Akaka Bill

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The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, known as the Akaka Bill after its primary sponsor, Sen. Daniel Akaka, defines a process through which the federal government, through the Department of the Interior, would recognize a Native Hawaiian governing body.

It should be noted that Congress in 1993 passed the "Apology Resolution" in which the United States acknowledged wrongdoings in the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893. The resolution recognizes the sovereignty of Hawaii's indigenous people over their land.

During the 2004 congressional session, the bill was prevented from reaching a full Senate vote by Sen. Jon Kyl and other opponents. At the end of the session, Kyl and the Senate leadership promised that the bill would get a full floor vote in 2005.

On Jan. 25, 2005, Sen. Daniel Akaka and Sen. Daniel Inouye officially introduced the bill in the Senate, while Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Ed Case introduced an identical measure in the House of Representatives.

In Decemeber of 2004, the new chairman on the Indian Affairs Committee, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, declared his opposition to it, saying, “When Hawai‘i became a state, there was an implicit agreement at that time that Native Hawaiians would not receive the same status as Native Americans.” After meeting with Inouye, McCain said that he would not block an up-or-down vote on the measure on the Senate floor.

On March 1, 2005, Chairman Sen. John McCain of the Senate Indian Affairs Committe held a hearing on S. 147, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (Akaka Bill). Governor Linda Lingle testified that, "This bill is vital to the survival of the Native Hawaiian people, it is vital to providing parity in federal policy for all native peoples in America and it is vital to the continued character of the state of Hawaii."

On March 9, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill formally recognizing Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people. The bill now goes to the full Senate.

In a July 2005 letter to Sen. John McCain, the U.S. Justice Department listed four key changes in the Akaka Bill that the Bush Administration supports:

  • Adding language regarding potential claims, including a limitations period shorter than the 20-year period now in the bill.
  • Amending the language to make it clear that the bill does not interfere with the operations of the U.S. military in Hawaii or affect military readiness.
  • Amending the bill to clarify whether the federal government, state of Hawaii or the native Hawaiian governing entity will have jurisdiction to enforce criminal laws on native Hawaiian lands.
  • Clarifying that the native Hawaiian governing entity will not be able to engage in gaming activities.

Gov. Linda Lingle said, "The fact that the Justice Department's concerns do not go to the core of the bill is a positive sign regarding its passage."

U.S. senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka had hoped the bill could be debated as early as the week of July 18, 2005. However, senators Inouye and Akaka, who held news conferences on July 20, reported that at least six Republicans senators have concerns about the bill and have placed holds on it. Senators can use a hold to either get information about a bill or block the measure completely. To overcome a hold, Akaka and Inouye must get 60 senators to agree to a "motion of cloture", which would call for the bill to be debated. On July 29, Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., filed a motion of cloture.

Sen. Daniel Akaka says, in a Star-Bulletin article dated 12-23-05, that Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledged to take the necessary steps needed to bring the measure, S. 147, to the Senate floor in 2006. [1]

Cloture vote, June 2006

On June 6, 2006, Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell filed a petition for a cloture vote on the Akaka Bill. The cloture motion forces the Senate to decide whether it will take up the measure.

On June 7 Senate went through three hours of debate on the motion.

On June 8, in a close 56-41 vote, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a procedural petition that would have brought the Akaka Bill to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. The cloture motion needed the votes of 60 senators for full Senate consideration of the bill. Cloture ends the possibility that opponents could filibuster the bill and prevent a vote.

In a Honolulu Star-Bulletin 'Breaking News' article dated June 8, 2006 and entitled, Akaka Bill fails a vote in the Senate, Sally Apgar and Greg Kakesako reported on a last minute Bush administration letter that may have swayed the vote:

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said he did not expect or anticipate that the Bush administration at the last minute would release what Inouye described as “a misleading letter,” which probably swayed the outcome of today’s vote.

Inouye said the White House was “grossly disingenuous” in its letter opposing the original version of the bill because everyone knew the bill had been reworked to address all concerns.

“Then the Republican leadership used the letter to urge the majority to vote against the Akaka bill, saying this was the administration’s position.” [2]

A June 7 Honolulu Advertiser article entitled, Justice Department advises Senate to reject Akaka bill, Gordon Y.K. Pang details contents of the Justice department letter to Senate leaders:

On the eve of a crucial vote, the U.S. Department of Justice late today issued a letter to Senate leaders stating that the Bush Administration "strongly opposes" passage of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, better known as the Akaka bill.

Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella cited a report issued last month by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission recommending that senators reject the bill, which initiates a process that would lay the groundwork toward establishing of a federally recognized Native Hawaiian entity.

The report, Moschella noted, said the bill could lead to "further subdivide(ing) the American people into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege."

Moschella's two-paragraph letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. A copy was sent to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who leads the Democratic caucus.


Moschella also cited a quote from Bush that said "we must ... honor the great American tradition of the melting pot." Moschella wrote: "This bill would reverse that great American tradition and divide people by their race." [3]

The Akaka Bill is essentially dead for this legislative session.

The bill is supported by Hawaii's Democratic congressional delegation and Republican governor, but is opposed by some Native Hawaiians and their supporters who feel it is an attempt to deprive Hawaiian nationals of their international right to self-determiniation and independence and is inconsistent with Hawaii's history as an independent country, and also by some who feel the bill is unconstitutionally race-based.


