Conventional wisdom says that (despite the boasts of our newest Governor) with the new Republican Congress in place, the Akaka Bill is effectively dead for the time being.Â The theory is that the Bill never had much support among Republicans in Congress, and no Democrats will be willing to expend large amounts of political capital in order to push for it.Â How true this is remains to be seen, but there are some groups in Hawaii who have way too much invested in the Akaka Bill to let a mere detail like political deep-freeze derail their efforts to promote it.
Like (brace yourselves for the surprise) OHA.
In a rather irregular move, OHA Trustee Haunani Apoliona called for OHA to continue its efforts to enroll Native Hawaiians for a possible Native Hawaiian government as called for by the now-defunct Akaka Bill. The reasons given by Apoliona and OHA CEO Clyde Namuo are fairly predictable–and they take care to note that they are looking to enroll Hawaiians living outside of Hawaii.Â The reason for this effort is fairly obvious–OHA clearly believes that it will be easier to pass the Bill in the future if there is an established roll of “qualified” Native Hawaiians to be recognized by such a bill.Â So a future version of the Akaka Bill will simply be able to reference the OHA-headed group as the Native Hawaiian government without the accompanying concerns about who should be included and how registration should proceed.Â In addition, OHA clearly has a lot invested in being the preeminent Native Hawaiian organization in any Native Hawaiian government.Â Sovereignty groups and other Native Hawaiian organizations that question OHA’s actions and motives can be absorbed and disarmed by OHA preemptive organization, thereby shutting down or minimizing any Native Hawaiian opposition to a future Akaka Bill.
There is, after all, a great deal of money and political power at stake.Â It would be asking too much to think that OHA could just let that go.