Editorial: Native Hawaiians and Westerners
"Endorsement of Hawaiian sovereignty by President Barack Obama's Justice Department came as no surprise, since Obama was co-sponsor of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka's bill as a senator and voiced his support during his presidential campaign. With the Akaka Bill's enactment and Obama's signature virtually assured, the bill's sponsors should concern themselves with issues that surely will be argued in a court challenge.

The bill defines native Hawaiians as those who can trace their ancestry to "aboriginal, indigenous, native people" who lived in Hawaii before the 1893 overthrowing of the kingdom. Opponents of the bill, including the George W. Bush administration's Commission on Civil Rights, maintained that the bill was race-based because it was pegged to the overthrow of the multiracial kingdom but included only aboriginal Hawaiians.

Westerners actually had been allowed to be naturalized into Hawaii as early as 1840 and been treated as ordinary subjects of the kingdom. Many had positions of authority within the government.

Deputy Associate U.S. Attorney General Sam Hirsch testified to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Thursday that Congress has "plenary power" under the Constitution to recognize Indian tribes and "tribes that have had aspects of their sovereignty diminished.""

Get the Story:
Editorial: Refine Akaka Bill to survive fight (The Honolulu Star Bulletin 8/9)

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Hearing:
HEARING on S. 1011, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009 (August 6, 2009)

Related Stories:
Indian Affairs Committee meeting and hearing (8/6)
Witness list for hearing on Native Hawaiian bill (8/5)
House hearing on Native Hawaiian recognition (06/11)
Witness list for hearing on Hawaiian recognition (6/9)
House hearing on Native Hawaiian recognition (6/8)
Shingle Springs Band eyes Hawaiian recognition (5/13)
Opinion: Native Hawaiian tribe a boost for Democrats (2/23)
Obama promises push for Native Hawaiian bill (2/16)
Editorial: Restore Native Hawaiian sovereignty (2/9)
Native Hawaiian recognition bill revived in Congress (2/5)