Support the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
1629 K Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20006
August 11, 2005
On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, we are writing to express our support of S. 147/H.R. 309, the “Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005” (“Akaka Bill”). The Akaka Bill would reaffirm the right of Native Hawaiians to self-determination and establish a process for federal recognition of a reorganized Native Hawaiian government. The Akaka Bill is important because unlike other indigenous peoples living in the lands that now constitute the United States, Native Hawaiians currently do not have a process for establishing a government-togovernment relationship.
LCCR believes that invoking the specter of race-based discrimination to oppose this bill distorts the true purpose of the 14th and 15th Amendments, which were created in order
to prohibit discrimination against individuals – and were never intended to prevent the political empowerment of a class of sovereign, indigenous people. The unique status of indigenous people within our constitutional framework is founded not upon race or ethnicity, but upon the historical reality that native people exercised sovereignty over the lands that eventually formed the United States. Since our nation was founded, the federal government has acknowledged the unique political status of indigenous peoples. As a result, thousands of laws have been enacted for the special benefit of American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. All of these laws, as is also the case with the Akaka Bill, are based on the political and legal status accorded to indigenous peoples, and not on their race or ethnicity.
After more than a century of injustice, it is long past time that Congress formally acknowledge the Native Hawaiian right to self-determination and thereby establish parity in federal policies toward the indigenous peoples of the United States.
We greatly appreciate your support of the Akaka Bill, and we look forward to working with you toward its passage. If we can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact Rob Randhava, LCCR counsel, at (202) 466-6058.
Dr. Dorothy I. Height