April 7, 2011

Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act and ‘Carcieri Fix’ Approved by Senate Indian Affairs Committee

Two bills were approved today by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs: the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2011 (S. 675) and a bill to address problems created by Supreme Court ruling Carcieri v. Salazar (S. 676). Both pieces of legislation will be placed on the Senate Calendar for consideration by the full Senate.
On S. 675, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2011: 
“Two decades ago, the United States apologized to Native Hawaiians for its participation in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and committed to a process of reconciliation. This bill is the necessary next step in that reconciliation process,” said Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii). “I thank my colleagues for putting action behind the apology and maintaining this important commitment to the great State of Hawaii.”
“I fully support the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, and would like to laud the leadership and efforts of Chairman Akaka who remains committed to seeing this historic piece of legislation through to passage,” said Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii). “This measure begins a process of establishing a government to government relationship between the U.S. and the native people of Hawaii. We have held public hearings, made revisions, and debated this issue for more than a decade. There is strong support for this bill – from the White House, Washington Place, native country and from the people of Hawaii. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to bring this bill to the floor and vote in favor of it. Federal Recognition for the Native Hawaiian people is long overdue.”
Governor Neil Abercrombie said, “This is the next step in providing Native Hawaiians a way to finally and comprehensively address the issues facing all of us. I applaud the work of the Congressional delegation and support their efforts to bring this bill to passage.”
“The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board of Trustees supports Senator Akaka and the rest of Hawaii’s congressional delegation as they work to enact the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (NHGRA) which will extend federal recognition to Native Hawaiians,” said OHA Chairperson Colette Machado. “OHA stands ready to assist the Congressional Delegation as it works to achieve this goal.”
Alapaki Nahale-a, Chairman of the Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Home Lands said: “With the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2011 heading to the full United States Senate for consideration, Native Hawaiians should feel heartened that self-determination is on the horizon. The Hawaiian Homes Commission continues to support Senator Akaka’s efforts and we congratulate and extend a heartfelt mahalo to him for his tenacity in seeking passage of this important measure for the Hawaiian people.”
“All Americans should support the right of the Native Hawaiian people to have self-determination over their own future, and over the Hawaiian Homelands that were left to them from the original Hawaiian Kingdom over a century ago,” said Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians. “Now that the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act has moved out of committee, there is absolutely no reason for it to be held up. We call on Congress to pass the act immediately and send it to President Obama to be signed into law.”
“We will stand with the Native Hawaiians,” said Julie Kitka, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives. “It is time our Hawaiian brothers and sisters are recognized by our country.” “Chairman Akaka is a great and honorable leader,” said Tex Hall, Tribal Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Tribe. “His bill recognizing the self-governance rights of the Native people of Hawaii shows his knowledge of history, his wisdom and his longstanding patience. For as long as the grass grows and the sun rises, we will stand with him.”
On S. 676, a bill to address problems created by Supreme Court ruling Carcieri v. Salazar:
“This is the first important step in making sure that Congress removes the uncertainty that was created in the Supreme Court’s Carceri decision,” said Chairman Akaka. “This bill will allow tribes to meet the economic and basic needs of their members for housing, elder centers, schools and tribal businesses. S. 676 ensures that all tribes are treated equally and have the same abilities to function as governments and meet the needs of their people. I want to be clear that this legislation does not grant any new authorities to the Secretary. It merely reaffirms the intent of the Indian Reorganization Act as it has been carried out for the past 75 years.”
“I am a strong, longstanding supporter of legislation designed to address the land trust issue raised by the Carcieri v. Salazar case,” said Senator Inouye. “This case is having an immediate, adverse impact on Indian Country. Lawsuits have been filed, Tribes are afraid to submit trust land applications out of fear of provoking litigation, and there is a significant backlog of trust land applications at the Department of Interior. Whether a Tribe was recognized before 1934 or after 1934 has nothing at all to do with their Native status. This bill will give every tribe the opportunity to place lands into a trust. It is only fair.”
“I welcome this important action by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and appreciate Chairman Daniel Akaka’s continued leadership,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “This is a critical step forward in addressing the effects of the Carcieri decision and ensuring that all federally recognized American Indian tribes can have land taken land into trust for the benefit of their people.”
“I am pleased with the Senate Indian Affairs Committee’s fair and just decision to fix this crucial Act so that American Indian and Alaska Natives can advance economic development through the restoration of their homelands,” said Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk. “This issue has been an on-going challenge and brought into question our authority to take land into trust as part of the Department of the Interior’s trust responsibilities.”
“The original lands of tribal nations are sacred to our cultures, our people, and our economies. The Carcieri fix approved by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today acknowledges the importance of land to tribal nations,” said Keel. “We call on Congress to pass this legislation for a clean Carcieri fix and send it to President Obama to be signed into law.”
Brian Patterson, President of United South and Eastern Tribes said: “USET is very appreciative of Chairman Akaka’s leadership in moving S. 676 forward early in this Congress and the Committee’s strong support for restoring a fundamental pillar of the Tribal-Federal relationship – which is assuring a level playing field for all Tribes seeking to put land into trust through Interior’s rigorous process. This legislation will also provide stability for Tribal economic development initiatives and social services, as well as resolve the huge criminal and civil jurisdictional uncertainties created by the Supreme Court’s decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.”
Senator Akaka’s statement at today’s business meeting is available here: LINK
Contact: Jesse Broder Van Dyke
Contact Phone: 202-224-7045
Contact E-mail: jesse_brodervandyke@akaka.senate.gov