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Obama Administration Considering Hawaiian Trust Relationship

June 18, 2014, 6:52 PM HST (Updated June 19, 2014, 9:31 AM)
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The US Department of Interior today announced the first step in the process of a possible “government-to-government” relationship between the United States and the native Hawaiian community.

The Obama administration said the process of proposed rule-making includes holding community meetings to gather input on the issue.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said the process was begun in response to requests from native Hawaiians and state and local leaders.

“When I met with members of the native Hawaiian community last year during my visit to the state, I learned first-hand about Hawaii’s unique history and the importance of the special trust relationship that exists between the federal government and the native Hawaiian community,” Jewell said in a statement.

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Jewell said the action will “begin a conversation of diverse voices to help determine the best path forward for honoring the trust relationship that Congress has created specifically to benefit native Hawaiians.”

The effort would build on the more than 150 laws that have been passed to recognize the trust relationship with the native Hawaiian community, including the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, the Native Hawaiian Education Act, and the Native Hawaiian Health Care Act.

The public meetings, scheduled from June 23 through July 8 in Hawaii, will give the public an opportunity to respond to five questions:

  1. Should the secretary of the interior propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the native Hawaiian community?
  2. Should the secretary assist the native Hawaiian community in reorganizing its government, with which the United States could reestablish a government-to-government relationship?
  3. If so, what process should be established for drafting and ratifying a reorganized native Hawaiian government’s constitution or other governing document?
  4. Should the secretary instead rely on the reorganization of a native Hawaiian government through a process established by the native Hawaiian community and facilitated by the State of Hawaii, to the extent such a process is consistent with Federal law?
  5. If so, what conditions should the secretary establish as prerequisites to Federal acknowledgment of a government-to-government relationship with the reorganized native Hawaiian government?
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Big Island meetings are scheduled in Hilo on Wednesday, July 2, from 6-9 p.m. at the Keaukaha Elementary School; in Waimea on Thursday, July 3, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Waimea Community Center; and in Kona on July 3 from 6-9 p.m. at Kealakehe High School.

Meetings will also be held on the mainland to allow Indian communities an opportunity to comment on the process.

Comments can also be submitted online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.Regulations.gov beginning later this week, 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 (use Regulation Identifier Number 1090-AB05 in the message).

The public will have 60 days from Thursday’s publication of the notice of rulemaking in the Federal Register to provide comments on the action.

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