The Akaka Bill will be reintroduced by Senator Akaka in the new U.S. Senate which now has a Democratic majority and the bill will go through the committee process.

External Links

  • The Akaka bill — What would it mean for Hawai'i? Honolulu Advertiser, 4-10-05.
  • The fate of Hawaiian sovereignity Honolulu Advertiser.
  • Federal Recognition (Akaka bill) section in Hawaiian Independence Weblog Hawaii Independence Weblog.
  • StopAkaka.com website StopAkaka.com.
  • Connections of Akaka bill proponents to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil drilling interests CNHAexposed.com.
  • Website dedicated to federal recognition of Native Hawaiians (Akaka bill) NativeHawaiians.com.
  • Akaka Bill: Myth or Reality TheHawaiiChannel.com
  • Akaka bill serves as a vehicle for justice Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 6-20-04.
  • Goodbye Hawaii? The Struggle for Soveriegnity MauiTime Weekly. *Akaka bill has plenty of vocal opposition -- Some native Hawaiian groups oppose the bill Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 3-7-05.
  • The Akaka bill — What would it mean for Hawai'i? Honolulu Advertiser, 4-10-05.
  • Group wants Akaka Bill hearings -- Hui Pu criticizes OHA for not discussing changes to the bill Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7-8-05.
  • Akaka Bill backers set for D.C. trip -- OHA trustees are "cautiously optimistic" about the measure's future Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7-16-05.
  • DEBATING THE ISSUE Pros: This is a chance to follow up on '93 Apology. Cons: Diverse groups fight ‘American Apartheid’ Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7-18-05.
  • Lingle and Case insist Akaka Bill allows no gambling 'Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7-19-05.
  • Mathews, Janita. Hawai'i votes bought by Alaska oil Kaleo O Hawaii, 11-10-05.
  • Congress should end delays in Akaka Bill. THE ISSUE: The American Bar Association has endorsed the bill to recognize Hawaiian sovereignty. Honolulu Star-Bulletin editorial, February 18, 2006.
  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
    • White, Doug. USCCR likely to issue negative opinion of Akaka Bill tomorrow Poinography!, May 3, 2006.
    • Da Silva, Alexandre. Akaka Bill backers say real 'bias' is in report -- Objections in a draft before the U.S. civil rights panel could block a Senate vote Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 4, 2006.
    • OUR OPINION Civil Rights Commission is blind to Hawaiian history THE ISSUE: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has recommended that Congress reject Hawaiian sovereignty. Honolulu Star-Bulletin editorial, May 7, 2006.
    • MacDonald, Tom. Commission’s findings clarify position on Akaka Bill Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 13, 2006.
  • Slater, Cliff. COMMENTARY: Plight of Native Hawaiians not dire Honolulu Advertiser, June 6, 2004.
  • White, Doug. Akaka bill cloture vote fails 56-41 Poinography!, June 8, 2006.
  • White, Doug. Almost everyone has their own spin on the cloture defeat Poinography!, June 9, 2006.
  • White, Doug. OHA introduces a plan to overcome Akaka Bill stalemate Poinography!, June 24, 2006.
  • Park, Gene. Majority power gives new hope for Akaka Bill -- But the senator says his first priority is setting a deadline to leave Iraq Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 10, 2006.
  • Borreca, Richard. Revival of Akaka Bill planned -- The congressman is optimistic about its passage with the new Democratic majority Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 14, 2006.
  • White, Doug. 2007 version of Akaka Bill is being readied Poinography!, January 14, 2007.
  • Akaka, Daniel. The Akaka Bill is Reintroduced on Capitol Hill Hawaii Reporter, January 17, 2007.
  • Alexander, Lamar. The Akaka Bill: A Dangerous Piece of Legislation Hawaii Reporter, January 17, 2007.
  • Da Silva, Alexandre. Akaka says revised bill can pass this term -- Opponents doubt the changes will swing enough votes Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 18, 2007.
  • OUR OPINION: Optimism, patience needed for Akaka Bill THE ISSUE: A U.S. Senate committee plans to hear testimony Thursday on a bill to grant Hawaiian sovereignty. Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 30, 2007.
  • Bernardo, Rosemarie. Akaka Bill gets support in House -- The measure has bipartisan backing in a committee vote Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 3, 2007.
  • Daranciang, Nelson. Rewritten Akaka Bill stirs same objections -- Isle backers again deny that it creates a race-based state Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 4, 2007.
  • OUR OPINION: Prepare for a battle to pass Akaka Bill THE ISSUE: A U.S. House committee has sent the Hawaiian sovereignty bill to the House floor. Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 4, 2007.
  • Is the Akaka Bill good for Hawaii? Hawaii Business, August 2007.
  • George Will's column on Hawaiian soveignty
    • Will, George.Social engineering in Hawaii IndyStar, November 30, 2007.
    • Sen. Daniel Akaka and Rep. Neil Abercrombie. Outrageous and inaccurate -- Historical fact and good taste elude columnist in his challenge to Hawaiian sovereignty Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 2, 2007.
  • Niesse, Mark. Chances for Akaka Bill's passage expected to be slim -- Tax and spending bills will likely dominate the U.S. Senate's time, Star-Advertiser, November 10, 2010.
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