From Native Hawaiian to Native American?
Originally appeared in the Hawai'i Island Journal, Native Americas Journal and Indian Country Today.

As the Akaka Bill drives forward in Congress, Hawaiian voices are urging a closer look.
by Anne Keala Kelly

Just days after the U.S. Senate web site posted yet another draft of the Akaka Bill (6 and counting) dated June 27th, the handful of Hawaiians who had access to its location got the clearest sense of what federal recognition legislation actually boils down to.

A bill that, in its initial form, gave some autonomy to Hawaiians has at last been stripped down to mean total control will belong to the Department of the Interior and a select few Hawaiians. Many Hawaiians still don't understand the process of federal recognition despite four years of questions, disagreements, and an apparent lack of support for the bill outside of the homesteads. And presently, homesteaders are the only members of the Hawaiian community being targeted for "education" about the bill by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA).

The legislation, as written, sets up a "Hawaiian governing entity" that takes its orders from the Department of Interior (DOI), the secretary of which changes with each new administration. At present, the DOI is being sued by American Indians who allege that they were robbed of billions of dollars throughout the 20th century; that agency is responsible for holding Indian land assets in trust. Although they have been ordered twice by a federal court to come up with a full accounting of those assets, the DOI appears to have misplaced the records.

The Akaka Bill also sets into motion a land claims settlement that some say will extinguish Hawaiian rights and claims to the crown and government lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom, referred to as "ceded lands."

The questions surrounding the bill have consistently remained the same: What does it mean to become a "Native American?" Does federal recognition address the present day issues Hawaiians are faced with as a people: desecration of sacred sites, the out-migration of Hawaiians because they cannot afford the jacked-up cost-of-living that comes with being "American" in Hawai'i, and the short walk from the neighborhood block to the cell block taken by so many young Hawaiian men and women.

Then there are historical issues like the dismemberment of an independent nation state known as the Hawaiian Kingdom. The list could go on, and the questions outnumber the answers.
During the July 4th holiday week, Senator Daniel Inouye met with Governor Linda Lingle and the board of the CNHA in Honolulu to reaffirm their commitment to push this bill through before the Senate goes into recess in August. And the trustees at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) will have made another trip to Capitol Hill by the beginning of August, the third such trip taken by almost every trustee since May.

With so much riding on whether or not Hawaiian people undergo the conversion from Native Hawaiian to Native American, one would think that the Hawaiian leaders and elected politicians in Washington D.C. might slow down the race to pass this thing long enough for Hawaiians to actually read it. But that doesn't appear likely.

"Ninety-nine percent of Hawaiians don't know what's in this most recent draft of the bill," said Haunani-Kay Trask, a professor at the Center for Hawaiian Studies, UH-Manoa. "Structurally, the whole point of self-determination means that the Hawaiian people determine their future. They don't allow the feds or the state to determine it - that would be state determination, not self-determination. Our people are so colonized, though, 27 military bases, six million tourists a year . . . that'll change your thinking."

OHA is the only Hawai'i state agency with an office in Washington D.C., which Trask believes was the plan all along. "They're gearing up to federalize themselves. What they are doing isn't representative of democracy - this isn't a Hawaiian agency, it's a state agency becoming a federal puppet."

With so much confusion over the details of the actual legislation, many find the lack of restraint on the part of legislators and OHA trustees to be alarming. Combine that with the few community meetings being staged to sell this legislation only to homesteaders, and Hawaiians as a people begin to take on the appearance of steers being herded to the slaughterhouse.

The CNHA and the State Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations (SCHHA-pronounced shaw) only held two poorly publicized meetings on Oahu. And at those meetings, which lasted two hours, they used a thick reference booklet called "Lawsuits & Legislation: The Arakaki Suit & Akaka Bill Explained," and a power point presentation. The presentation is also found in the booklet and is itself confusing, with odd statements like: " 'Indian' is a legal term for U.S. Indigenous or Native - It does not describe a cultural affiliation or people - It is a term of art - Even Indians are not Indians!'"

Most "American" Indians do not call themselves Native Americans. Sherman Alexi, renowned writer and filmmaker, has expressed that sentiment a number of times, saying he regards the term "Native American" as "a product of liberal white guilt."

Didi Lee Kwai, elementary school teacher and homesteader in Papakolea, attended one of the two meetings on Oahu and was disappointed in the presentation. "One problem was that they didn't allow a chance to ask questions," said Kwai. "People talk about the plenary power of Congress over Hawaiians that this bill gives, but what the hell is that? They are not giving us all the information - we don't hear the real consequences, and that is that we are giving up a nation." Kwai adds, "The real question is what do they [the United States] want? OHA's commercials talk about what Hawaiians will lose, but they never talk about what America wants to get out of this."

Kwai, who said she is selling her homestead, went on to say, "Just common sense based on the history of the U.S. and the way they break treaties, like they did with the Hawaiian Kingdom, means Hawaiians should not trust the U.S. If they say we have to buy the homestead land fee simple, how many can afford that? I can't."

Also slipped into the CNHA booklet is another booklet called the "CNHA Policy Brief: The Economic Impact of Native Hawaiian Federal Recognition." It manages to detail terrifying threats that have been brandished like guns since the U.S. Supreme Court's Rice v. Cayetano decision of February 2000, allowing non-Hawaiians to vote for OHA trustees.

The booklet asserts that without federal recognition it is likely that the Arakaki lawsuit, which challenges the validity of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act as race-based, will succeed, which would supposedly put an end to OHA and the Hawaiian homesteads. The booklet says that in the event of a victory for Arakaki, "homesteaders will face eviction . . . programs that benefit scores of organizations and thousands of individual Native Hawaiians will be eliminated." It then lists nine state and non-profit organizations that receive federal grants adding up to over $59 million per year.

