chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
October 01, 2016

Native Hawaiian Self-Determination

The Department of the Interior announced a final rule Sept. 23 that sets out an administrative procedure and criteria for the department to use if the Native Hawaiian community seeks to reestablish a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States — a move strongly supported by the ABA. “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 making the announcement. “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,” she emphasized. Native Hawaiians have not had a formal unified government since 1893, when the United States was involved in a takeover of the Hawaiian government and the deposing of the reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. The U.S. government acknowledged in 1993 that the U.S.-sponsored overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom was illegal, issued an apology, and expressed support for reconciliation efforts and a process for federal recognition of Native Hawaiians. In 2006, the ABA adopted policy specifically supporting the right of Native Hawaiians to seek federal recognition of a native governing entity within the United States similar to that which American Indians and Alaska Natives possess under the U.S. Constitution. Since then, the association has supported legislation to establish a process that would lead eventually to the formation of a native governing entity that would have a government-to-government relationship with the United States, but the legislation was never approved. The Interior Department’s final rule provides an opportunity for a Native Hawaiian government to exercise its inherent powers of self-government, self-determination, and economic self-sufficiency and recognizes the special political and trust relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community, according to the department.

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.