MAUI, HI –
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, chaired a hearing today entitled, “Strengthening Self-Sufficiency: Overcoming Barriers to Economic Development in Native Communities.”
Chairman Akaka held the hearing to identify legislative and administrative barriers to providing economic development opportunities for Native communities. The testimony will help the Committee to develop policies that will strengthen self-sufficiency and bring economic growth and job creation.
“In these challenging economic times, it is imperative that we ensure that federal policies designed to spur economic development in Native communities are working well,” said Chairman Akaka. “Healthy economies are a key component to thriving communities, and the United States has a unique responsibility to its Native peoples to advance policies that promote self-sufficiency and self-determination.”
Witnesses before the Committee included officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the State of Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. In addition, the Committee heard from Native Hawaiian and tribal organizations, and tribal governments, who described their experiences in trying to bring economic development opportunities to their members and their communities.
“This hearing was vital in bringing attention to the barriers that exist in American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native communities.” Nathan Small, Chairman of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes said, “Tribes are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish in revitalizing our economies despite the barriers that exist, however, we need the federal government to see us as equal partners in bringing prosperity to our members and our communities.”
“I commend Senator Akaka and the Committee for holding this important field hearing in our homelands,” said Michelle Kauhane, Deputy Director for the Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. “When federal officials can walk our communities, and see the challenges we seek to overcome, they can be better partners in developing solutions. The committee has jurisdiction over Native Hawaiian issues, and Hawaii’s lure should not result in neglect from Washington because of unfounded criticism that every trip out here is a junket.”
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