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An Unconstitutional Act Is Back: The Return of the Native Hawaiian Sovereignty Act

Recorded on May 26, 2006

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

Senate debate on S. 147, the "Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act," has been quietly slated for the week of June 5. This Act purports to authorize the creation of a government of so-called "native" Hawaiians to exercise sovereignty over native Hawaiians living anywhere in the United States. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that this approach is unconstitutional. Yet, proponents believe they can avoid this ruling by declaring the descendants of "aboriginal" Hawaiians an American Indian tribe - going so far as to allow for the election of an "interim government" of this alleged "tribe" and recognizing the sovereignty and privileges and immunities that the new government establishes for its "tribal members."

Does the 14th Amendment permit the creation of an exclusively race-based government? Would such a race-based government kill the "aloha" of an integrated and blended Hawaiian culture? Would it set a good precedent if Congress could create race-based governments and exempt them from the United States Constitution? Is S. 147 the answer to supposed 19th Century wrongs or did the citizens of Hawaii make the right decision in 1959 when they voted overwhelmingly for statehood without a separate government for "native" Hawaiians? Join us as our featured speakers address these serious constitutional concerns and other key issues surrounding this effort.