Most Back Akaka Bill: OHA Poll

Gordon Y.K. Pang, Honolulu Advertiser, September 5, 2007

A significant majority of Hawai’i residents support federal recognition and the Akaka bill, according to a poll released yesterday by Ward Research Inc. that was paid for by the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Those polled expressed broad support for giving Hawaiians federal recognition similar to what’s granted to American Indians and Alaska Natives, the right of Hawaiians to govern themselves, the continuation of federally funded Hawaiian programs and protecting institutions such as Kamehameha Schools, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and OHA.

Support erodes to just over half, however, when there is mention of creating a new Hawaiian governing entity.

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The Ward poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 15-27. It interviewed 380 residents state-wide and carries a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent. The key results:

* Seventy percent said “yes” when asked if Hawaiians should be recognized by the United States as a “distinct indigenous group . . . similar to the recognition given to American Indians and Alaska Natives; 18 percent said “no.”

* Sixty-seven percent said “yes” when asked if Hawaiians should have a right to make decisions about their land, education, health, cultural and traditional practices, and social policies; 22 percent said no.

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* Sixty-four percent said no when asked if Native Hawaiians should not be given federal recognition because of race.

* Fifty-one percent said they agree when asked if a Hawaiian governing entity should be formed to represent Hawaiians in their dealings with the state and federal governments.

“Clearly the poll demonstrates that those who challenge the Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act do not speak for the majority of Hawai’i residents, who believe that what is good for the indigenous population, Native Hawaiians, is good for all for Hawai’i,” OHA trustees Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said in a prepared release.

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The Akaka bill would give Hawaiians even more rights than Native Americans and Alaska Natives, he said. The poll “doesn’t tell (the public) the main thing the Akaka bill does, that is to allow the creation of a separate government and giving away to that new government land, government authority, natural resources . . . civil and criminal jurisdiction,” Burgess said.

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Ikaika Hussey, of Hui Pu, an umbrella organization of Hawaiian groups that oppose federal recognition on the grounds that it doesn’t go far enough in addressing the wrongs against Hawaiians, said the debate between Akaka bill supporters and those like Burgess is too narrow.

“Self-determination includes all kinds of options, including the right to independence,” Hussey said.

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