Certified Hawaiian

When you’re Hapa, you get used to people playing, “guess the ethnicity” with you.  Especially on the mainland.  (In Hawaii, the game is generally much shorter.  In part because one of your cousins will inevitably walk by and put an end to things.)  I actually don’t mind it though.  I’ve always liked the way that our racial/ethnic mix gives us a broad feeling of connection on the Islands.   Like we’re all in this together.  After all, even if you may not be Portuguese/Japanese/Filipino/Samoan/Hawaiian/Chinese/Haole/Etc., it’s a pretty fair guarantee that you’re at least related to someone who is.

And this leads us to one of the things that so puzzles me about how the Akaka Bill is supposed to work–namely, how do you even go about defining who counts as “Hawaiian Enough” to be part of a Native Hawaiian government.  After all, we’re talking about a culture that includes the concept of hanai adoption.  That’s about as far from a “one-drop rule” as it’s possible to get, culturally speaking.

But, of course, since we’re talking about laws and stuff here, there has to be a way to legally define who gets to play in a Akaka government.  But would you believe that, as the Bill currently lies, a significant number of those who would consider themselves Hawaiian wouldn’t count as such for the purposes of the Akaka Bill?  In fact, one analysis found that more than 73% of those who defined themselves as Hawaiian for the purposes of the census would now be counted as such for the purposes of the Akaka Bill.  Here’s why:

Under the conditions set forth in S1011, Section 3(12), for an Hawaiian to become a “Qualified Native Hawaiian Constituent” all five of the following conditions must be met:

  • (A) Must be direct lineal descendant of indigenous people living in Hawaii on or before January 1, 1893 or of a person eligible in 1921 for Hawaiian Homelands.
  • (B) Wishes to participate in the reorganization of the Native Hawaiian governing entity
  • (C) is 18 years of age or older;
  • (D) is a citizen of the United States; and
  • (E) maintains a significant cultural, social, or civic connection to the Native Hawaiian community, as evidenced by satisfying 2 or more of 10 criteria

Of the five, Parts (B) and (E) are the most likely to exclude Hawaiians from becoming “Qualified” to participate in the Tribe.  Part (B) most likely means excluding all persons who do not sign up for Kau Inoa.  The December, 2009 Kau Inoa Newsblog proudly announces: “Those who register in Kau Inoa will help shape the Hawaiian nation to come….We are happy to share that at the end of November 2009, 108,118 people were registered in the Kau Inoa Native Hawaiian Registry….”

The 2000 US Census counted over 401,000 Hawaiians in the US.  A 2004 estimate by the US Census Bureau counted 279,651 Hawaiians in Hawaii, down from 283,430 in 2000.  The out-migration of Hawaiians is a direct result of the lack of economic opportunity created by OHA-funded shake-down artists and their environmentalist allies.  The Kau Inoa number is less than 27% of all Native Hawaiians, but it gets worse.

Rule (E) excludes many of the roughly 122,000 Hawaiians living outside of Hawaii.  Exceptions are made for for college students, military personnel, federal employees (such as Congressional staffers) and their dependents,  Hawaiian Homelands beneficiaries, their children and grandchildren.

By making “Native Hawaiian Membership Organization” into the following two separate rules, an activist or other OHA operative who has been a member of two Native Hawaiian Membership Organizations thereby meets the “two of ten” qualification in Part (E):

  • (viii) Has been a member since September 30, 2009, of at least 1 Native Hawaiian Membership Organization.
  • (ix) Has been a member since September 30, 2009, of at least 2 Native Hawaiian Membership Organizations.

The bill does not contain a list of such organizations, leaving the door open to all sorts of games as some organizations are accepted and others are not.

I don’t know about you, but I find the notion of having to “prove” your Hawaiian-ness by virtue of what clubs or activities you belong to be . . . mind boggling.  Especially when you consider that the Akaka Bill includes a loophole for those who might not have Hawaiian blood, but are “regarded as Hawaiian” by the Native Hawaiian community (whatever that may mean).  By that logic, a haole with the right connections can be part of the Native Hawaiian government while a 100% local, ethnically Hawaiian guy who likes to keep to himself might not.  Seriously.  Only politicians and huge sums of money can combine to create something so ludicrous.  Don’t tell me that’s what most people are thinking of when they say that Native Hawaiians deserve some kind of recognition.

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