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Department of Interior Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for federal recognition of a Hawaiian tribe -- Fall 2015 announcement of proposed regulation and how to submit comments

by Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.

The purpose of this short webpage is to call attention to the Department of Interior process for creating a new regulation which will allow a race-based group of ethnic Hawaiians to apply for and be granted federal recognition as an Indian tribe.

In Summer 2014 the Department of Interior posted in the Federal Register a notice that it was planning to write such a regulation, and asking for public comments on specific topics.

The top half of this webpage deals with the preliminary phase of this process, and describes where the official notice and resulting comments can be found.

On October 1, 2015 the proposed regulation was published and further comments were requested, to be submitted not later than December 30.

The bottom half of this webpage describes where the text of the proposed regulation can be found and how comments can be submitted.



On Friday June 20, 2014 the U.S. Department of Interior published in the Federal Register an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) and solicitation of comments, regarding a process for federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian tribe. The ANPRM described the process DOI had in mind, and its view of Hawaiian history which prompted it to propose the process; and posed a number of questions on which comments were requested. The ANPRM was published in the Federal Register Volume 79, Number 119, pages 35296 through 35303, which can be downloaded in pdf format at

During the Summer of 2014 numerous community meetings were held on several Hawaiian islands and also on the mainland on or near tribal reservations, where people could briefly express their views orally. The vast majority of speakers were opposed to the concept of creating a federally recognized Hawaiian tribe, and many expressed their opposition loudly and with strong language. OHA and other large institutions dependent upon government money staged a behind-the-scenes campaign whereby staffers and people dependent on then for handouts were asked to mail in preprinted postcards supporting the concept.

2,434 written testimonies can be seen on the Department of Interior webpage -- some very brief and some very lengthy -- at!docketBrowser;rpp=25;po=0;dct=PS;D=DOI-2014-0002

A search window makes it possible to find testimony of individual people or containing particular keywords. For example, testimony by Kenneth Conklin can be found by putting both words of his name into the search window, leading to a page that begins with a short cover note at!documentDetail;D=DOI-2014-0002-0887E
and has an attachment link at the bottom. Clicking on the attachment pdf button leads to a 100-page pdf file at

Conklin's 100-page testimony can also be found on his own website at

The following seven testimonies are especially valuable in opposition because they explicitly rely upon the fundamental principles of racial equality and the unity of all Hawaii's people under the undivided sovereignty of the State of Hawaii:
(1) Kenneth R. Conklin of the Center for Hawaiian Sovereignty Studies!documentDetail;D=DOI-2014-0002-0887
(2) Keli'i Akina, President, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
(3) Hans A. von Spakovsky of The Heritage Foundation
(4) Paul M. Sullivan
(5) H.W. Burgess
(6) Sandra Puanani Burgess
(7) Jack Miller



On October 1, 2015 the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM is a response to thousands of comments received by DOI after its publication of the Preliminary Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (PNPRM) described above. The NPRM contains full text of the proposed regulation, and Department of Interior responses to some of the comments it received.

Testimony on the NPRM can be submitted by individuals and groups during a 90-day comment period ending December 30, 2015. The Department of Interior may take as much time as needed to consider the testimony and make changes to the proposed rule.

If a Final Rule is actually proclaimed and published in the federal Register, it would thereby become a federal law without enactment by Congress. The NPRM, and eventual final rule, describes the requirements which must be met by a Native Hawaiian governing entity and its Constitution in order for the Department of Interior to grant federal recognition to it as a tribe. The rule describes the steps for holding an election of delegates to a tribal convention which would write a tribal governing document, or Constitution; and the steps whereby certified Native Hawaiian voters could approve the Constitution and elect tribal leaders; and the requirements for the extent of Native Hawaiian participation in the process in order for the process to be regarded as credible; and the requirements which must be met in the application for recognition which the tribal leaders would submit to the Secretary of Interior.

The current Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published in the Federal Register Vol. 80, No. 190 on Thursday, October 1, 2015, pages 59113 through 59132. It is available in pdf format at

Testimony on the NPRM can be submitted by individuals and groups during a 90-day comment period ending December 30, 2015. Begin at!documentDetail;D=DOI-2015-0005-2438
where there's a summary and full text of the NPRM as taken from the Federal Register.

Notice the blue button in the upper right-hand corner which says "Comment Now!" which goes to a webpage where you can place a comment of not more than 5,000 characters. The best way to do this is to write your comment before going to this webpage, and then copy/paste it into the window. A counter will inform you how many characters you have used out of the 5000 allowed. If your comment is longer than allowed, then create your entire comment as a pdf file of whatever length you wish, and formatted however you wish (it could include tables and pictures, for example). Then put into the comment box a short note announcing that your testimony is attached (and perhaps summarizing it) and then use the "choose files" button" just below the text box to choose (from your computer desktop) the pdf file containing your testimony. Then push the "upload files" button to actually attach it.

Ken Conklin submitted his testimony on Thanksgiving Day November 26, 2015. That testimony is a pdf file of 134 pages available on Conklin's website at
An executive summary of less than 5000 characters is provided on the Department of Interior website along with an attachment which is the pdf file of 134 pages. Its URL on the Department of Interior website is here:!documentDetail;D=DOI-2015-0005-3095
What you see when you click on that link is a shortened outline listing 19 topics that are covered in the 134 pages of testimony. If you click on the pdf attachment link at the bottom, you'll download the entire testimony including a more detailed table of contents with page numbers for each section. That entire testimony will appear on your computer screen and will also automatically appear on your computer desktop as a pdf file.

How can you see all the comments that have been submitted? There are two sets of comments, but it appears they have been consolidated. To see them all, go to!docketBrowser;rpp=25;po=0;D=DOI-2015-0005

Comments on the previous ADVANCE Notice of proposed rulemaking from 2014 seem to have been combined with comments on the current Notice of Proposed Rulemaking during the period between October 1, 2015 and December 30, 2015. So any comment with a "posted" date earlier than October 2015 was clearly submitted regarding the earlier ADVANCE notice, whereas any "posted" date after October 1, 2015 is submitted for the current Notice. At first there does not appear to be any orderly way to see only the comments on the current Notice, nor to see the comments organized by date of submission, nor to see the comments organized in alphabetical order by the name of the author. However there is a search box where a person's name or keyword(s) can be placed. It appears that a way to see all the comments on the current Notice, organized in chronological order with the most recently received comments at the top, is to put into the search window the year number 2015.!docketBrowser;rpp=25;po=0;D=DOI-2015-0005



by Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.