As former leaders familiar with and committed to the well being of Hawai’i’s indigenous people, we see in Colleen Hanabusa someone who shares our passion and commitment to fighting for their rights and improving their condition. Indeed, Colleen is the only candidate for U.S. Senate with a proven record of fighting for the rights of not only Native Hawaiians but America’s Native people as well.
Born in Honolulu, Colleen was raised in Waianae, an area of Hawai’i blessed with a large Native Hawaiian population. Living and growing up in this special place provided Colleen with a deep appreciation for and understanding of
the challenges and needs Native Hawaiians face in their daily lives – an appreciation and understanding that allowed her to represent Waianae and Leeward O`ahu as a State Senator with great distinction and effectiveness. As State Senator, Colleen worked vigorously to
• advance economic development and higher education to provide employment and educational opportunities for Native Hawaiians;
• ensure adequate funding and proper oversight for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and;
• address as chair of what was then the Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, the troubling effects of Rice V. Cayetano and State of Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs had on the rights of Native Hawaiians
Colleen has continued her work in Congress where she serves as the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, introducing legislation to modernize and preserve funding for Native Hawaiian education and housing programs. She has also blocked Republican attempts to eliminate provisions that support Native Hawaiian healthcare, education, housing, elders, and small businesses. We can count on Colleen to ensure these critical programs continue for generations to come.
In 2011 Colleen worked with Senator Akaka and the rest of the delegation to author and introduce the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act. She strongly believes Native Hawaiians deserve the same opportunity for self-determination and self-governance as the rest of America's Native people—and walks beside them on the path toward formal recognition with the United States.
Colleen believes Native people everywhere in America should be allowed to determine their future. While she opposes wide spread energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, she is an adamant defender of the Inupiat’s right to self-determination and self-governance.
"We cannot give them the right to pick and to live there, and then turn around and then basically annihilate their rights to survive," she told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, comparing their fight to protecting Native Hawaiian rights. "We can't do that. It's just not right."
Self-determination and self-governance have proven to be the most effective federal policies to empower Native communities. They enable Native communities to build strong economies, reverse decades of language loss, revitalize their cultures, and tailor programs and services to better meet the unique needs of their people.
Colleen Hanabusa is a proven champion of Native Hawaiians and the Native people of our nation. She will always do what is pono. We need her in the U.S. Senate.
Senator Daniel K. Akaka is a former senator of Hawai'i.
Dr. Michael Chun is the former president of Kamehameha Schools.