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DOJ Endorses Native Hawaiian Sovereignty Bill
By Andrew Ramonas | August 6, 2022 5:08 pm

Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch told members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee today that the Justice Department supports legislation that sets the groundwork for federal recognition of Native Hawaiian sovereignty.

Native Hawaiians (doi.gov)

Native Hawaiians (doi.gov)

The bill would give Native Hawaiians essentially the same rights as Native Americans and Native Alaskans. Congress has taken up similar legislation seven times since 2000. The House passed a Native Hawaiian sovereignty bill twice but the Senate never approved the legislation.

“We are heartened that the bill’s sponsors and cosponsors are continuing, nearly a decade after the legislation’s original introduction, to address these issues and to press ahead with this important project,” Hirsch said in a prepared statement submitted to the panel.

The Obama DOJ’s view of the bill is a stark contrast to the Bush administration’s position on the legislation. The Bush DOJ said the legislation would “divide people by their race,” according to The Honolulu Advertiser.

Gail Heroit, a Republican appointee on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said at a June House hearing on the bill that Native Hawaiian sovereignty could create an uprising, according to the newspaper.

“It is clear that many ethnic Hawaiians will not regard the new (Native Hawaiian) government as deriving its powers solely from federal delegation,” Heroit said, according to The Advertiser. “Rather, they will argue that it derives its power from their own inherent sovereignty and is thus not subject to any of the limitations on power found in the U.S. Constitution.”

The panel is expected to vote on the legislation in September after it returns from the August recess, the newspaper said. President Obama, a native Hawaiian, has promised to sign the bill into law if it passes Congress, according to The Advertiser.

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2 Comments

  1. Rael says:

    There is a distinction between a “Native Hawaiian” and a “native Hawaiian”. The latter is a person born in Hawaii while the former refers to ancestry.

  2. Meg McGowan says:

    You confuse the term “native Hawaiian” when you say that President Obama is one. The term generally applies to persons who can trace their ancestry back to pre-contact (by Captain Cook). President Obama is a second generation Hawaiian since his parents moved to Hawaii (from Kansas and Kenya).


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