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Watchdog group’s comments note that Department’s proposed rule is potentially divisive

HONOLULU, HAWAII–July 9, 2015–In official comments submitted to the Department of Interior (DOI), the Grassroot Institute has highlighted some of the problems in the DOI’s proposed rule regarding the Hawaiian Home Lands, noting that the rule is divisive and flies in the face of the wishes of the Native Hawaiian community. In addition, Grassroot posited that the current system has failed to further economic prosperity of Native Hawaiians, and proposed that the federal government move towards a system that would give leaseholders a private stake in their land.

The proposed rule, which is related to Land Exchange Procedures and Procedures to Amend the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, includes a provision that would allow the DOI to promote “political, cultural, and social reorganization,” as part of the “rehabilitation” of Native Hawaiians envisioned by the HHCA. In its comments, the Grassroot Institute takes exception to that interpretation, pointing out that it not only exceeds the power of the agency, but also ignores the clearly expressed wishes of the Native Hawaiian people, who testified strongly against federal involvement during DOI hearings on a separate proposed rule in 2014.

“Congress and Department of Interior officials have both made it clear that political reorganization of Native Hawaiians is outside of the Department’s authority,” the comments state. “On multiple occasions Congress has considered legislation that would create a path for the political organization of Native Hawaiians, an unequivocal indication that Congress has reserved to itself the power to establish a Native Hawaiian tribal entity.”

The Grassroot Institute goes on to point out that pursuing political, social, or cultural reorganization of Native Hawaiians not only infringes upon the dignity of the Native Hawaiian people and culture, but is likely to create division within that community.

In addition, Grassroot urges the Department to seek out a more effective path to prosperity for Native Hawaiians than the perpetual dependence fostered by the leasehold system. In order to best serve the interests of Native Hawaiians, the Department should,”consider a path that would convert HHCA leaseholders into outright owners of their property.”

“The Grassroot Institute strongly favors efforts to increase the health, happiness, and prosperity of Native Hawaiians, and of all citizens of our state,” said Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., President of the Grassroot Institute. “While greater accountability and efficiency in the governance of the Hawaiian Home Lands is necessary, we cannot endorse this kind of federal intrusion and overreach. The Native Hawaiian people have made it clear that they do not want the DOI ‘reorganizing’ them, and to do otherwise would be divisive and harmful to their interests.”

The Grassroot Institute comments can be read in full at: http://new.grassrootinstitute.org/2015/07/grassroot-comment-on-proposed-doi-rule-to-amend-the-hawaiian-homes-commission-act/