In a nutshell, page two of the CNHA Policy Brief lays out the specifics used by state agencies like OHA and SCHHA to push the Akaka Bill. The logic they invoke, however, requires that Hawaiians must literally surrender all of their claims for the bargain basement price of $59 million, give or take a few million. And that's with no assurance that the federal obligations to Hawaiians will be maintained.

The fact remains that nowhere in this or any other version of the Akaka Bill is any one Native Hawaiian entitlement protected. In other words, right now, before any legislation is passed, before any lawsuits are adjudicated, Hawaiians have: some federal dollars out there, some say the only legitimate claim to land in Hawai'i, and their legal, cultural, and political identity not as Native Americans, but as Native Hawaiians, which itself defines more accurately their historical reality.

Referring to Section 7 of the bill, instructing the creation of a roll, Kekuni Blaisdell, independence advocate, said, "A roll is a term used in Indian Country. To me this newest draft of the bill puts us in the state of federal Indian ward-ship and makes it clear that we are wards of the United States. This means that we ultimately lose all title of our lands to the United States."

Mililani Trask, member of the United Nations' Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, specifically calls into question the process OHA has used with this bill and new changes in the wording. "First of all, our people have not had hearings," said Trask. "And the newest draft has narrowed the definition of Hawaiian. Where it once allowed for all Hawaiians, it now states that you must show your qualification in three different criteria and the only Hawaiians who could do that with ease are Hawaiian homesteaders."

Specifically, Trask is referring to Section 3 Part 7 of the bill, requiring Hawaiians to prove their lineage via 19th century Hawaiian Kingdom records and 1920 homestead eligibility. Trask's concerns include the absence of anything in the bill that allows for a process of appeals, and its manner of empowering the federal government to choose the process.

"In the first bill, native genealogists certified the roll; in this bill, it says adults will certify it, but it doesn't say who," said Trask. "At this time, there are only a handful of Hawaiians who are in receipt of state and federal funds. And they are the service agencies and organizations that are all members of CNHA. So, only those with the funding are going to be able to organize."

An example of what Trask and others are talking about is the current effort being made by the SCHHA and CNHA. Between those two non-profits and the Hawai'i State Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL), some Hawaiians see the way trust money is changing hands as highly questionable.

When the Chair of the CNHA, Ray Soon, was still the Director of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL), he initiated the transfer of $150,000 of trust assets to SCHHA. Micah Kane, a leading Republican who played a key role in Linda Lingle's gubernatorial campaign, completed the transfer when he became the DHHL director. Once transferred, the money was allocated to lobby for the Akaka Bill. SCHHA then hired the CNHA to put together a plan. So the money literally went from Soon's old job to his new job. Robin Danner, president of the CNHA and the Vice Chair of SCHHA, was also on both the giving and receiving end.

The distrust many Hawaiians have for state agencies like OHA and DHHL, and monolithic non-profits such as the CNHA, stems in part from this mode of shifting Hawaiian money. More recently, questions have arisen regarding Danner, who appeared on the Hawaiian political scene about four years ago after she moved from Alaska to Kauai. Although she is Hawaiian, she lived much of her life in Alaska and worked with Alaska Natives in the Arctic region who, along with the oil industry, have been lobbying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.

The Alaska connection to Native Hawaiian specific policies and law making in Washington D.C. is an area of analysis just beginning to happen in the Hawaiian community. More often than not, the dog that wags the federal tail that creates legislation pertaining to Hawaiians is shielded by distance and political/legal double-speak. But given the confusion over who is doing what and why, a genealogical sense of how Alaska State interests are connected directly to the Hawaiian predicament and the push to federally recognize Hawaiians may be helpful.

The Akaka Bill, which has undergone more facelifts than Cher, has recently reportedly been renamed the Akaka /Stevens bill. A Republican from Alaska, Senator Ted Stevens is a longtime friend of Senator Inouye, and the one responsible for every congressional initiative to open drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He helped usher in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), which divided all Alaska Natives into two groups: those who have corporate relationships with the oil industry and those who do not. Some Alaska Natives now have money, but most have very little, and in addition, they lost their hunting and gathering rights in many areas of Alaska. ANCSA did for, or rather, to, the Alaska Natives what the Akaka Bill promises to do: extinguish all native title to land.

Why bring any of this up now? Because Alaska oil dollars made their way into the Hawaiian community as financial support for the CNHA's efforts to lobby for the Akaka Bill. Last September, some of that money was used to pay for the CNHA's "1st Annual Native Hawaiian" conference in Waikiki, a gathering which itself became a lobbying effort for the Akaka Bill.

Between all the members of CNHA, that organization controls virtually all of the Native Hawaiian federal dollars that flow to Hawaiian non-profits. So, the force with which CNHA, SCHHA, and OHA have pushed for this bill has come under criticism in the Hawaiian community as being nothing more than a handful of well-established Hawaiians preserving their own bank accounts over the well-being of all Hawaiians.

Asked what he thinks Hawaiians should do in response to the bill, Blaisdell said, "Hawaiians have to denounce and reject this for what it really is. It's locking us into chains forever, and our descendants after us - we have no right to do it. Our colonial history is just a brief moment in the long course of our existence that reaches across the Pacific Ocean."
Noenoe Silva, Asst. Professor of Political Science, UH Manoa, echoes what Blaisdell said. "I read what Clyde Namu'o said in the OHA paper ["… Hawaiians find ourselves at a historic crossroads, with our very existence hanging in the balance." June 2003]. He is suggesting that our identity as a nation is threatened, but it would take more than a few lawsuits to extinguish that. The Turks occupied Greece for 400 years and do the Greeks think of themselves as Turks? Of course not."

Best known for recovering the anti-annexation Ku'e Petitions of 1897 - signed by more than 20,000 Hawaiians - and publishing them in 1998, an act of scholarship that literally changed the way Hawaiians view themselves historically, Silva doesn't see how Hawaiians can have self-determination in this situation.

