Letter of Transmittal
Advisory Committee to
the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Members of the Commission
Frances Berry, Chairperson
Cruz Reynoso, Vice Chairperson
Christopher Edley, Jr.
Yvonne Y. Lee
Russell G. Redenbaugh
Les Jin, Staff Director
Attached is a report from the Hawaii Advisory Committee based upon a community forum held August 22, 1998, to collect information on the impact of the 1993 Apology Resolution enacted to recognize the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, and subsequent meetings with Na Kupuna held September 28, 2000, and a community forum convened September 29, 2000, to collect information on concerns of Native Hawaiians and others on the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rice v. Cayetano on Native Hawaiians. All meetings were held in Honolulu, the capital of Hawai‘i. Commission Vice Chairperson Cruz Reynoso and Commission members Yvonne Y. Lee and Elsie Meeks joined the Hawaii Advisory Committee in the September 2000 effort.
The issue of Native Hawaiian sovereignty and the impact of the 1893 overthrow is complex. The passage of over 100 years and the migration of various peoples to the territory and later, the island state of Hawai‘i, has compounded the impact. What was clear from the 1998 presentations was the need for continued dialogue and a concerted effort by Native Hawaiians to outline the essential parameters of reconciliation. While this dialogue was taking place, Rice v. Cayetano was working its way through the federal court system and eventually found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rice v. Cayetano that a voting procedure allowing only Native Hawaiians to vote for members of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs violated the 15th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits race-based exclusion from voting. While the decision was lauded by some, Native Hawaiians complained that it overlooked the historical facts of what the Apology Resolution acknowledged as the illegal overthrow of their constitutional monarchy over a hundred years ago. The Rice decision has occurred during a flourishing movement for self-determination and self-governance, fueling feelings of anger and frustration within the Native Hawaiian community.
At its meeting of March 30, 2000, the Hawaii Advisory Committee determined it should conduct an open meeting on the impact of the Rice decision. Because of questions regarding equal protection and the constitutionality of purported “race-based entitlement programs” evoked by the Rice decision, the Hawaii Advisory Committee further determined that it should request involvement of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Commission decided that it would assist the Advisory Committee in obtaining information at an open session through the participation of members of the Commission.
Many participants at the open meeting voiced their opinion that the decision negates attempts to remedy past inequities and impinges efforts to assist Native Hawaiians in such areas as education, employment, and health care. Others suggested that the decision affirms constitutional guarantees for equality.
The Advisory Committee appreciates the support of Vice Chairperson Cruz Reynoso and Commissioners Yvonne Y. Lee and Elsie Meeks, who participated in this forum, and the voluntary contribution of the people of Hawai‘i, both native and non-native, who appeared before the Advisory Committee panel.
The Advisory Committee approved submission of this report to the Commission without objection. It is hoped that the report will add to the dialogue for constructive change and an equitable solution.
Charles Maxwell, Sr., Chairperson
Hawaii Advisory Committee