, the federally recognized, sovereign native Hawaiians of the blood, have never voted to dilute our blood quantum to include lineal descendants. The "Hawaiians" or "Native Hawaiians" of this bill are actually lineal descendants, not indigenous native Hawaiians, and as such are assimilated by dilution. Yet they seek to pretend they are us so as to reverse their diluted, lineal status by meshing themselves with us, without our advice and without our consent. Here are the definitions of the parties involved:

o "native Hawaiian of the Blood" (note the lower case "n"). In federal law and Hawaii State law, a descendent of the indigenous people of the Tribal Nation of Hawaii with full blood to fifty percent blood quantum. While the state tampered with the federal definition and obscured it, it still remains in effect. However, Senate Bill S.344 would extend this same state scheme and mesh the lineal descendants with us.

o "Native Hawaiian" (note the capital "N"). The Tribal Nations or the Department of the Interior has authority over blood quantum. Nevertheless, the state of Hawaii diluted the original statutory definition of the H.H.C.A. of "native Hawaiian," seeking to merge it along with those having less than fifty percent blood quantum, the "Hawaiian," into a single class - speculatively to be known as "Native Hawaiian," defined as any lineal descendent native of the indigenous people of the Tribal Nation of Hawaii, regardless of blood quantum.

Also sometimes interchangeably used with "Part Hawaiian" and "Hawaiian," this is the operational definition used in Senator Inouye's now unconstitutional scheme to siphon off federal treasury monies meant for the native Hawaiian of the blood.

o "Hawaiian." A lineal descendent in state law of less than 50 percent blood quantum of the indigenous people of the tribal Nation of Hawaii. This is the definition one finds in certain Missionary trust instruments to describe trust beneficiaries. "Part Hawaiian" is sometimes used as well. The "Hawaiian" of today has no standing in federal law comparable to the native Hawaiian blood quantum rule of the federal statute, the H.H.C.A., 1920. "Hawaiian" originally meant any inhabitant of the aboriginal Nation of Hawaii. In his journal, Captain James Cook referred to the aboriginal inhabitants of the Tribal Nation of Hawaii as "Indians."

We, the Hou Lahuiohana, have been following the Indian law path since 1950. As one of the principal leaders of the native Hawaiian people, we have spent many, many years in this struggle and speak from deep legal experience and with factual knowledge. The U.S. Supreme court has singled us out by using our traditional knowledge to rule in two cases involving land and race, Midkiff v. Richards and Rice v. Cayetano.

The "Price" record in federal law is ours. We advise the state of Hawaii, the Hawaiians and the missionary era land trusts who wrongly obtained some three million acres of our land to follow existing United States tribal law as it supplies the appropriate remedy - a remedy that does not grant any new sovereign right to a state; a new "right" that another state could use to carry on a similar plan in order to siphon off federal revenues meant for tribal governments.

There is no need to enact new legislation as existing law is sufficient. Blood quantum issues are an internal matter, heretofore rarely if ever involving a new act of congress. We have formulated a viable legal remedy employing existing executive authority of the Governor of Hawaii under federal statutes that is consistent with existing U.S. tribal law and, therefore, is constitutional.

Our Alaskan native brothers have cautioned us, the native Hawaiian, not to follow their path, as it has in their experience, proven disastrous. Should the State of Hawaii, the missionary era land trusts and the Hawaiians who belong to both interests, want to follow that path, fine - just as long as the native Hawaiian, all 3,500 of us, stay on the tribal path in U.S. law.

Maui Loa, is Hereditary Chief of Hou Lahuiohana (band) of native Hawaiians of the Blood.