"Is any American legislation worth giving up title to our land? Through this process, the U.S. is hoping to extinguish our title, but even if they succeed, Hawaiians will fight." Silva adds, "If we lose that, we lose everything. I understand that we need funding for education and healthcare, but we can use our land to generate our own funding. We must take care of our 'aina."

The recent leak of a "confidential" document from OHA suggests that there may be justification for the scores of Hawaiians who say that they do not trust OHA. Dated March 11, 2003, the "Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Public Land Trust," was chaired by Boyd P. Mossman and included Rowena Akana, Dante Carpenter, Linda Dela Cruz, Colette Machado, Oswald Stender, and John Waihe'e IV.

In this document lies some of the most clear evidence of OHA's intent, that being to negotiate a "global" land settlement that would "likely entail a full and final resolution of all claims which could be made on behalf of Native Hawaiians." Number 10 of the Recommendations states: "A new inventory of ceded lands is not recommended because of cost and time. There is enough information available to provide a reasoned decision for purposes of negotiations." This despite the contentious legal and political arguments over the state having failed to keep accurate accounts of the crown and government lands that are now referred to as ceded lands.

The lack of the state's adherence to their fiduciary responsibilities to the Hawaiian people on the matter of the ceded lands is similar to that of the Department of Interior's rip-off of assets belonging to the American Indians. And given that OHA believes a new inventory is unnecessary, it's surprising that they gave $1.5 million last year to the Center for Hawaiian Studies, UH-Manoa, to conduct a survey of the ceded lands.
A member of Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific, Terri Napua Keko'olani, plainly expresses what many Hawaiians feel about their political situation. "All we got is ea, and that is our sovereignty."

Whether federal recognition holds any protections for Hawaiian sites and Hawaiian people may be determined in the near future. The transformation of Hawaiian identity, political or otherwise, however, itself calls into question the meaning of being Hawaiian and the meaning of being American. The stark lines that divide "us" from "them" seem to be invisible to non-Hawaiians, but are indelibly carved into the collective consciousness of the Hawaiian people. Given that the decisions about how Hawaiians will live in their own homeland are being decided in Washington D.C., all Hawaiians, from the bed of their birth to that of their death, have something vastly sad and tragic and completely unacceptable in common with their last reigning queen. Will Hawaiians accept the unacceptable . . . again?

Anne Keala Kelly is a writer and filmmaker who lives in Kaneohe, Oahu.

Inside the "Akaka Bill" S. 344, the bill expressing the policy of the United States regarding the United State's relationship with Native Hawaiians and providing a process for the recognition by the U.S. of a Native Hawaiian governing entity, is known as the Akaka Bill.

Native Hawaiians currently face a significant legal paradox. When Hawai'i became a U.S. territory, it was by a unilateral act of Congress, not by purchase, treaty, conquest or consent. In light of this historic fact, many Hawaiian groups, in the 104 years that have passed since annexation, have advocated for self-determination and some form of independence from the United States. Self-determination became more elusive when, in 1959, Hawai'i became the 50th state of the U.S.

The Akaka Bill was introduced in Congress with a sense of urgency following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rice v. Cayetano, which struck down the Hawaiian-only voting restriction in elections for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). One of Rice's arguments was that since there are no tribes in Hawai'i, the voting restriction is purely race-based and subject to scrutiny under the provisions of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The Akaka Bill, written using the context of federal Indian law, was primarily meant to provide protection from constitutional challenges of Native Hawaiian rights and programs and establish a government-to-government relationship between Native Hawaiians and the United States.

The bill is supported by the Lingle administration, Senators Inouye and Akaka, Representatives Case and Abercrombie; OHA and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL); and a host of Hawaiian leaders and organizations.

However, as the popular bill moved through various transformations, draft by draft, it was closely watched by Hawaiian legal scholars, activists and prominent spokespeople who began to wonder if the Akaka Bill would actually live up to its promise. And so a debate began to rage over the specific provisions of the bill and what it would really mean for the future of the Hawaiians it was meant to protect.

One of the most fundamental questions is whether the Hawaiian right to self-determination will be furthered, or further extinguished, by the language of the Akaka Bill. One of the growing chorus of voices urging a closer look at the bill before rushing to passage is Hawaiian journalist Anne Keala Kelly, who offers Journal readers her perspective on the current situation.

for more information click here ... Stop the Akaka Bill

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Don’t Be Misled !!

• Who’s behind the CNHA and what do they really want?

• Why is CNHA plotting to engineer a Native Hawaiian governing entity?

• Do you honestly think Native Alaskan Corporations are helping to pay for this just because they like you?

• Why does the CNHA want you to be a ward of the US government as are federal prisoners and “recognized” Native Americans ?

• Why is the CNHA setting you up to relinquish your native rights and resources ?

Don’t Be Fooled !!

Did your ancestors raise kalo or corn ?



Now that support for US federal recognition of Native Hawaiians is collapsing in Hawai'i , the issue of what the Council For Native Hawaiian Advancement really is and just who Robin and Jade Danner are has attracted both regional and national media attention.

“Natives, Senators and Oil, The connections between drilling in the ANWR and the Native Hawaiian Federal Recognition Bill,” by Anne Keala Kelly, was published as a cover story in the October 16 th issue of Hawai'i Island Journal. The story garnered much attention, both in Hawai'i and elsewhere.

The article exposes the fact that money was paid by Arctic Power to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement's President and CEO, Robin Danner, and her sister Jade, to interfere directly with Native Hawaiian political process and dissuade Hawaiians from supporting the Gwich'in people who are trying to keep oil exploration out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It also explains how an Alaska Native Corporation that is dependent on the oil industry has given money to the CNHA that has gone to lobbying efforts for the Akaka Bill.

