HONOLULU, July 15 - Hawaii is once again awash with mainlanders, as summer vacationers delight in its beaches and make themselves feel at home even on distant tropical islands. Breakfast at Starbucks, lunch at Subway, dinner at Red Lobster and a restful night at the Marriott or Hilton.
But most visitors soon discover something profoundly different about the 50th state that the requisite luaus and hula dances only hint at. The 250,000 indigenous people of Polynesian ancestry who are among Hawaii's 1.2 million residents make the state like no other, sustaining a native Hawaiian cultural and linguistic imprint that preceded the arrival of Capt. James Cook by a millennium.
Now, 112 years after United States troops helped overthrow the independent Kingdom of Hawaii and 12 years after Congress apologized for it, that Hawaiian distinctiveness appears close to being formally recognized by the United States government. A bill that for the first time would extend sovereignty to the native Hawaiian people is poised for a vote - and likely approval - in the United States Senate despite opposition from many Republicans who denounce the measure as unworkable and as promoting racial Balkanization.