Over the course of the past several years, members of the Native Hawaiian community, Hawaii’s congressional delegation, and state leaders have requested that the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) consider ways to further formalize the relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community.
As a result of these requests, in June of this year, DOI released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). DOI, through the ANPRM, is seeking public input on whether it should propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community. The ANPRM provides for an extensive series of public meetings and consultations to solicit comments that could help determine whether the Department develops a formal, administrative procedure for reestablishing such a relationship, and if so, what that procedure should be.
For decades, Congress has enacted more than 150 laws and statutes to establish and recognize the special political and trust relationship between the United States and Native Hawaiians, including the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, the Native Hawaiian Education Act, and the Native Hawaiian Health Care Act.
Led by former Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Congress considered, but ultimately failed to pass, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act. That Act proposed to establish a legislative process for a Native Hawaiian governing body to become federally recognized, similar to the status of other indigenous governments.
Now, the DOI is asking the public whether it should pursue an administrative rule that would enable Native Hawaiian people to reestablish a government-to-government relationship with the U.S. to more effectively protect and implement its special political and trust relationship and provide greater authority for Hawaiian self-governance. It does not establish a Native Hawaiian government – that’s for Hawaiians to decide.
As a first step, the DOI is seeking verbal and written public feedback and comment on five threshold questions to determine whether the DOI Secretary should develop an administrative rule that would provide a pathway for Native Hawaiians to reestablish a government-to-government relationship.
Just recently, DOI held a series of 15 public meetings in Hawaii to share information about this advance notice and ask communities to weigh in. As a Commissioner, I had the opportunity to listen to Native Hawaiians as they shared their opinions with the DOI and the U.S. Department of Justice officials during these meetings.
While the Hawai’i public meetings organized by the DOI have ended, there are additional public meetings now happening on the U.S. continent. Furthermore, the public can comment in writing through the guidance provided below. The DOI will continue to accept public comments until August 19. The DOI welcomes comments from all Native Hawaiians, other federally recognized indigenous communities, and the general public.
Comments can be submitted online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.Regulations.gov, or via U.S. mail, courier, or hand delivery to: Office of the Secretary, Department of the Interior, Room 7329, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240 (please use Regulation Identifier Number 1090-AB05 in your submission). For guidance on submitting effective comments, please refer to the tip sheet on Regulations.gov.
Dee Jay Mailer is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.