respect hawaiian natives’ respect for their land

July 25, 2019
497 Picks

Native Hawaiians refuse to have their land invaded. On July 15, construction on Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) —a proposed astronomical observatory— was scheduled to begin on the highest point in Hawaii, a dormant volcano called Mauna Kea. That morning the construction effort was interrupted by Kūpuna, a line of elders who lined up on the roadway leading up to the summit Mauna Kea to peacefully block the entrance of their sacred land. Many of the kūpuna use canes or wheelchairs and so were assigned caretakers to aid them during their demonstration. 

Where there are peaceful demonstrations there are often not-so-peaceful police. Two days later, on July 17th, cops in riot gear arrested 33 kūpuna’s (most in there 70’s and 80’s). Although the elders were released shortly after their arrest they still were charged with “obstruction of government operations”. 

While around 2000 Native Hawaiians and activists remained at Mauna Kea to protest, Hawaii’s governor, David Ige signed an emergency order allowing law enforcement to remove them and streamline the delivery of materials to the construction site. 

As with most uprisings, the root of this story is the abuse of power and a lack of trust. The Native Hawaiians do not deny that a telescope could be a great scientific contribution. What they do reject, however, are the lies associated with the project. Officials continue to reassure the native islanders that “it’s just a telescope, it’s not a pipeline.” Of this, former Hawaii State Rep. Kaniela Ing says, “This is an 18-story massive structure that has a footprint of at least six football fields in a county that only allows six-story buildings. And it’s in a conservation district. So even if — sacredness aside — if you care about the environment at all, this is a really dangerous precedent and our Mauna has already seen oil spills from past telescopes.”

The telescope would contribute to Hawaii economically but would cause environmental destruction. It would create hundreds of jobs, benefit scientific research and boost the economy but the 18-story structure would also damage the land which is a conservation district. These protests by the native population are meant to protect sacred land, history, and culture.