The Senate is
again considering the creation of a race-based government in Hawaii
through passage of the misnamed "Native Hawaiian Government
Reorganization Act of 2005"
The bill is a terrible idea for many reasons, not the least of
which is that it is flatly unconstitutional.
In addition to ignoring its grave constitutional defects, the
bill's proponents engage in a serious abuse of history to justify
government-backed racial discrimination. Hawaiian history, in fact,
rejects the idea of race-based rule. In 1959, Hawaiians voted
overwhelmingly to approve statehood without "native" Hawaiian
enclaves, showing by their numbers and their actions that they were
all American citizens, the same as any other. In other words,
regardless of what really happened in the 18th and 19th centuries,
the people of Hawaii knew their history in 1959 and they did not
want separatist enclaves in their future state. Thus, the creation
of a sovereign, race-based government would contravene this
Since the arrival
of the first Christian missionaries (many of them from New England)
in the 1820s, the racially-diverse Kingdom of Hawaii had a strong
relationship with the United States. An American was appointed as
Attorney General for the Kingdom in 1844, and King Kamehameha III's
request for American annexation in the mid-1800s predates the
eventual American annexation in 1898 by a half-century.
Congress conferred U.S. citizenship on all Hawaiians in 1900, and
after the unifying struggles during World War II, it was natural
that Hawaiians and the U.S. Congress in the 1950s would consider
making Hawaii the 50th state in the Union.
statehood debate, concerns were raised that a state with such a
large minority population might not sufficiently share the American
political culture and adopt the American way of life. In response,
Hawaiians and their advocates trumpeted the high rate of racial
integration within the state, including high rates of
intermarriage. Moreover, proponents of statehood went to great
lengths to describe the integration of races within Hawaii and to
assure Congress that Hawaiian culture most assuredly embraced the
ideals of American citizenship.
and the universality of American ideals in Hawaii carried
additional weight at the time because Alaska was also being
considered for statehood. Inuit and Eskimo enclaves still existed
within Alaska, and many of these groups lived in villages that were
isolated from other Americans, followed ancient ways of life, and
governed themselves in tribal-like structures. As a result, the
Enabling Act for the State of Alaska preserved some of these
traditional lands similarly to American Indian reservations. For
example, these Inuit lands would be exempt from taxation, and other
state and federal laws allowed the Inuit to continue traditional
hunting and fishing practices that were denied to others.
When asked whether
descendants of aboriginal Hawaiians predominantly lived apart from
other Hawaiians, advocates for statehood in the U.S. Senate
repeatedly emphasized that Hawaii was a model of integration and
assimilation for the rest of America. Senator Jon Kyl's paper for
the Republican Policy Committee, which debunks many of the bill's
historical fictions, includes a sample of those statements:
"Hawaii is America
in a microcosm - a melting pot of many racial and national origins,
from which has been produced a common nationality, a common
patriotism, a common faith in freedom and the institutions of
America." - Senator Herbert Lehman (D-NY), Congressional
Record, April 1, 1954, at 4325.
the furnace that is melting that melting pot. We are the light. We
are showing a way to the American people that true brotherhood of
man can be accomplished. We have the light, and we have the goal.
And we can show that to the peoples of the world." - Testimony
of Frank Fasi, Democratic National Committeeman for Hawaii, before
the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, June 30,
was originally inhabited by Polynesians, and its present population
contains substantial numbers of citizens of oriental ancestry, the
economy of the islands began 100 years ago to develop in the
American pattern, and the government of the islands took on an
actual American form 50 years ago. Therefore, today Hawaii is
literally an American outpost in the Pacific, completely reflecting
the American scene, with its religious variations, its cultural,
business, and agricultural customs, and its politics." -
Senator Wallace Bennett (R-UT), Congressional Record,
March 10, 1954, at 2983.
living proof that people of all races, cultures and creeds can live
together in harmony and well-being, and that democracy as advocated
by the United States has in fact afforded a solution to some of the
problems constantly plaguing the world." - Testimony of John A.
Burns, Delegate to Congress from the Territory of Hawaii, before
the Senate Committee on the Interior and Insular Affairs, April 1,
"We are not
race conscious in Hawaii at all." - Testimony of Edward N.
Sylva, Attorney General of Hawaii Territory, before the Senate
Committee on the Interior and Insular Affairs, June 30,
be no doubt at all about [Native Hawaiians and other Hawaiian
ethnic groups'] true Americanism." - Testimony of Dr. Gregg
Sinclair, President of the University of Hawaii, before the Senate
Committee on the Interior and Insular Affairs, June 30,
overwhelming majority of Hawaiians are native-born Americans; they
know no other loyalty and acclaim their citizenship as proudly as
you and I." - Testimony of Fred Seaton, Secretary of the
Interior, before the Subcommittee on Territories and Insular
Affairs of the Senate Committee on the Interior and Insular
Affairs, February 25, 1959.
"There is no
mistaking the Americans culture and philosophy that dominates the
lives of Hawaii's polyglot mixture." - Statement of Senator
Clair Engle (D-CA), Subcommittee on Territories and Insular Affairs
of the Senate Committee on the Interior and Insular Affairs,
February 25, 1959.
truly American in every aspect of its life." - Letter from
Interior Secretary Fred Seaton to Chairman James Murray dated
February 4, 1959, collected in record to Statehood for Hawaii
Hearing before the Senate Committee on the Interior and Insular
Affairs, March 5, 1959.
referendum passed with an incredible 94.3 percent of the vote.
About 95 percent of the Hawaiians who voted specifically
agreed to all the terms of the admission act. Fewer than 8,000
Hawaiians voted no on either question. Because approximately 20
percent of the population in 1959 would have qualified as "native"
under the definition in S.147, then at least three-fifths of that
group must also have voted for statehood with no separate rights
for individuals of their ancestry.
Though a small minority opposed statehood, at no point in the
statehood debate did anyone in Congress suggest that the U.S.
should treat so-called "native Hawaiians" like an Indian tribe. As
the above statements demonstrate, Hawaiians' sentiment was, in
fact, quite the opposite.
The people of
Hawaii had the opportunity to raise an issue regarding separate
rights for native Hawaiians. Not only did they fail to do so; they
went to great lengths to convey that Hawaii did not and would not
divide its people by race. That was the understanding of those in
Congress and Hawaii who voted to bring Hawaii into these United
States. Despite the distorted history of the S.147's supporters,
many Hawaiians with aboriginal ancestry still share that
understanding today. They understand that S.147 will change their
state from a "microcosm of America" to an environment that pits
race against race.
Little is a Legal Policy Analyst in, and Todd
Gaziano is Director of, the Center for Legal and
Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.