House gives boost to Native Hawaiian government

Kevin Freking
AP News
2/23/2010

WASHINGTON (AP) – Congress moved closer Tuesday to allowing Native Hawaiians to establish their own government despite objections from the state’s governor.

By a vote of 245-164, the House passed a bill largely along party lines that gives Native Hawaiians the same opportunity provided to Alaska Natives and 564 Indian tribes – the chance to govern their own affairs in partnership with their state and the federal government.

It’s been 117 years since the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Hawaii’s senators and representatives say the legislation would partially make amends for the downfall.

But the legislation goes beyond securing the right to self-governance for Native Hawaiians. The reconstituted government will eventually negotiate terms for acquiring land that’s in a trust the state oversees. Those lands make up one-quarter of Hawaii’s mass and are worth billions of dollars.

“Today’s vote is a major step in the century-long effort of Native Hawaiians to reconcile the history of past injustice and move forward together for all of Hawaii,” Office of Hawaiian Affairs chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said in a statement issued in Honolulu.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle said she opposes the bill because the legislation gives the new government broad authority, with negotiations with the state to follow. In previous versions, the negotiations took place first.

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