OHA Board Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey testified on Feb. 24, 2021, at the first hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs chaired by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaiʻi), urging senators to help address the needs of Native Hawaiians.
“This committee has a long history of bipartisanship and collegiality among its members,” Chair Lindsey said in her testimony today. “That spirit is critical to elevating the voices of Native leaders and fulfilling the federal government’s trust responsibility owed to all Native people of the United States. Your work here empowers the Native community to continue exercising true self-determination – our right to chart our own course and maintain our distinct traditions, cultures, and Native ways.”
Chair Lindsey further testified that the federal government must honor its trust responsibility to the Native Hawaiian people; support federal programs for Native Hawaiians in the areas of health care, housing, economic development and education; and ensure parity in the treatment of all Native Americans, including American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.
Entitled “A call to action: Native communities’ priorities in focus for the 117th Congress,” the oversight hearing marked the start of a new era for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Schatz was named chair of the committee in early February. He became the third Hawaiʻi senator to chair the committee, and the first to do so in nearly a decade.
Schatz opened the hearing by stating that one of his goals as chairman is to bring Native Hawaiian issues and priorities to the forefront.
“I want to be clear that today’s hearing isn’t a check the box exercise,” he said, “It’s a real opportunity for members of the Committee to chart a path forward by listening to and learning from Native leaders for the next two years and beyond.
“Now more than ever, Congress must be tuned in and listening. Native communities are experiencing disproportionate impacts from multiple crises – COVID-19, economic insecurity, racial injustice, and climate change. So as the strongest voice for Native priorities in the Congress, this Committee will act to address these challenges by working together in its bipartisan tradition and to uphold the federal treaty and trust responsibilities to tribes and Native communities across the country – from Hawaiʻi to Alaska and to the continental United States.”
Chair Lindsey was one of four witnesses invited to testify before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on the priorities facing their respective Native communities. The other witnesses testifying were Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, Leonard Forsman, president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives.
After the hearing, Chair Lindsey said she was honored by the opportunity to testify.
“I extend my aloha and congratulations to Chairman Brian Schatz and Vice Chairman Lisa Murkowski on their new leadership positions on the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs,” she said. “Mahalo for [this] opportunity to elevate the issues of our Native communities, and we look forward to continuing this dialogue with your committee on how Congress can continue to support the needs of Hawaiʻi’s Indigenous people.”