Akaka Retiring: Hawaii Senator Leaving Office With Legacy Bill In Limbo
Editor's Note: This is the second of a three-part series on the retirement of longtime Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, who is three-fourths Native Hawaiian and one-fourth Chinese, introduced the first incarnation of his namesake legislation more than a decade ago. Unless something dramatic happens in coming weeks, he'll leave Congress without passing it — or even getting a straight up-or-down vote on it.
"My problem," Akaka says, "it sounds kind of weird, but the reason I cannot pass it in the Senate is I have never been able to get it on the floor. And I really believe that if I got it on the floor, I could pass it. I can't even get it to the floor!"
Akaka says the bill is an attempt to promote self-determination for Native Hawaiians and allow for government-to-government relationships between the U.S. and a Native Hawaiian entity. He also says it's a matter of equity, since Native Americans and Alaska Natives have been federally recognized, but not Native Hawaiians.
Opponents have criticized the legislation as racially driven, and Akaka responds that it's not a matter of race but of indigenous peoples who existed in a place and governed themselves before U.S. intervention.