Recently, “Natives, Senators and Oil” has been published in the fall issue of Native Americas, a highly influential national natives people's publication.

In addition, Indian Country Today , a premier and respected national newsweekly is serializing the article over four weeks starting with their December 17 th issue.

Both publications are showcasing the article as a cover story.

Many, many investigative websites are now picking the article up and posting it for the world to see. You will find the article, in its entirety on this website.

If you're interested in viewing the documents cited in the article, visit Here you will see the signed contracts, invoices, etc.

Demands for a US federal investigation into the finances and funding of the CNHA has already begun based on what has been revealed so far.


Compromising Native Hawaiian Assets

Compromising Native Hawaiian Ancestors

Controlling Native Hawaiian Assets

Corrupting Native Hawaiian Assets

Confounding Native Hawaiian Aspirations

Condemning Native Hawaiian Autonomy

Natives, Senators and Oil, The connections between drilling in the ANWR and the Native Hawaiian Federal Recognition Bill

The Alaska–Hawaii Connection

How Inupiat, Gwich'in, and Native Hawaiian Power Bases
Impact Both ANWR and Native Hawaiian Federal Recognition

By Anne Keala Kelly/ Native Americas Journal


Just hours before the war in Iraq officially began on March 19, the Boxer Amendment stripped a provision from the budget bill that would have allowed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). So close was the race that Vice President Cheney went up to the hill in anticipation of casting the tie-breaking vote. But what had been a tense, one vote race, turned into a 52 to 48 victory for the environmentalists at the eleventh hour, disappointing oil industry advocates who have poured millions into lobbying Congress to open the Refuge.

Had the President announced the beginning of the war the day before, it's still unlikely the amendment would have succeeded. An identical provision in the House version of the bill failed on April 11, 247 to 175, leaving incentives in the bill for oil companies who want to drill in the Refuge. Presently, the full Senate is deliberating S.14, a bill that contains The Native American Energy Development and Self-Determination Act of 2003, a section of which waives the federal government's liability for regulating agreements between tribes and energy companies. As the Senate continues to deliberate President Bush's energy policies, and debates about the value of oil ensue, it will become increasingly difficult to keep drilling out of the Refuge. Advocates are likely to position themselves around any of a number of valid questions, such as how can we justify risking American lives in the Middle East to secure that region's oil reserves without being willing to drill the wells dry in our own back yard?

This story is about that untapped oil at the top of the world and its connection to the little known Native Hawaiian Federal Recognition Bill, referred to as the Akaka Bill. It's a peak behind the curtain of how the Alaska oil industry's efforts have secretly stepped into the Hawaiian community to secure Senator Akaka's support for drilling in the Refuge. And it's about how a multi-national Alaska Native corporation, flush with oil money and tied to Senator Akaka, has tried to convince the Hawaiian people to simultaneously oppose the Gwich'in people, who are fighting to keep drilling out of the Refuge, and accept the Akaka Bill.

That bill could ultimately leave the Hawaiians as politically powerless as the Gwich'in, whose political status is “Indigenous,” a legal term used in this case to define Aboriginal peoples who are nationals of the country they are surrounded by. As a federally recognized tribe, the Gwich'in are subject to the plenary powers of Congress. The United States ' classification of Hawaiians and how that would affect their political future is part of the debate over federal recognition legislation that seeks to define them as “Native Americans.” Among Hawaiians who oppose the bill, such a definition is viewed as an attempt to extinguish the dual political status Hawaiians have as Aboriginal people and citizens of an occupied, independent nation state that was illegally annexed by the U.S. in 1898.

Connections between what is happening with the Gwich'in people, and what may happen with Hawaiians should they choose to go the way of federal recognition, don't end with the plenary powers of Congress or Senator Akaka's vote on drilling. Hawaiians and Gwich'in actually have another critical link in common: that being how Alaska 's oil industry has, via the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, influenced Hawaiian politics on the issue of the Akaka Bill. The answer to why this connects the Gwich'in struggle to keep drilling out of the Refuge, with Hawaiian debates over the Akaka Bill, is manifesting itself in the form of who has power over federal dollars for Hawaiians and who is pressuring them to accept federal recognition.


Three years ago, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement was organized to help nonprofits that provide Hawaiian social services apply for or keep federal funding. This range of nonprofits manages or assists in healthcare, housing, education and cultural programs. Robin Danner, a Native Hawaiian who, at 36, moved home to Kauai four years ago and became a part of the Hawaiian political scene, led the way to assemble the Council. After living 25 years in Alaska with her parents and brothers and sisters, she brought a working knowledge of how Alaska Natives have navigated the path to Native corporate and nonprofit federal contracts. For Hawaiian nonprofits, generally seen as organizations that live off of federal fat, her experience in banking and her skills in applying for and receiving federal dollars, was a welcome boost to their beleaguered situation.

Once established, the Council quickly came to include nonprofit powerhouses who handle most of the millions of federal dollars earmarked for Native Hawaiians. It also includes CEOs and trustees from Native Hawaiian trusts like Kamehameha Schools (formerly known as Bishop Estates), and the Queen Lili'uokalani Trust. Since its inception, the Council has become part of the status quo, serving as facilitator of the prestigious Administration for Native Americans Project, a federal contract which is worth $1.2 million, and directed by Robin's younger sister, Jade. The Council has also received a pledge of $100,000 from Bank of Hawaii and other institutional support, including $100,000 from the Inupiat-owned Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.

The need for an organization like the Council became apparent in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2000 decision in Rice v. Cayetano. That ruling used the 14th and 15th Amendments to invalidate Hawaiian-only voting in elections to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a Hawaii state agency that fronts as representative of the Hawaiian people. It was the first time the 15th Amendment was used to protect the rights of a white man, Freddie Rice. Since then, funding and tax breaks given to Hawaiian nonprofits and trusts have come under legal attack as unlawful, race-based benefits. So, it made sense to put groups working on specific Hawaiian issues together so they could apply for federal grants collectively.

