Native Hawaiians seeuing cash reparations and the return of ancestral land in demands of the federal government strinkingly similar to those being made by Indians on the mainland were advised by Sen. James Abourezk (D-S.D.) Monday to set up a "government in exile" to decide who among them should qualify for such benefits.
Abourezk, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, made the statement in the course of three days of Senate hearings, on various islands here on bills to extend to native Hawaiians aid of the kind that is already afforded to Indians and native Alaskans.The hearings end today.
The bills mark the start of a movement to broaden Hawaiian claims for restitution based on the U.S. overthrow of the constitutional Hawaiian monarchy in 1893.
Several members of the Hawaiian community raised claims that they still consider themselves members of a sovereign nation which refuses to recognize what they called the "illegal acts leading to the coup d'etat of 1893."
"It seems to me that your idea of a self-sufficient Hawaiian nation makes a lot of sense," responded Abourezk.
There are about 150,000 Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians in this state of 900,000 residents. (On the islands, "native Hawaiians" is redundant, as only the descendants of the original Polynesian inhabitants are referred to as Hawaiians. Caucasians are referred to as "haoles.")
One Hawaiian woman, noting problems of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in defining who is a native Indian, asked who would be considered a native Hawaiian.
"What you ought to have, I guess, is a government in exile to decide who is a Hawaiian and who isn't," replied Abourezk.
Hawaii Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Spark M. Matsungaga have introduced three bills to include native Hawaiians within the provisions of the Indian Education Act, the Indian Self-Determination Act and the Indian Financing Act.
A Congressional Budge Office memo to Inouye estimated the cost of including 34,400 native Hawaiian schoolchildren within the Indian Education Act at $4 million to $10 million. The memo estimated the cost of including the total Hawaiian population within the other two Indian acts at $15 million to $20 million.
Abourezk, who made clear that his sympathies are with the native Hawaiians, questioned many speakers on whether they wished to throw their fortunes in with the Indians and the Bureau of Indian Affairs or try to set up an entirely separate bureau specifically for Hawaiians.
"The Bureau of Indian affair has done a magnificent job of destroying what was left of the American Indian and they'll do just as good a job on you," he said. "If I were you I wouldn't let them get close to you." He said he personally favored creating "another pie" divorced from the B.I.A.
The Hawaiians have already made headway in seeking reparations for land they claim the U.S. illegally seized.
The House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee last week recommended passage by the full House of a resolution to set up a Hawaiian Native Claims Settlement Study Commission. The Senate passed the joint resolution last October.
Raising an issue reminiscent of many Indian demands on the mainland, Hawaiian rights activist Herb Kawainui Kane told Abourezk the Hawaiians want the return of more than 2 million acres now administered by the state or federal government which formerly belonged to the monarchy.
"And we want back rent for 80 years at 6 percent cumulative interest," he said. The land area of all the islands in the state amounts to about 4 million acres. Beyond land reparations, said Kane, the Hawaiians want a "direct federal investment in the revival of Hawaiian culture. The gross inefficiency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs calls for a separate program for Hawaiians."
Abourezk said several American Indian organizations are afraid that including native Hawaiians within their present federal programs would decrease funds set up for their own projects.
Many speakers told Abourezk they want federal economic and educational programs channeled directly to native Hawaiians, bypassing state agencies and the BIA.
Said one Hawaiian, "I think we're a little apprenhensive of this because we don't want to wait another 200 years. Even 10 or 20 years would be too long."