In "Hawaii and Race" [editorial, Oct. 10], The Post said Hawaii violated the 15th Amendment in creating the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to address the needs of its indigenous people.
The 15th Amendment ensures that every American gets a measure of justice through self-determination. But for nearly a century, native Hawaiians were not allowed to share in this basic right.
Disenfranchisement of native Hawaiians--both cultural and legal--continued well into this century. In 1978, Hawaii's electorate voted to address this dismal legacy by creating the Office of Hawaiian Affairs--a trust whose only beneficiaries are native Hawaiians. The electorate also voted to allow only native Hawaiians to manage this trust and to select its leaders.
The Post challenged this election method as one based on racial bias rather than on the political status of the native people.
The Constitution allows the federal government to deal with "Indian tribes" as it deals with foreign nations--as political entities. The Post argued that the term does not apply to native Hawaiians.
True, native Hawaiians are not "Indians," but neither are native Alaskans who hold this political status. Native Hawaiians, like native Alaskans, are not "tribal." But before they were overthrown they were organized as a nation, recognized internationally and executed treaties with almost every major world power, including the United States. Like other indigenous groups, native Hawaiians have a special trust relationship with the federal government, acknowledged by more than 180 pieces of federal legislation.
As a condition of statehood, the 1959 Admissions Act required Hawaii to take responsibility for the federal government's obligations to native Hawaiians. In creating the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hawaii has carried out the federal government's covenant.
ROWENA M. N. AKANA
Office of Hawaiian Affairs