Lesser-known, less well-connected nonprofits looking for funding have joined or considered joining the Council, hoping to team up with other nonprofits. “My first impression of Robin Danner was that she was very cordial and had honorable intentions,” said Patrick Kahawaiolaa, President of Keaukaha Community Association, a Hawaiian Homestead organization. “It was about a year-and-a-half ago and she held a workshop to talk about the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement's goals, and technical assistance for communities hoping to get federal grants. She seemed like a very astute businesswoman who was there to help people.”

What has emerged as the Council's most pressing concern, however, is not what many Hawaiian nonprofit organizers were expecting. In September 2002, the Council's 1st Annual Native Hawaiian Conference took place at the Sheraton Waikiki. With video taped messages from the Hawaii Congressional delegation that were shown daily, the gathering took the shape of a rallying cry for the Akaka Bill. “I went to the conference to gather information and see about grant writing,” said Kahawaiolaa. “But we were being lobbied to get going and push the Akaka Bill. Every day on the big screen here came Inouye and [Congressman] Abercrombie and God rest her soul [Congresswoman] Mink. Akaka even made a personal appearance and said, ‘We gotta do this and you're wrong if you don't support this bill.'”

The Council held its second gathering in Waikiki in August 2003. This time the congressional giant himself, Senator Daniel Inouye, addressed several hundred Hawaiians in person, assuring them that there now exists a “rare demonstration of unity” between Hawaii state, local, and federal lawmakers on the matter of federal recognition. Inouye then went on to urge Hawaiians to do the same and unite behind this bill.

CEO and President of the Council, Robin Danner proved her ability to gain the cooperation of influential politicians and financial institutions in a very short time. In July of 2001, more than a year before the Council hosted its first annual convention for Hawaiians, it held the “1st Annual Native Hawaiian-Alaska Native Summit.” Funded by Bank of Hawaii, First Hawaiian Bank, American Savings Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, and others, it was an invitation-only gathering with the stated purpose of discussing common issues of managing Native trusts, foundations, and service agencies.

The participants at the summit were senior members of the United States Congress. Keynote speakers included Senators Inouye and Akaka; other speakers were then Senator, now Governor of Alaska, Frank Murkowski (who last January appointed his daughter to take over the two remaining years of his senate term); Representatives Mink and Abercrombie; Alaska Representative Don Young; and Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who sent his message via videotape. Senator Stevens, who as pro tempore is third in line to the presidency of the United States , has put his name to the Hawaiian Federal Recognition Bill, which was re-dubbed the Akaka-Stevens Bill in June of this year.

Although Hawaiians are not organized into villages and corporations like the 138 Alaska Native villages and 13 Alaska Native Corporations that comprise the Alaska Federation of Natives, the network of Hawaiian nonprofits in the Council For Native Hawaiian Advancement is a close imitation. But the Council is either intentionally or unwittingly also mimicking the federation's interest in Alaskan oil and federal control.


It's understood within the Hawaiian community that Robin and her sister Jade have in the past two years become prominent in the discourse around Hawaiian federal recognition. People take note that their ties to the Inupiat Eskimos come from being a part of that community for many years, that they have relatives, including nieces and nephews, who are of Inupiat ancestry and reside in Barrow, Alaska.

The financial support for the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement from the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation was not unusual all by itself. Different Hawaiian groups maintain cultural and political relationships with numerous American Indian tribes and Alaska Native corporations. So, the money from Arctic Slope Regional Corporation to the Council was seen by most Hawaiians as generosity between Native communities and support for Robin Danner from her friends in the great white north.

What was not made public was the business arrangement between a company called Danner and Associates, with which both Robin and Jade Danner are affiliated, and an Alaska State nonprofit group called Arctic Power. Arctic Power is a joint lobbying effort that receives millions from the state of Alaska . It is also funded in part by numerous corporations and organizations with interests in Alaska 's oil industry, including the Teamsters and oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corporation.

When asked about her role in Danner and Associates, Robin Danner said, “We have a number of sibling based initiatives, I am active in real estate.” She stated further in an email, “I don't have an ownership interest in it [Danner and Associates], I don't manage it, I've never been paid by it, I've never done any work for it—I can't really tell you much more than that.”

However, based on a signed contract between Danner and Associates and Arctic Power, and an invoice signed by Robin Danner, there is a relationship between Robin Danner, Danner and Associates, and Arctic Power that dates back at least to February 2002.


“My personal position on ANWR is to support the Inupiat People and their right to self determination—WHATEVER it is. For me, it doesn't matter if they oppose or support ANWR or oil. What matters is that their Native voice is important above all others on this one issue.” Robin Danner, January 2003.

Inupiat-owned Arctic Slope Regional Corporation owns 5 million acres of land, including the Alpine oil field, which is the tenth largest producing oil field in America . A map of the North Slope shows that millions of acres surrounding the Refuge are dotted by oil producing fields.

Thus far, all drilling has taken place outside of the five percent of the Arctic Coastal Plain known as ANWR, which is where the Porcupine Caribou birthing grounds are located. It's estimated that the oil inside the Refuge will take ten years to deliver and is only enough to sustain U.S. oil consumption for six months.

So, why are the state of Alaska, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, and multi-national oil corporations lobbying the Congress to grant access for drilling the Refuge? And how did drilling inside a national “Refuge” ever become an option?

