US Interior Department strengthening bond with Native Hawaiians with first formal consultation policy
The US Department of the Interior, for the first time in the agency’s history, will require formal consultation with the Native Hawaiian Community.
The new policies and procedures, subject to formal consultation, will further affirm and honor the special political and trust relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community, according to an Interior Department news release.
“The Interior Department is committed to working with the Native Hawaiian Community on a government-to-sovereign basis to address concerns related to self-governance, Native Hawaiian trust resources, and other Native Hawaiian rights,” Secretary Deb Haaland said. “A new and unprecedented consultation policy will help support Native Hawaiian sovereignty and self-determination as we continue to uphold the right of the Native Hawaiian Community to self-government.”
US Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, lauded the announcement saying: “This is a very big deal and a vital first step. One of the most important principles in policymaking, especially as it relates to Native communities, is: ‘Nothing about me, without me.’ This policy update recognizes that consultation with Native Hawaiians is an essential aspect of decision-making for the federal government and key to upholding its trust responsibility. We have a long way to go, but all progress starts with listening.”
The draft consultation policy and procedures seek to:
- Bolster the Interior Department’s consultation efforts to encourage early, robust, interactive, pre-decisional, informative and transparent consultation
- Require that Interior Department staff undergo training before participating in consultation
- Establish bi-annual meetings between the Secretary and Native Hawaiian Community leaders to consult on matters of mutual interest
- Clarify that the Interior Department’s decision-makers must invite Native Hawaiian community leaders to engage in consultation
- Require a record of consultation
The draft requirements help further the spirit and intent of President Joe Biden’s “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships,” which outlines his administration’s efforts to engage Indigenous communities early and often in federal decision-making.
The Office of Native Hawaiian Relations will host two virtual consultations to gather feedback from the Native Hawaiian Community on the new policy
- Nov. 10 from 9 to 11 a.m. HST and
- Dec. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. HST.
The Office of Native Hawaiian Relations discharges the Secretary’s responsibilities for matters related to Native Hawaiians and serves as a conduit for the Interior Department’s field activities in Hawaiʻi. More information is available on the office’s website.