Tribal Politics

By Will, George F. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 29, 2007 | Go to article overview

Tribal Politics


Will, George F., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


WASHINGTON

Under legislation that the House of Representatives has voted 261- 153 to foist on Hawaii, Goering's role would be played by a panel empowered to decide who is a "Native Hawaiian" and entitled to special privileges and immunities. Because there are perhaps only 7,000 "pure" Native Hawaiians, "Hawaiian blood" will inevitably be the criterion and the "one-drop rule" likely will prevail. Goering would have approved of this racialist sorting-out.

Those designated Native Hawaiians would be members of a new "tribe" conjured into existence by Congress. But it cannot legitimately do that.

In 1959, 94 percent of Hawaiians, including a large majority of Native Hawaiians, voted for statehood. Opposition was strongest among Southern Democrats in Congress, who, with the civil rights revolution simmering, were wary of Hawaii's example of multiracial harmony.

Today, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, when accurately described, is opposed by a large majority of Hawaiians and supported by only a bare majority of the approximately 240,000 Native Hawaiians in the state. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, is a genuflection by "progressives," mostly Democrats, to "diversity" and "multiculturalism."

It would foment racial disharmony by creating a permanent caste entitled to its own government -- the Native Hawaiian Governing Entity -- within the United States. The NHGE presumably would be exempt, as Indian tribes are, from the Constitution's First, Fifth and 14th amendments. It would, Akaka says, negotiate with the state of Hawaii and the United States concerning "lands, natural resources, assets, criminal and civil jurisdiction, and historical grievances."

Reparations? We shall see. Independence -- secession? "That could be," Akaka, 83, has said, depending on "my grandchildren and great- grandchildren."

The seeds of this weed were sown in 1993, when Congress passed a tendentious apology for supposed U.S. complicity -- which was neither clear nor essential -- in the peaceful 1893 overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani's monarchy by Hawaiian residents. The novelty of America apologizing for a monarch's fall was followed in 2000 by a Supreme Court ruling overturning a Hawaiian law that excluded everyone except Native Hawaiians from voting in a statewide election for trustees of a state agency. This, the court said, violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the laws and proscription of racial discrimination in voting.

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