25 Feb 2010

US House recognition raises expectations of native Hawaiians

2:34 pm on 25 February 2010

The Akaka bill, otherwise known as the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganisation Act, has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives for a third time in over a decade.

The bill passed the House, 245 to 164, and begins the process for native Hawaiians to be federally recognised in ways similar to Alaska natives and Indian tribes.

Dave Helfert, who is a spokesperson for outgoing Hawaii Congressman Neil Abercrombie, says it is a huge victory for the congressman.

This bill he says will empower native Hawaiians to create their own government if they wish that eventually could negotiate for control of hundreds of thousands of acres of native lands.

"It recognises that they are a indigenous people. And in Hawaii this has been an issue for a long, long, time because in 1893 the U.S. overthrew the monarchy of Hawaii and it's something the U.S. government has since apologised for. This would allow the native Hawaiian people in Hawaii to form, if they choose to, a governmental entity which would then or could then have a relationship with the U.S. government and the State Governor of Hawaii."

Dave Helfert says U.S. President Barack Obama has also reaffirmed his support for the bill which now goes to the Senate.