The 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), is considered by an overwhelming majority of Indigenous peoples in and outside of the U.S. to be the worst Native settlement in modern times. It is also one of the most amended Congressional Acts in the history of the United States . When oil corporations and the state of Alaska realized the substantial wealth and jobs that could be generated from drilling in Prudhoe Bay and the surrounding area, the push was on for a claims settlement. Throughout Alaska , in exchange for extinguishing Native title to 90 percent of their lands, tribes were given what amounted to less than $3 per acre.

Despite the less than generous terms of the ANCSA, however, the Inupiat Eskimos have been financially successful strategists. They formed the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, and it has paid off. With a rate of growth ahead of the S&P, last year's revenues through oil and other subsidiaries were about $1.5 billion. Among their subsidiary corporations is one that maintains a contract with the U.S. to supply fuel to the military, another that provides support services for U.S. military radar systems, a company that operates a plastics manufacturer in Guadalajara , Mexico , and a business in Venezuela that watches that country's oil industry.

But ANCSA was not attractive to all of Alaska 's Native tribes, and some communities were split; there were no hearings or votes taken at the villages. Of the eight Gwich'in villages on the U.S. side of the border, two opted out of ANCSA and maintained title to their lands, and a traditional subsistence life. And like many federally recognized tribes, the Gwich'in have a tenuous relationship with the U.S. Government.

The Inupiat, on the other hand, have a corporate relationship with the state and federal government. In 1983, Department of the Interior Secretary James Watt signed a controversial land exchange with the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation that brought the total acreage of the corporation's contingent subsurface rights in the coastal plain of the Refuge to 92,000 acres.

In spite of the stipulation prohibiting development, unless Congress opens the Refuge, the corporation has already made $39 million from speculative lease agreements with Chevron, Texaco, and British Petroleum. In fact, within five years of the 1983 land exchange, efforts were begun in earnest to open the Refuge to drilling. But the Gwich'in people, who live on the south and east border of the Refuge, have put up resistance to every proposal put before Congress and have maintained a grassroots struggle without corporate money.

“If oil companies are allowed access to the Refuge, it would set precedence that any Refuge can be accessed for mining and oil and timber,” said Gwich'in spokesperson, Faith Gemmill. From her home in Fairbanks , Gemmill discussed her people's concerns about Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the state of Alaska 's attempts to open the Refuge to drilling.

“When our elders realized the proposed drilling in the Refuge would threaten the Porcupine Caribou calving grounds, they held a traditional gathering [in 1988] and all Gwich'in came to my village—Arctic Village. It was unanimously decided that we cannot allow the oil companies to gain access there. It's sacred; it's the nursery of the caribou. It's where life begins. We humans cannot intrude at that time when they are giving birth and nursing. They need to be left alone and it has to be quiet. The caribou are our family. We made a commitment to protect the caribou and our way of life, and if we are not successful we will perish, too.”

Other animals that birth and den in the Refuge include grizzly bears, polar bears, and many different species of birds.

The Inupiat, who own the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, are a coastal people who rely mainly on marine life for their traditional foods; the Porcupine Caribou account for about ten percent of their diet. But for the Gwich'in, who strategically established their villages along the migratory paths of the Porcupine Caribou herd, the caribou are 70 percent of their food.

“Oil development itself in the process creates heavy metals,” said Gemmill. “Scientists are saying that the productivity of the Central Arctic herd that used to birth near Prudhoe Bay has been impacted.” Then, referring to what Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, Inupiat and Mayor of the City of Nuiqsut, has said publicly, Gemmill added, “Inupiat hunters are reporting that the Arctic herd's meat is now yellow in color—that's indigenous knowledge.”


Senator Akaka doesn't receive much in the way of money from oil and gas interests, but Alaska 's Republican politicians support his and Senator Inouye's Akaka Bill, which was reintroduced to the U.S. Senate on Feb. 25, 2003. Newly elected Republican Governor of Hawaii , Linda Lingle, helped kick off the lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill, and met with Attorney General John Ashcroft and Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to discuss the bill. Lingle joined Hawaii 's congressional chorus, insisting that this bill is the only hope Hawaiians have of establishing any type of governing entity that will protect their federal funding. In addition to this, when President Bush made a 12-hour visit to Hawaii in late-October, Governor Lingle made the matter of the federalization of Hawaiians the central issue she discussed with the President.

That Alaska 's oil interests continue to lobby in Hawaii for support of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is odd, though, given that efforts to open that area to oil companies already have the support of Senators Inouye and Akaka.

“Why they continue to lobby is a good question,” said Dan Ritzman, the Washington-based outreach director of Alaska Coalition, an organization devoted to protecting Alaska 's wild public lands. “I've always been happy that Arctic Power is willing to spend a lot of money on someone they have solidly to begin with, like Senator Akaka,” said Ritzman. “It wouldn't be the first time Arctic Power has wasted their money. Last year they had a racist, stupid ad on billboards in Alaska that said, ‘Protecting ANWR is Cheap,' and next to that was a drawing of an Arab man, and then it said, ‘if you want to protect the Refuge you're helping Arabs.'”

In January 2002, Greener & Hook, a consulting firm whose clients include the National Republican Congressional Committee, placed an ad in the Honolulu Star Bulletin. It reads: “Senator Akaka: Quyanaqpak (Thank you very much) For Your Support.” The ad then goes on to say that drilling in a “tiny part of our homeland—ANWR” is synonymous with “self-determination,” a catch-all term that is used three times in the ad, ending with, “Self-Determination Means Supporting the People Who Live in ANWR!” In the small print at the bottom of the page it says: “Paid for by the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.” But the invoice for payment to Greener & Hook shows that Arctic Power paid for half of the ad.

The timing of the Honolulu Star Bulletin ad coincided with nationwide campaigns both for and against Senators Murkowski and Stevens' attempts to amend the 2002 Energy Bill, which they lost several months later in a vote of 54 to 46.

