Honolulu Civil Beat reports
Frustrated with a 10-year congressional fight to obtain federal recognition and form a nation-within-a-nation government, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has decided to follow a path that has led several American Indian tribes to success.
OHA is not giving up on the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, known as the Akaka bill.
But faced with the reality that U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, for whom the bill is named, is retiring after this year and that the political environment in Washington, D.C., is as polarized as it has ever been, OHA and Hawaii’s delegation having been exploring other routes.
One of those would bypass Congress altogether and seek recognition from the U.S. Department of the Interior, a process used by Native American tribes.
“It is possible that Hawaiians could achieve recognition through an alternate route — alternate from the legislative route,” said Clyde Namuo, OHA’s longtime CEO until he retired Dec. 30. “It would not require congressional approval, but you would need to convince the Secretary of the Interior that they have the authority to do it. And we believe that there is adequate precedence to establish that you can do it.”