National | Politics | Federal Recognition

Interior Department finalizes rule for Native Hawaiian relations






Native Hawaiian youth perform at a community meeting on Moloka'i, Hawaii, in June 2015. Photo by Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Native Hawaiians will be able to re-establish a government-to-government relationship with the United States under a rule finalized by the Obama administration.

The Interior Department announced the rule on Friday. It puts Native Hawaiians in control of the process, ensuring they determine how they want to establish relations.

"Today is a major step forward in the reconciliation process between Native Hawaiians and the United States that began over 20 years ago," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a press release. "We are proud to announce this final rule that respects and supports self-governance for Native Hawaiians, one of our nation’s largest indigenous communities."

The United States recognized the Kingdom of Hawaii until it was overthrown illegally in 1893. Since then, Congress has enacted more than 150 laws to address Native Hawaiian housing, land, language, education and other issues.

Congress also passed a resolution in 1993 to apologize for the illegal overthrow but the lack of a formal government-to-government relationship has posed problems. Programs and services that were established to benefit Native Hawaiians are now open to all residents. A prestigious Native-only school has faced repeated challenges to its admissions policy.

Tribes in the continental United States do not normally face the same questions due to recognition of their status as governments. The first Hawaiians could be treated i the same manner if they follow through with the restoration process.

The final rule is being sent to the Federal Register for publication. It will become effective 30 days after publication.

The action comes as President Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii and maintains ties to the state, winds down his second term. The final rule ensures that Native Hawaiians can proceed with restoration efforts regardless of who wins the November election.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, supports "nationhood" for Native Hawaiians.

Republican nominee Donald Trump has not said anything on the issue but his party's platform calls for "equitable participation in federal programs" for Native Hawaiians.

Republicans in Congress, however, have been doing the opposite by trying to exclude Native Hawaiians from bills that would benefit Indian Country as a whole.

Prior Federal Register Notice:
Procedures for Reestablishing a Formal Government-to-Government Relationship With the Native Hawaiian Community (October 1, 2015)

Related Stories:
Hillary Clinton affirms support of 'nationhood' for Native Hawaiians (03/08)
Supreme Court blocks Native Hawaiian self-governance vote (12/03)
Supreme Court throws wrench into Native Hawaiian election (11/30)
Anne Keala Kelly: US government wants to steal Hawaii again (11/24)
Opinion: Native Hawaiian group does not represent the people (11/23)
Native Hawaiians take another step towards federal recognition (09/29)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Native Hawaiians work toward sovereignty (11/28)
Opinion: Native Americans get stake in Native Hawaiian status (07/16)
Comment period opens on Native Hawaiian recognition proposal (06/20)
DOI considers process to recognize Native Hawaiian government (06/18)
Keli'i Akina: Recognition for Native Hawaiians just a power grab (06/04)
DOI considers regulation to address status of Native Hawaiians (05/28)
Opinion: Colleen Hanabusa fights for Native Hawaiian rights (01/21)
Opinion: Recognizing Native Hawaiians without act of Congress (05/02)
Washburn says Native Hawaiians can't follow BIA regulations (03/20)