SENATOR AKAKA GIVES FINAL SPEECH TO THE NATIVE HAWAIIAN CONVENTIONWaikiki, Hawaii – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Chairman of theIndian Affairs Committee, spoke today at the annual Native HawaiianConvention at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. Senator Akaka hasspoken at every Native Hawaiian Convention since its inception in 2001,and this was his last one as a sitting U.S. Senator, as he retires inJanuary. Akaka is the first Native Hawaiian ever to serve in the U.S.Senate and third to serve in Congress.Senator Akaka’s remarks as prepared for delivery:Aloha! It is so good to be home! Mahalo for inviting me to join you atthis year’s Native Hawaiian Convention.Mahalo nui loa to Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement ChairmanAlvin Parker and President Robin Danner for their leadership inorganizing this annual convention. Mahalo nui loa to all of you, who areattending this convention in record numbers. By coming together as acommunity, to listen to different mana‘o, kūkākūkā, and holo i mua, wecan achieve this year’s convention theme: “Moving Forward—OurPeople, Our Land, Our Spirit.”I am so proud to say that I have joined you here at this convention everyyear since the beginning. As you know, after 36 years of service inCongress, I am retiring at the end of this year.Throughout my career, I have been inspired by the leaders who camebefore me. I hope to inspire the leaders who will follow. I’m proud tobe the first Native Hawaiian in the U.S. Senate, and even more proud tobe the third to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.After Hawaii was annexed to the United States of America, RobertWilcox was elected as a territorial delegate to the House in 1900. PrinceJonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole represented Hawai‘i from 1903 to 1921.
Both men had been jailed with Queen Lili‘uokalani and sentenced todeath for trying to reinstate the Queen after the illegal overthrow. Butthey didn’t give up, they used the American political system to help ourpeople. They were elected because Native Hawaiians voted and madesure we had representation in the United States Congress.In the early 1900s, these men lived in times of deep segregation in theUnited States, when Hawaii was still reeling from the aftermath of theillegal overthrow and rapid political change. Both Congressman RobertWilcox and Congressman Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole found motivationto work towards self-sufficiency for our people so that we could onceagain thrive, be productive and contribute to our families, ourcommunities, and our island home.Throughout my career in Congress I have built upon the achievements ofthese two men, and I have drawn inspiration and courage from them.Through it all, I have carried our culture and our aloha with me. I havetried to remain focused on what is pono, and set my goals around whatcan be achieved in the spirit of lōkahi.I have seen so many changes in Hawai‘i and across the country, and Ihave been amazed at the resiliency of our Native Hawaiian people, ourculture, and our language. Since I was a boy, the United States hasgrown and evolved. I have witnessed profound change in the status andtreatment of all indigenous peoples.Gone are the days when teaching our language was banned, when ourculture and traditions were deemed unimportant. We now know that ourlanguage, culture, and traditions hold incredible wisdom about how bestto live in this place we call Hawaii.This Congress, I have had the great pleasure and responsibility ofleading the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. I have focused onstrengthening the identities of Native peoples, and their ability to protecttheir homelands. I have worked with my colleagues to make sure they
understand the federal relationship with Native peoples and its origins inthe Constitution.When it was written, the broad terms Indian and tribe were used in theConstitution to mean indigenous peoples, with their diversity of uniquecultures, languages and traditions. Each with their own ways ofgoverning themselves. The consistent use of these terms Indian andtribe results in the federal government treating all federally-recognizedNative peoples equally, with the same tools to address the unique needsand priorities in their own communities.It is long past time for the Native Hawaiian people to have the samerights, the same privileges, and the same opportunities as every otherfederally-recognized Native people. That is why I am working tirelesslyto secure parity in federal policy for our people. My bill, the NativeHawaiian Government Reorganization Act, gives us full access to theprevailing federal policy on self-determination, and the ability to onceagain exercise our right to be self-governing.For more than 12 years, I have worked with our community and otherstakeholders to develop the terms of this bill.I have listened carefully to all sides, and I am determined to do what isbest for all of Hawaii, by ensuring Native Hawaiians a true avenue forreconciliation.Last month, the Indian Affairs Committee passed my amended bill,which builds upon State of Hawaii Act 195 that created the NativeHawaiian Roll Commission. The amendment removes the sections ofmy bill about creating and certifying the roll of qualified NativeHawaiian constituents, because that process is already underway here inthe islands, and streamlines my bill down to its essential parts.As Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, this version of the billrepresents my best mana‘o on how to secure the future of our people, byensuring we are afforded the same rights and opportunities as all otherfederally-recognized Native peoples—no more, no less.
I was proud to be the first person to sign up for the Kanaʻiolowaluregistry – the new roll of Native Hawaiian voters. If you haven’talready, I urge you to do the same, to participate in this incredibleprocess to re-organize our Native Hawaiian government. I’m told thereis a booth here where you can sign up, or you can visit their website. Itruly believe that as the indigenous people of Hawaii, our ability to chartour own course and define our own future will never be secure until wehave parity with all other Native peoples.My amended bill sets a proper foundation for the reorganization of aNative Hawaiian government -- which will have a government-to-government relationship with the United States and the State of Hawaii.This version of my bill is the best way forward.In these changing times, it is critical that all Native Americans -American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians - continue tostand together, and move forward together, to advance Nativesovereignty and self-determination in the United States. There isstrength in solidarity.Native self-governance leads to Native self-sufficiency, resulting in ourcontinued ability to be productive and contribute to the well-being of ourfamilies, our communities, and our great nation. It is in this spirit that Iworked to secure passage of the Apology Resolution. I will continue tofight every day I am in Congress for passage of the Native HawaiianGovernment Reorganization Act.I know I am just one in a long line working to ensure that our language,our culture, and our people continue to thrive for generations to come. Iunderstand my kuleana is to advance our rights, and to help prepare thenext generation to take up their kuleana - to advance the causes of ourpeople.I think often of our beloved Queen Lili‘uokalani, her character, and herwords. She said:
I could not turn back the time for the political change, but there is still time to save our heritage. You must remember never to cease to act because you fear you may fail.These words have guided my conduct and service over the years.Serving as your Senator has been my greatest privilege, honor, and duty.I am thankful to all the people of Hawai‘i for putting their trust in me.This voyage we are on together, advancing the cause of our people, is farfrom over.Like those who set the course before you: Grab your paddle and hoe amau. There may be rough seas along the way, but I am confident thatyou possess the ability to successfully navigate our people into thefuture.It is important to remember to live Hawaiian values, draw courage fromthose that have come before you, and focus your work on advancingself-determination and self-sufficiency. Prepare yourself, learn newskills, work hard, so you can make contributions to your community, toyour state, to your country, and to our people. Strive to extend aloha inall you do. You will find it returned to you.E ke Akua ho‘omaika‘i ia oukou. E ke Akua ho‘omaika‘i ia Hawai‘i. Eke Akua ho‘omaika‘i ia Amelika. God Bless you, God Bless Hawai‘i,and God Bless the United States of America.Me ke aloha pumehana, a hui hou.