A few months after the Honolulu ad appeared, Jade Danner wrote a letter to the editor of the Star Bulletin responding to a commentary the paper had published by Chuck Burrows, that criticized Senator Akaka's decision. She wrote:

“ANWR is in their [Inupiat] backyard, and they support limited development. Senator Akaka walked their land and talked with them. He voted with them, knowing it would bring the scorn of people like Charles Burrows. He made the right decision. He recognized them for the true environmentalists that they are—each and every decision made with the environment in mind. As a proponent of self-determination, Senator Akaka knows that it means more than supporting the decisions you personally agree with or that are easy to support. It means supporting local people, relying on local expertise and deferring to local decisions.”

It's worth mentioning that repeated invitations to Senator Akaka by the Gwich'in to “walk their land,” and talk with them have never been accepted, even though in 1995 he visited two Inupiat villages.

In November 2002, a debate on the floor at the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs Convention took place on the issue of whether or not that organization should support the Gwich'in people. The Hawaiian Civic Clubs have thousands of members throughout the United States and maintain some degree of political and cultural influence in the Hawaiian community at large. When the resolution was introduced, Robin Danner spoke out in opposition. She argued that what's happening in the Arctic is a dispute between two Native peoples that Hawaiians should stay out of. In her argument, Danner was condemning a resolution identical to one that was hotly debated at the National Congress of American Indians meeting, where it was decided that both the Inupiat and the Gwich'in would respect each others gathering and subsistence rights. (A compromise measure was reached at its San Diego convention whereby NCAI would oppose drilling on public lands and take a neutral position on drilling proposed for private tribal lands.)

“This isn't a quarrel between two Native peoples,” said Chuck Burrows. The retired school teacher and president of Ahahui Malama I ka Lokahi, a cultural, environmentalist group in Hawaii that supports the Gwich'in, does not see the issue as a dispute between Natives. “Robin Danner argued that drilling in the ANWR is an issue of self-determination,” he said. “But the Gwich'in and the Inupiat don't have bad feelings towards each other.”

Whether or not this is a disagreement between two Native peoples continues to cloud the issue. “Uniformly, the Inupiat have fought to keep development out of the Arctic Ocean because of the Bowhead Whale, which is their cultural and subsistence food,” said Ritzman. “It isn't any different for the Gwich'in who are fighting to protect the Porcupine Caribou. But the idea that a Native corporation is trying to open the Refuge makes this a tricky issue, it's hard to apply any kind of label. Yes, the Inupiat are shareholders of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, but the power and direction of the corporation lies in the hands of a few individuals.”

In the end, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs was persuaded to vote against the resolution to support the Gwich'in struggle. Burrows said, “Robin Danner made an impact with the idea that the land in question is not the Gwich'in homeland, but the Inupiat homeland. And she persisted with the belief that Hawaiian support for the Gwich'in is maha'oi (brazen). But as Indigenous people we share the same relationship with the land—from the land derives our culture and spirituality.”

The funding that has flowed from Arctic Slope Regional Corporation to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement shows that the Inupiat people appreciate the support from both Robin and Jade Danner. Cultural exchanges that flow among relatives are deep and lasting. However, when Jade Danner published her letter in the Star Bulletin she neglected to mention that she billed Arctic Power for writing it, as part of her contractual agreement. And Arctic Power's only concern is to represent big oil, the state of Alaska , and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation's desire to open the Refuge to drilling.

A request for an interview with Jade Danner yielded a phone call asking to have the questions emailed to her.

Question: Are you or have you ever been a paid lobbyist for Arctic Power or any other Alaska corporation, specifically with interests in oil development?

Answer: “I've never been a “lobbyist,” paid or unpaid, for Arctic Power or any other Alaska corporation with an interest in oil development. Two years ago, I was contracted by Arctic Power for six weeks to assist the Inupiat people in their efforts to set the record straight and educate the Hawaii public about their position in the ANWR debate… I was not paid to “lobby” government officials or people in positions of power who could influence the outcome of the ANWR debate in Congress, nor have I ever written a letter or spoken to anyone in Congress about this issue. I was not and am not presently a paid lobbyist.”

State of Alaska public records include a copy of a contract, with no date of termination, between Danner and Associates and Arctic Power, signed by Jade Danner on Feb. 15, 2002. It is an agreement to pay Danner and Associates, “A flat monthly fee of $5,000 for services.” Included in the “Scope of Work” section is: “Development of a Strategic Plan in conjunction with Arctic Power for Hawaii, Monitor and respond to opposing editorials/stories in local news media, Provide periodic updates to Arctic Power about activities and progress in Hawaii, Communicate with Hawaii's Senators' staff to determine how to be most effective in assisting with educating the Hawaiian populace about the facts of ANWR, other projects as may be assigned by Arctic Power,” and more.

Staff members from both Senators Inouye and Akaka say they have no knowledge of Jade Danner being paid to represent drilling in the Refuge. “I have met with both Jade and Robin Danner,” said Patricia Zell, Aide to Senator Inouye and Chief Counsel to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, “and we've never discussed ANWR. I have no knowledge of either of them being paid lobbyists.”

Paul Cardus, Senator Akaka's press secretary, similarly said that Jade Danner never met with the senator or anyone on his staff about drilling in the Refuge. “No one was aware of her role as a lobbyist, no one met with her to discuss ANWR.” He continued, “Jade Danner never met with or spoke to the Senator.”

Yet, payment from Arctic Power to Danner and Associates, for specifically deflecting Native Hawaiian criticism of Senator Akaka on the matter of drilling in the ANWR, is stated in such a way as to suggest Senator Akaka is aware of business arrangement between Danner and Associates and Arctic Power. A Danner and Associates ANWR Activity Log lists eight activities undertaken on behalf of Arctic Power. Number 7 reads: “…Worked to defeat local attempts to use Hawaiian forums as an avenue to pass resolutions opposing Senator Akaka's position on ANWR. Provide appropriate follow-up in communicating action to Senator Akaka's office.”

