U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, has slipped language into a draft of the interior appropriations bill that would federally recognize Native Hawaiians like American Indian tribes.
A Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill has stalled in the U.S. Senate for a decade, and advocates are shifting strategy, trying to advance key provisions of the bill in pieces. The bill is known as the Akaka bill for its main sponsor, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii.
The language in the interior appropriations bill builds off a state Native Hawaiian recognition bill approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie this year.
“The Hawaii congressional delegation is committed to federally recognizing Native Hawaiians in the 112th Congress, with the strong support of the governor and Hawaii State Legislature,” Peter Boylan, a spokesman for Inouye, said in a statement. “We will continue to pursue a variety of options to effectuate passage.”
Inserting the language into a spending bill may make it easier to advance than forcing another debate on a stand-alone Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill. But opponents have already flagged the language. One told Hawaii Reporter that allowing Hawaiians to be recognized as an Indian tribe would involve “all the public expense and jurisdictional nightmares that go with that status.”