National | Federal Recognition

DOI considers process to recognize Native Hawaiian government





The Interior Department is taking steps that could lead to federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian government.

Secretary Sally Jewell announced a series of public meetings in Hawaii from June 23 through July 8. The goal is to find out whether the U.S. should re-establish a government-to-government relationship with Native Hawaiians.

“When I met with members of the Native Hawaiian community last year during my visit to the state, I learned first-hand about Hawaii’s unique history and the importance of the special trust relationship that exists between the Federal government and the Native Hawaiian community,” Jewell said in a press release. “Through this step, the Department is responding to requests from not only the Native Hawaiian community but also state and local leaders and interested parties who recognize that we need to begin a conversation of diverse voices to help determine the best path forward for honoring the trust relationship that Congress has created specifically to benefit Native Hawaiians.”

The meetings in Hawaii will be followed by a series of tribal consultation sessions from July 29 through August 7. Tribes will be able to share their views about a subject that is sure to draw controversy outside of Indian Country.

The U.S. recognized the Kingdom of Hawaii until it was overthrown in 1893. Since then, Congress has enacted numerous statues to deal with Native Hawaiian housing, land, education and other issues.

But the lack of a formal government-to-government relationship has posed some problems on the island of Hawaii. Elections and programs that were once limited to Native Hawaiians are now open to other residents and a Native-only school has faced repeated challenges to its admissions policy.

Efforts to clarify the relationship, however, have been met with resistance among Republicans on Capitol Hill. Bill to extend the policy of self-determination to Native Hawaiians have languished for more than a decade.

A notice will be published in the Federal Register to announce the meetings.

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Keli'i Akina: Recognition for Native Hawaiians just a power grab (06/04)
DOI considers regulation to address status of Native Hawaiians (5/28)