An astonishing bill is up for vote this week in the Senate: a measure that would create a separate “tribal government” for the 400,000 residents of the state of Hawaii who claim descent from the “indigenous” Polynesians who beat Captain Cook to the islands in their outriggers by a few centuries. The bill would essentially create a sovereign nation inside the state of Hawaii that would be entirely based on race.

The analogy is, of course, with the various American Indian tribal governments on the mainland, but with a couple differences. Those American Indian governments are based on sovereignty over land–the reservations on which the Indians live. They were also the product of negotiated settlements after decades of bloody warfare between the Indians and American settlers throughout the 19th century.

Not so for the “nation” to be created under the bill introduced by Hawaii’s Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka. Regardless of whether you live in an apartment in downtown Honolulu, a luxury condo on Kauai, or a grass hut on a tiny atoll–and you still qualify for whatever boodle and race-based preferences will be coming your way. Your rights will be based solely on your “Native Hawaiian” bloodlines and a bucket of liberal guilt.

Read this astonishing editorial titled “A Chance for Justice in Hawaii” in today’s New York Times:

“Not long after Captain Cook sailed up in 1778, disease, poverty and political and economic exploitation began pushing [the Polynesian] culture toward the vanishing point. One harsh milestone came in 1893, when American and European businessmen backed by United States marines overthrew the Hawaiian kingdom. Annexation by the United States quickly followed.”

I don’t know where to start on this one. How about my own family? I’ve got a “Native Hawaiian” sister-in-law. Like almost all Native Hawaiians, though (as anyone who’s ever been to Hawaii or read George Mitchener’s famous novel knows), she’s also got all kinds of other blood running in her veins, thanks to the rich mix of ethnic groups that have emigrated to the state and intermarried: New England whites, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Filipinos. Hawaii is perhaps the one state in the union with a genuine and vibrant multiracial culture. My sister-in-law has a college degree, and a well-paying career; her family owns substantial property on the Big Island. Not only is there scarcely a pure-blooded “Native Hawaiian” in the entire state of Hawaii but Hawaiian Polynesians, those so-called victims of “exploitation,” are the wealthiest Polynesians in the Pacific Ocean.

As the Times editorial reveals, the real aim of the bill is to protect from legal challenge the various race-based benefits and preferences that exist in Hawaii and have prompted anyone with so much as a drop of Native Hawaiian blood to define himself or herself as “Native Hawaiian” and then stand in line for posh free schools and priority in hiring.

“The bill’s central aim is protecting money and resources – inoculating programs for Native Hawaiians from race-based legal challenges. It is based on the entirely defensible conviction that Native Hawaiians – who make up 20 percent of the state’s population but are disproportionately poor, sick, homeless and incarcerated – have a distinct identity and deserve the same rights as tribal governments on the mainland.”

I love that “incarcerated.” You’d think that the whites in Hawaii went around rounding up everyone with a ukelele and throwing them into the slammer.

The best commentary on this outrage comes from blogster Rod Dreher, who titles his post “Hawaii First, Aztlan Later.” He’s right. Once the Native Hawaiians get their “tribal government,” why not another big ethnic group that lost a war with the United States, claims “disproportionate” poverty and social problems, and says we stole their country from them? Rod adds:

“If this passes, why shouldn’t the Cajuns organize into their own ethnically separatist nation, and demand their own formally recognized government? Where does it stop?”

Or even worse:

“Additionally, it would be harder to make a case against the kinds of claims Muslims in Canada, the UK and Europe have been making, saying that they deserve to have special dispensation to rule their own communities according to sharia. What about the Mormon separatists? Warren Jeffs as a tribal chieftain? That’s not going to happen, but if the Hawaii bill passes, it’s going to be very hard to close that separatist Pandora’s box.”


Correction: Reader K.C. writes to inform me that it’s James Michener, not “George,” who wrote “Hawaii.” Thanks for setting me straight, K.C.