Statement of Michael B. Enzi
S. 147, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2006
June 5, 2006
Mr. President. I rise in strong opposition to S. 147, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2006.
We must celebrate racial diversity in our nation. Racial diversity defines the cultural norms and values that make
Everyday millions of Americans pledge their allegiance to our flag. They stand for the freedoms and rights guaranteed by our Constitution. One of the essential clauses of this pledge remains, “one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” A source of our strength is our diversity, and still, despite our diversity, we are melded as one Nation, under God.
When I return to
Although many citizens of this country practice and honor diverse traditions that are unique to their culture, one core similarity exists: we are all Americans. Racial diversity is important, but it should not be the rationale for the establishment of a separate sovereign government.
While I understand their desire to be granted sovereign immunity, the facts and circumstances surrounding Native Hawaiians are different. It does not make sense to waive or change the requirements that others had to meet.
Our government has never created an Indian tribe. Sovereignty has only been granted to preexisting tribes and only in special, rare circumstances after statehood.
In order to be federally recognized, a tribe must meet several criteria. A tribe must prove it existed and operated as a tribe for the past century. Additionally, the tribe must distinguish itself as a separate and distinct community both geographically and culturally. Finally, the tribe must have a preexisting political structure that is clear. Native Hawaiians do not meet these criteria.
A distinct community does not exist according to the standards outlined in the proposed legislation. Within the
During the “fall” of Queen Liliuokalani, a “Native Hawaiian” government was not present. All races coexisted under the reign of the monarchy. Non-Natives even held high positions within the government.
In 1898, at the time of annexation, there was no political effort to treat Native Hawaiians similar to Alaska Natives or Native American Tribes. The same held true when 94 percent of Hawaiians voted to become a state in 1959. Ninety-four percent of Hawaiians voted to become Americans. In fact, at that time, advocates of Hawaiian statehood emphasized the cohesive diversity, the “melting pot” nature of
In addition, in 1998, the state of
If the proposed legislation passes, the progress we have made over the past century to improve racial equality regresses. Instead of uniting the country we divide it, and some of the darkest hours of this Nation occurred when people were separated because of race. This legislation is based solely on the ideology of race.
We are all Americans, and as such, we need to be united. Although I respect the desire of Native Hawaiians to be a federally recognized sovereign nation, I strongly urge my colleagues to oppose S. 147.
I yield the floor.