Reservations about Hawaiian Reservations

Indian reservations are the poorest places in America. Unemployment is high and life expectancies are low. A bizarre regulatory regime stifles economic activity and trust fund bungling by the Bureau of Indian Affairs hasn’t helped improve relations between Native Americans and the U.S. Government. You’d think lawmakers would stay far away from anything that might replicate the reservation experience. But now this:

[The Native Hawaiian recognition bill, A.K.A the Akaka Bill] would grant Native Hawaiians the same rights of self-government enjoyed by American Indians and Native Alaskans. The measure also would allow Hawaiians to form a native government.

Seems like this sort of segregation would make Hawaiian race relations, which are already rather sticky, even stickier. And at first whiff, this might smell like the concoction of some fringe movement. But the bill has widespread support, from Hawaii’s Republican governor to the state’s all-Democrat congressional delegation, which claims to have the blessings of all 44 Senate Dems. Bush has been quiet on the issue, which supporters take as a sign that he wouldn’t whip out his unused veto pen to stop the bill. And if the bill does become law it would form a separate government without a popular vote, which as this letter points out, is very different than the process that produced statehood:

Over 40 years ago, in keeping with the principle that a government should be created only with the consent of the governed, the citizens of Hawaii chose American statehood by an overwhelming margin. (Over 94 percent voted Yes to Statehood in 1959). The same choice would doubtless be made today.

Hawaii’s Grassroot Institute on this issue. Go there for updates. And if a special Hawaiians-only government is formed, I suppose we’ll have to figure out who qualifies for admission.