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OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

OHA’s comments support rulemaking

HONOLULU (July 15, 2014) – The Office of Hawaiian Affairs submitted comments to the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice strongly supporting federal rulemaking that would reestablish a government-to-government relationship with a Native Hawaiian government once one is formed, saying, “Our community cannot heal until the federal government shows meaningful respect to our dignity.”

OHA’s Board of Trustees supports the federal rulemaking process because it has a legal duty to advocate for the protection and advancement of Native Hawaiian benefits and rights, protection for Native Hawaiian trusts, and preservation of millions of dollars in federal funding that flows to programs that support Native Hawaiians.

According to the written testimony, “reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community is the most viable action that could be taken to protect and expand existing trust assets, federal programmatic funding, federal consultation rights and other self-determination rights under federal law.”

The testimony adds, “We should not be denied the basic self-governance rights afforded all other major indigenous groups in the nation. We have suffered through colonization and the dispossession of our lands, resources and culture, and the hearts of our people continue to be burdened by these historic injustices, as recent oral testimony made clear.”

OHA stressed that the rulemaking process opens one pathway that a Native Hawaiian governing entity could choose, but that it must not limit Hawaiians’ rights to seek international redress.

OHA recognizes many in the community are concerned that Native Hawaiians’ right to seek international redress should be preserved. OHA told the federal government the rulemaking should not abridge other forms or redress saying, “The rule should open a path for reestablishment of a domestic government-to-government relationship that will not, as a legal matter, affect paths for international redress.”

OHA is working on a process through which Native Hawaiians can reorganize a Native Hawaiian government utilizing a base roll certified by the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. OHA is supporting the election of delegates to a governance ‘aha to propose the form, scope and principles that would guide the government, if it is approved by a referendum of Hawaiian voters. Any government formed through this process could ask to be recognized by the federal government, if a process for a government-to-government relationship is established.

View OHA’s official comments.

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