Native Hawaiians hope the new federal policy will “restore some justice.”

HONOLULU – The Department of the Interior last week announced a unique policy requiring formal consultation with Native Hawaiians on federal decision-making to “reaffirm and honor the special political and trusting relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community .”

This news leaves some Native Hawaiian advocates “hopeful” about a move toward reconciliation after disturbing US actions, including the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and the aftermath still being felt many decades later.

Mahealani Cypher, a Native Hawaiian educator and advocate from Oahu, said she sees the policy as another attempt to find a good way forward with Native Hawaiians.

She added, “Let’s put it this way, I’m always hopeful.”

She hopes working with the DOI will “restore some justice in how the Hawaiian people have been treated, how the Hawaiian nation has been treated” and what the government can do “to be pono (right) with us.”

Longtime Native Hawaiian politician Esther Kia’āina was “excited” to learn the federal government will take this step to recognize the importance of the voices and knowledge of Hawaiian Natives. She said they are “opening up to a dialogue.”

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“The Department of the Interior seeks to work government-to-sovereign with the Native Hawaiian community to address concerns related to self-government, Native Hawaiian trust resources and other Native Hawaiian rights,” Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press release announcing the policy . “A new and unprecedented policy of consultation will help support the sovereignty and self-determination of Hawaii’s Native peoples while we continue to uphold the right of self-government of the Hawaiian Native people community.”

The DOI published two draft chapters for the procedures and processes for inter-group government and sovereignty consultations, e.g. B. Producing an annual report on the consultation efforts and requiring the agency secretary to meet with members of the native Hawaiian community every two years. Organizations with a focus on Hawaiians will also be heavily involved in the process.

Issues for deliberation would affect the Hawaii Native community, such as cultural resources such as sacred lands.

The civic engagement plan is a “window of opportunity” for good, like harnessing more Indigenous knowledge to better protect the environment, or providing more internship or scholarship opportunities for Native Hawaiians, Kia’āina said.

On November 5th and December 10th, the DOI will host two virtual gatherings for the Hawaii Native community.

The policy is part of the DOI’s Executive Order 13175, issued by President Bill Clinton in 2000 to “establish regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials” in developing federal policy and strengthening intergovernmental relationships .

It is also in the “spirit” of President Joe Biden’s 2021 Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships, which aims to recognize Native American and Alaskan tribal nations as sovereign governments and strengthen their relationships.

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Kia’āina, a Honolulu City Council member, said the focus is now to shift to Native Hawaiians and she is “more optimistic than in the past” about the relationship between Native Hawaiians and the federal government.

Kia’āina said the relationship between the islands and the DOI “derived from the fall” in 1893 when a group of non-Hawaiians stormed Iolani Palace to depose Queen Liliuokalani and abolish the Hawaiian monarchy.

Unaddressed injustices due to the US occupation of Hawaii have been a source of contention, such as the military’s use of the island of Kahoolawe as a bombing ground, the disproportionate number of Indigenous Hawaiians in prisons, and current contaminated drinking water caused by the Navy.

In 2003, Clinton apologized for the fall on behalf of the United States. In 2016, under President Barack Obama, the DOI announced that it was beginning the process for a government-to-government relationship with Native Hawaiians. Kia’āina called the new policy “the next step” towards reconciliation.

“I can see now that they realize the relationship is at a level where maybe it’s not all perfect, but what’s the harm in counseling?” she said.

However, the consultation policy does not mean that dialogue on the deoccupation of Hawaii will stop: When it comes to the process of reconciliation with indigenous issues, the “complexities are very often forever,” Kia’āina said.

In 2014, the DOI held public meetings in Hawaii as part of a “listening tour” on how to move forward with a government-to-government relationship between Hawaii and U.S. citizens who are Hawaiians, not Americans, and are “opposed to that process.” ‘ when it comes to self-determination. Many urged officers to “go home.”

These meetings were “hard but necessary,” Kia’āina said.

“They felt that if they never had that kind of dialogue, they would never have gotten as far as Native Hawaiians feel,” she said, saying it was a critical moment in the “healing process” for Hawaiians. “There is still a lot to learn.”

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