The U.S. Department of the Interior has begun holding a series of public hearings on the issue of Hawaiian sovereignty.
The designation would give native Hawaiians a status similar to American Indian tribes and Alaskan natives, protecting money set aside for education and development.
Hawaii Public Radio reporter Molly Solomon has been following the story. She said many in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement are skeptical of the government hearings, fearing they'll stifle moves to create a self-governing sovereign Hawaii. But proponents hope that acquiring sovereign status could mean many millions of dollars in government aid for native Hawaiians.