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Native Hawaiian Sovereignty Act: A Step Toward Secession?

Recorded on August 30, 2005

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

Senate debate begins soon on S. 147, the "Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act," that 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."

Our distinguished panel will address the serious constitutional concerns and other key issues surrounding this effort. Can Congress simply declare the descendents of aboriginal Hawaiians, living anywhere, an American Indian tribe? 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?

PROFESSOR JOHNSON has a long and very distinguished career as a scholar of Hawaiian language and literature, researching ancient Hawaiian and Polynesian knowledge of astronomy and geography as well as ancient cultural practices. Her original translation of the Kumulipo, the oral history of the ancient Hawaiian people, won high acclaim. In 1983 she was named a "Living Treasure of Hawaii."

LARRY P. ARNN is President of Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. He is the author of Liberty
and Learning: The Evolution of American Education (2004). He is on the Board of Trustees of The Heritage Foundation, The Henry Salvatori Center of Claremont McKenna College, The Center for Individual Rights and The Claremont Institute.

JOHN FUND is one of the nation's top political pundits. His editorials and articles can be found regularly in the
Wall Street Journal where he is an editorial board member, writer, and former deputy editor. He is a contributing analyst to Fox News and CNBC, the 24 hour news cable channels. His articles have also appeared in Esquire, New Republic, National Review, and American Spectator.