Panel offers substance to Hawaiian apology

Committee's work off to Washington to prompt debate, action

The Maui News
June 26, 2001

Staff Writer

PUKALANI - Will yet another report on the past wrongs imposed on Native Hawaiians by the federal government finally make a difference?

Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. believes the document compiled by the Hawaii Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will be the one to trigger concrete action that could result in the recognition of a sovereign Hawaiian entity and address problems that have eroded the civil rights of Hawaiians.

The report spells out ways the United States should carry out its declaration of reconciliation expressed by Congress and former President Bill Clinton in 1993 that became known as the "Apology Resolution."

Maxwell, chairman of the Hawaii committee, left for Washington, D.C., on Sunday night to present the findings at the U.S. Capitol at 10 a.m. today, local time. The report will also be released this morning at Iolani Palace in Honolulu.

"The reason this report will be different is because this is the first time the Hawaii civil rights committee has gone to Washington to speak out," said Maxwell. "We are taking this to the American people. I really believe the people of America will want to correct these injustices once they learn about what has happened to Native Hawaiians and how we are not recognized by our own country as indigenous people."

Recommendations include:

  • Passing federal legislation to recognize the political status of Hawaiians.

  • Establishing an escrow account for the federal and state governments to pay for use of ceded lands.

  • Supporting the exploration of an international solution to restoring a sovereign Hawaiian entity.

  • Increasing federal and state funding for programs to better the lives of Hawaiians.

  • Appointing a special adviser for indigenous peoples to the Domestic Policy Council at the White House to keep the president abreast of current issues regarding Hawaiians and other native groups in America.

The 56-page report, officially titled "Reconciliation at a Crossroads: The Implications of the Apology Resolution and Rice v. Cayetano on Federal and State Programs for Native Hawaiians," was assembled from input gathered during community forums held in Hawaii in 1998 and 2000. The conclusions and nine recommendations will be forwarded to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission with an urgent request to send the document on to President George W. Bush and leaders of Congress so immediate steps can be taken to improve the plight of Hawaiians.

The document describes how the federal government should implement the language of the Apology Resolution that acknowledged the improper role of America in overthrowing the Hawaiian government 100 years earlier. It also explores the fallout of the Rice v. Cayetano decision which opened up elections of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to all Hawaii residents.

Maxwell said the findings also consider the possible ramifications of the pending Barrett v. State of Hawaii lawsuit that questions the legality of government programs established to help Hawaiians.

Alan Murakami, attorney for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. and a member of the Hawaii committee, said the Barrett lawsuit and others like it that could follow needs to be targeted so Hawaiian entitlements can exist without a constant fear of threats.

"We need a better way to defend against these legal challenges," said Murakami. "In the blind pursuit of trying to interpret the 14th Amendment, people are willing to risk whatever successes these programs for Hawaiians have had. If those programs are lost, there will be a political crisis that Hawaii has never seen and it will be absolute turmoil."

Murakami was especially pleased with the recommendations that would require payments for government use of ceded lands and the creation of a position in the White House that would keep the issues of indigenous people close to the president.

"It would improve communications between Hawaiians and the federal government," said Murakami. "It would also address problems in the administration of programs (for Hawaiians). If you have a seat on the Domestic Council, the president will hear about these things. There's no guarantee he'll do anything about it, but at least he'll hear."

Maxwell said Hawaiians have been growing increasingly frustrated with how they are being treated in their native land.

"We have been trying to use peaceful means for 30 years, however, a lot of our people have lost faith in the American system," said Maxwell. "Some of our people have lost their self-respect and our cultural values and are on the brink of making their plight known with violence."

Maxwell said leaders should pay attention to Hawaiians because if their protests turn angry or destructive, the tourist industry and the economy would be devastated.

Murakami said the committee made a special effort to include the many points of view on how to correct the injustices and achieve self-determination.

"We were very conscious of the split in the Hawaiian community," he said. "We were trying to establish an overall tone of respect."

The document also lays out various opinions of the law proposed by Sen. Daniel Akaka that would establish a government-to-government relationship between the United States and a Hawaiian entity. The legislation was proposed to curtail repercussions of Rice v. Cayetano.

The presentation of the report could be the last official act on the committee by Maxwell. After serving on the panel for more than 20 years, he said he plans to retire in the near future and concentrate on cultural issues.

The briefing from Washington will be carried live on the Internet at

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