Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Aloha Monday

Today's Honolulu Advertiser reports on the chances of the Akaka Bill being passed in the upcoming session of Congress and under the Barack Obama administration. Barack Obama has expressed strong support for the Native people of the United States. A good number of Native American law students, attorneys and tribal leaders campaigned for Obama also. Obama has also expressed support for the federal recognition of Native Hawaiians. The Advertiser article wrote, "'This is an important bill, and if it is not signed into law this year, I commit to supporting it as president,' Obama said back in January when he was campaigning. As a senator, Obama voted in 2006 to bring the bill up for a debate and vote."

The article also provides the opinions of a number of people.
  • "I am optimistic about working with President-elect Obama, who supports federal recognition and understands Hawai'i's unique history," Akaka said.
  • "I think some of the barriers that have been put up in the Senate can be overcome this time," Abercrombie said.
  • "I think that climate of opinion is such right now that this is the kind of bill that would go through," Toni-Michelle Travis said.
One thing I appreciated about this article was the description of the Akaka Bill, "The bill creates a process for reorganizing a Native Hawaiian government, including development of a roll of Native Hawaiians and election of an interim governing council."

Often times, the Bill is mis-understood as providing federal recognition itself. The Bill actually provides a process.

The Akaka Bill is interesting because it has received mixed-reviews from the Native Hawaiian community. There are very vocal opponents from both the Native Hawaiian community and the non-Native Hawaiian community who oppose the Akaka Bill for very different reasons. But, according to five former law students (all 2008 William S. Richardson graduates) federal indian law, the context for which the Akaka Bill is written, is "one of the most complex, and often confusing, ares of the law for practitioners, policymakers, students and professors. The law comprises thousands of overlapping statutes, treaties, executive ordrs, court precedents and administration regulations."

Last year, (9/4/2007) five law students who were also the returning members of the award winning Native American Moot Court team wrote a commentary for the Honolulu Advertiser titled, "Too Early to Determine Akaka Bill Impact" (click here to read article).

In February of this year (2008), these same five students captured the top awards at the annual National Native American Law Students Association's annual moot court competiton; First Place Best Legal Brief, First Place Best Oralist, Third Place Best Advocate and Second Place Best Advocate. In 2007, two of the five students won First Place in the Best Advocates category (formerly known as Best Overall) and one of those two won Second Place Best Oralist. One might assume that these students have developed a good understanding of this field of law.

These students, left-to-right are: Derek Kauanoe, Greg Kimo Schlais, Moanikeala Crowell, Anosh Yaqoob, and Scott E. Hovey.

There are very few people in Hawai'i who are substantially familiar with federal Indian law. The only law school in Hawai'i first included Federal Indian Law as a 3-credit law school course in the fall of 2005. We are currently experiencing our fourth semester of having the class. In addition to the class, participation with this particular moot court competition provides law students with an opportunity to develop their understanding of federal Indian law.

With these opportunities the students were able to study and examine federal Indian law objectively. Probably due to word count limitations, a small part of their understanding of federal Indian law is demonstrated in the article.

Late Friday night/early Saturday morning, the Honolulu Advertiser reported on what it described as the Lingle Administration's "new tack" in the ceded-lands dispute.

The so-called "new tack" is defined at the beginning of the article, "The Lingle administration will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court that Native Hawaiians do not have an ownership claim to land that belonged to the Hawaiian government prior to its overthrow in 1893."

This is an interesting position to take from an administration that has previously supported the Native Hawaiian community. We will see how things develop.

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