Hawaii's Govenor Neil Abercrombie has signed a bill (SB 1520) which formally recognizes Native Hawaiians as "the only indigenous, aboriginal, maoli population" and establishes a Native Hawaiian Roll Call Commission. The Commission will establish and make public a list of Native Hawaiians. These steps could facilitate the establishment of native governance and advance national legislation which concerns the community, particulary the long and controversially debated Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, know as the Akaka Bill after its champion Daniel Akaka (D-HI). The Akaka Bill would recognize the sovereignty of Native Hawaiians and would establish a relationship with the Federal Government, similar to that of other treatied tribes. It would also help determine the status of lands held in trust by the U.S. Government which formerly belonged to the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Both the Akaka Bill and SB 1520 face strong opposition from different quarters, including from native groups who do not believe their situation to be equivalent to that of continental tribes. Native activists and academics like J Kēhaulani Kauanui argue that the bill does not go far enough in acknowleding inherent native sovereignty and amounts to legitimizing the aggressive U.S. annexation of the archipelago in 1898. Although some protesters carried signs reading "We are not a tribe", the legal parallels between Hawaii's steps and concerns in Indian Country will no doubt affect the hundreds of tribes whose existence is still not federally recognized.
The full text of SB 1520 is HERE