Robin Danner's connection to Arctic Power has yet to be fully explained. When asked if she has ever been financially compensated for efforts on behalf of drilling in the Refuge done by her through the Council she responded, “The answer is clearly no, I have not done any lobbying through CNHA.”

Robin Danner did, however, in her position with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, bill Arctic Power to reimburse travel expenses for attendance at a Teamster's Honolulu Convention. If any of that money was reimbursed directly to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement that would mean Alaska oil lobbying money went directly into the Council's bank account. If the travel expenses were not reimbursed to the Council, then Robin Danner used Council money to represent Arctic Power at the Teamster's Convention. When asked about this, she explained that the Council's reimbursement form was a matter of reverse invoicing for airline coupons that were “used to attend a regional conference of the Teamsters… I was invited to speak at their conference, accepted and did so. Jade did not attend, she did not accompany me, she was not invited.”

There are numerous contradictions in this statement, the substance of which point to Robin Danner receiving payment from Arctic Power. Robin's insistence that her sister Jade was not present and did not give a speech at the Teamster's Convention means that money paid to Danner and Associates from Arctic Power was for the speech Robin delivered at the Teamster's Convention. Number 2 on the Danner and Associates ANWR Activity Log reads: “Prepare and deliver speech to the Teamsters with Presentation of Bowhead Ear Drum to Senator Daniel Akaka… Provide appropriate feedback to Senator Akaka's office and Arctic Power.” This activity log, along with a request for travel reimbursement that was signed by Robin Danner on Feb. 27, 2002, became part of a $7,500 Danner and Associates invoice submitted to Arctic Power in March 2002.

As it stands, two politically powerful Hawaiians, with ties to Alaska oil money and two U.S. Senators, have garnered tremendous support for the Akaka Bill and inspired a dearth of support for the Gwich'in and their efforts to keep drilling out the Refuge. Their economic dealings shine an explanatory light on the political relationship between the Hawaiian people and Hawaii 's Congressional delegation, and a few unsettling similarities between Hawaiians and Alaska Natives. In addition to the struggle to survive physically, economically, and culturally, the Gwich'in and the Inupiat have a valuable lesson for Hawaiians.

If federal recognition can lead to Hawaiians relinquishing claims to any part of Hawaii , they could end up in a situation like that between the Inupiat and the Gwich'in, which tends to define as corporate Natives versus cultural Natives. Right now, the acreage of Hawaiian Homestead land, which is part of the nearly two million acres of “Crown and Government land” renamed “ceded lands” when the United States took control, is virtually the same amount of land the Alaska Natives ended up with after their settlement: just ten percent of what was once all theirs.

In late-May 2003, the state agency of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, now lobbying harder than anyone for passage of the Akaka Bill, authorized $450,000 for the services of international law firm Patton Boggs, LLP. Also on the Patton Boggs' client list is, indeed, Arctic Power.

It's been reported that Thomas Boggs, Jr., has taken a personal interest in the Hawaiian Federal Recognition bill. A small bit of history about who Thomas Boggs, Jr., is: son of the late Senator Hale Boggs whose plane went down in Alaska and was never found. (Senator Boggs is portrayed by Walter Mathau as the senator who didn't believe the Warren Commission in Oliver Stone's film, JFK). When Boggs Jr.'s firm was known as Patton Boggs & Blow, Boggs lobbied the hill during the Carter Administration against restrictions on the sale of weapons to Guatemala . The firm represented the Guatemalan General turned President, Romeo Lucas Garcia.

Boggs personally represented Amigos del Pais, a group of landowners in Guatemala that helped fund Garcia's death squads, supported throughout the 1980s by the Reagan Administration's CIA, and responsible for the deaths of over two hundred thousand of Guatemala's Indigenous peoples, workers, and human rights activists. That the Office of Hawaiian Affairs would put themselves into business—and by proxy, all the Indigenous people of Hawaii—with a firm that has a history of representing the interests of systemic murderers of Indigenous peoples is indeed troublesome.

Even beyond the uncertainties of Hawaiian political identity, Alaska 's Native and corporate conflicts, and the strange bedfellows of a Hawaii State agency that is supposed to represent the Hawaiian people, there remain questions about power and political process. Is it ethical for the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to use Alaska Native oil money to sell the Hawaiian community on the Akaka Bill, or for its CEO to receive payment from the oil industry and the state of Alaska for influencing Hawaiians and Senator Akaka on the issue of drilling in the Refuge? If Alaska 's oil industry can reach into the Hawaiian community and make its will known, what other influence does it have in determining the future of Hawaiians?


Anne Keala Kelly is a Native Hawaiian writer and filmmaker living on O'ahu. Her work focuses primarily on Native politics and culture, and she is currently at work on a documentary film about the U.S. military in Hawaii .

“Danny Boys, O Danner Girls”
By Nenelu Ma

An Akaka Bill Protest Song

(Based on "O Danny Boy," lyrics by Frederick Edward Weatherly, 1848-1929, and the melody, "Londonderry Air")

Danny boys, the bill, the bill is failing--
And will be swept away soon with the tide.
Danner girls, Hawaiians won't be crawling--
Oppression soon must go and we will bide.

So don't come back with falsehoods wrapped in paper,
And don't you bring us laws to take our land.
We'll not agree, in sunshine or in shadow,
O Danny boys, O Danner girls, we'll take a stand.

And till we know the Akaka bill is dying,
Until it's dead, as dead as it can be,
We'll stand and tell the world it's false and lying,
We're never giving in, we will be free.

And we shall hear our children's children's children,
And all their lives shall warmer, sweeter be.
For we'll not stoop to ransom off their freedom.
So boys and girls, give up this travesty!