Native Hawaiians debate if their self-governance would be hurt or helped under federal law.
Public hearings have begun as the Department of Interior explores a possible government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.
"Congress has already passed 150 laws related to Native Hawaiian issues. That has created a political and trust relationship between the U.S. and the Native Hawaiian community, but what's been lacking is a formal government-to-government relationship," said Sam Hirsch, with the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The federal government wants to know if now is the time for one, but many at the public hearings feel it is time for something else.
"From the apologies that have been made and the treaties that have been broken, the time is now to re-instate the Nation of Hawaii -- from a moral not only a political perspective," said Oahu resident Dr. Michael D'Andrea.
The panelists at the public meeting said that is outside the power of their departments, but still feel Native Hawaiian self-governance under Federal law could have other benefits.
"We are committed to providing a form of redress to the Hawaiian people, which may not be whole, but it is a pathway to help us," said Esther Kiaaina, with the Department of Interior.
Representatives from the federal government have five questions about a possible new partnership, but residents have been giving them a number of negative responses.
"For the fourth question, we adamantly say, "no" - we do not feel the state or any native Hawaiian organization should determine a government-to-government relationship," said Paul Richards with the Waimanalo Hawaiian Homestead Association.
"We need to decide how to govern ourselves without you Federal folks involved at all," added Hawaiian activist "Bumpy" Kanahele.
More public hearings on this issue will be held on Oahu and neighbor islands over the next two weeks.