Native Hawaiian Federal Recognition
Extending parity in federal recognition

"I am proud to have elevated the cause of federal recognition to the national level.  Federal recognition would simply put the state of Hawaii on equal footing with the rest of the country in the treatment of its indigenous peoples.  The people of Hawaii have waited for far too long for an opportunity to participate in a government-to-government relationship similar to that already extended to this nation's other indigenous people."



While Congress has traditionally treated Native Hawaiians in a manner similar to American Indians and Alaska Natives, the federal policy of self-governance and self-determination has not yet been formally extended to Native Hawaiians.  Senator Akaka has worked tirelessly to bring parity in the United States' treatment of its indigenous peoples - American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.

Senator Akaka remains steadfast in his efforts to protect the rights of Native Hawaiians, and will continue to work to bring parity to Native Hawaiians. On March 30, 2011, Senator Akaka reintroduced S. 675, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2011.  That same day, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono introduced H.R. 1250 as companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

On April 7, 2011, S. 675 was ordered to be reported out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, favorably and without amendment.


Click here for the text of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2011, as introduced on March 30, 2011: LINK

Click here for the the text of the Senator's press release on the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2011: LINK

Click here for a one-page document outlining the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2011: LINK

Click here for the Library of Congress THOMAS summary of S. 675: LINK

Background and History

In 1893, the Kingdom of Hawaii led by Queen Liliuokalani was illegally overthrown with the assistance of agents of the U.S. and U.S. military force.  The overthrow resulted in the disenfranchisement of generations of Native Hawaiians from their government, culture, land, and way of life.  

With the enactment of P.L. 103-150 in 1993, commonly known as the Apology Resolution, the U.S. formally apologized to the Native Hawaiians for its participation in the overthrow and formally committed itself to a process of reconciliation.

Senator Akaka has worked to ensure that the people of Hawaii are able to come together to finally address issues stemming from the overthrow and engage in meaningful reconciliation.  He has pursued legislation that would provide a structured process to do so and allow the indigenous people of Hawaii to have a government-to-government relationship with the U.S., similar to those that the nation's other indigenous people currently enjoy.  

Misconceptions of federal recognition. In his efforts to extend federal recognition to Native Hawaiians, Senator Akaka has been consistent in his intent.  Extending federal recognition to the Native Hawaiian people:

  • DOES NOT allow Hawaii to secede from the United States;
  • DOES NOT allow private lands to be taken;
  • DOES NOT authorize gaming in Hawaii; and
  • DOES NOT create a reservation in Hawaii.

Support for Native Hawaiian federal recognition

President Barack Obama supports federal recognition for Native Hawaiians.  On February 23, 2010, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement acknowledging that President Obama "looks forward to signing the bill into law and establishing a government-to-government relationship with Native Hawaiians."

In addition, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Senate Leadership on December 9, 2010, to express the Administration's "strong support" for federal recognition, writing that "of the Nation's three major indigenous groups, Native Hawaiians - unlike American Indians and Alaska Natives - are the only one that currently lacks a government-to-government relationships with the United States."

Federal recognition for Native Hawaiians is supported by Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie.  In addition, the Hawaii State Legislature adopted resolutions supporting recognition of a Native Hawaiian governing entity by the United States in 2000, 2001, and 2005.  Leaders in both chambers of the Hawaii State Legislature, including the Senate President and Speaker of the House, have also expressed strong support for federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian governing entity.  Federal recognition is also supported by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a State of Hawaii agency.

The National Congress of American Indians, the oldest and largest national Indian organization, and the Alaska Federation of Natives, the largest organization representing the Native people of Alaska, have adopted resolutions expressing their strong support for enactment of a bill to provide for recognition by the United States of a Native Hawaiian governing entity.  A number of Native Hawaiian organizations also support federal recognition for Native Hawaiians, including the Native Hawaiian Bar Association, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, the Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly, and the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs.

Constituent Services

  • Washington D.C. Office
  • Honolulu Office
  • Hilo Office

United States Senate

141 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Telephone: (202) 224-6361

Fax: (202) 224-2126


Honolulu Office

300 Ala Moana Blvd., Rm. 3-106

Box 50144

Honolulu, HI 96850

Telephone: (808) 522-8970

Fax: (808) 545-4683


Hilo Office

101 Aupuni Street, Suite 213

Hilo, HI 96720

Telephone: (808) 935-1114

Fax: (808) 935-9064