(BIVN) – The U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday announced that, “for the first time in the agency’s history, it will require formal consultation with the Native Hawaiian Community.”
“The Interior Department is committed to working with the Native Hawaiian Community on a government-to-sovereign basis to address concerns related to self-governance, Native Hawaiian trust resources, and other Native Hawaiian rights,” said Secretary Deb Haaland in a news release. “A new and unprecedented consultation policy will help support Native Hawaiian sovereignty and self-determination as we continue to uphold the right of the Native Hawaiian Community to self-government.”
“This is a very big deal and a vital first step,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), who chairs the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “One of the most important principles in policymaking, especially as it relates to Native communities, is: ‘nothing about me, without me.’ This policy update recognizes that consultation with Native Hawaiians is an essential aspect of decision-making for the federal government and key to upholding its trust responsibility. We have long way to go, but all progress starts with listening.”
According to the DOI, the draft consultation policy and procedures seek to:
- Bolster the Department’s consultation efforts to encourage early, robust, interactive, pre-decisional, informative and transparent consultation;
- Require that Department staff undergo training before participating in consultation;
- Establish bi-annual meetings between the Secretary and Native Hawaiian Community leaders to consult on matters of mutual interest;
- Clarify that the Department’s decision-makers must invite Native Hawaiian Community leaders to engage in consultation; and
- Require a record of consultation.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs also responded to Tuesday’s announcement.
“Today’s historic news that the Department of the Interior intends to develop a formal consultation policy with the Native Hawaiian community is a victory in the fight for Native Hawaiian sovereignty and self-determination,” said OHA Board Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey. “The department’s commitment to working with the Native Hawaiian people in consultation on matters of mutual interest confirms and respects the special political and trust relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community and is an important step in our people’s struggle for self-governance.”
“This is very welcome news and we mahalo Secretary Deb Haaland and President Biden for their continuous efforts to involve and engage Indigenous communities and provide us a voice in federal decision-making,” said Chair Lindsey. “We have much to contribute when discussing Native Hawaiian trust resources and Native Hawaiian rights, and we look forward to the work ahead.”
The Office of Native Hawaiian Relations, or ONHR, will host two virtual consultations on Thursday, Nov. 10 from 9 to 11 a.m. HST and Monday, Dec. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. HST to gather feedback from the Native Hawaiian Community on the new policy.