(BIVN) – The Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States was on Hawaiʻi island on Friday, visiting homestead communities in Panaʻewa and Keaukaha.
New Mexico Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández, who heads the only Subcommittee with jurisdiction over American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian issues in the House of Representatives, joined Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele (D, HI-02) and Congressman Ed Case (D, HI-01) in Hilo. Fernández is also a member of the Congressional Native American Caucus and holds a leadership role with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as Freshman Representative.
From the office of Rep. Kahele:
As chair, Congresswoman Leger Fernández oversees the sole Subcommittee with exclusive jurisdiction over American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian issues in the House of Representatives. The Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States oversees matters ranging from natural resources and land management, ownership, and leasing to Indian health care, tribal criminal justice, development of reservation economies, enhancement of social welfare and improvement of energy efficiency and renewable energy development initiatives on tribal lands. The goal of the Subcommittee is to protect tribal sovereignty and tribes’ authority over their lands and natural resources while empowering tribal communities with enhanced self-governance authorities.
The congressional delegation visited homestead communities in Panaʻewa and Keaukaha and was joined by members of the Hawaiian Homestead Associations on Hawaiʻi Island. The group discussed key priorities for Native Hawaiians including the stability of homestead lessees and the long-term tenancy of beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) and their successors. In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the HCCA, Kahele introduced H.J. Res. 55, the Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole Protecting Family Legacies Act. The bill consents to a recent amendment to the HHCA enacted by the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2017 and signed by the Governor of Hawaiʻi under Act 80. The amendment updates the definition of an eligible successor to an HHCA residential, farming or ranching homestead lease by reducing the blood quantum requirement of a lessee’s spouse, child, grandchild or siblings from one quarter to one thirty-second Hawaiian.
Kahele, Leger Fernández and Case toured the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and visited Ka Haka ‘Ula o Keʻelikōlani, the University’s College of Hawaiian Language, and the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. They also toured the Lyman Museum, accredited by the Alliance of American Museums and a Smithsonian affiliate.