Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, the first Native Hawaiian to serve in the Senate, who served in Washington for thirty-five years, died early Saturday morning at the age of 93 after being hospitalized for several months at The Villas hospital.
Akaka began his service in the House of Representatives in 1976 and continued a long career that ended with his role as Senator in 2013. Senator Akaka focused largely on issues related to Hawaii and fought for over a decade on the Akaka Bill, a bill that was never able to garner enough votes and would have granted federal recognition to Native Hawaiian people.
Senator Akaka was a well-known ally to Hawaiian Senator Dan Inouye and together they were able to obtain federal funds for Native Hawaiian health care, social services and educational services. The two senators were also able to obtain an apology from the U.S. government for the overthrowing of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893, for which President Bill Clinton apologized.
He was at times controversial such as when he supported oil-drilling at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but stated his decision was to support a promise he made to the Inupiat who saw drilling as an indigenous right.
Daniel Kahikina Akaka was born Sept. 11, 1924, in Honolulu, attended the Kamehameha School for Boys, he worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, served in the Army and later spent 18 years in the public school system. He was later chosen by Governor John Burns to serve as state director of the Office of Economic Opportunity.
When serving in the House, Akaka oversaw federal spending on the Appropriations Committee, he also served as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and worked to reform veterans medical care and education benefits.
He worked diligently on the Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act, and caused the federal government to replace land previously taken from Hawaii.
In 2000 Akaka introduced the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, later known as the Akaka Bill. The bill was consistently blocked by conservatives who called it racially-based and discriminatory.
Akaka retired at age 88 in 2012, he died at age of 93.