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Kapu Aloha Will Not Be Televised

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

After spending a month camping (on and off…I do go home for luxurious naps and baths), I’ve come to a conclusion: Kapu Aloha. Yes. This is the conclusion. Kapu Aloha is all you need.

We Are Mauna Kea, the movement to protect the sacred Mauna A Wākea from desecration by the thirty-meter telescope (TMT) is governed by Kapu Aloha.

English falls short of defining this simple looking term, but since I am writing in English currently, I will define Kapu Aloha using English words. Kapu means sacred/restricted/the law. Aloha means breath of life/love. Put them together and Kapu Aloha means:

Living a loving life with discipline rooted in the sacred.

In the context of the movement upon the mauna, Kapu Aloha can be practically defined as:

The disciplined practice of individual sovereignty in a sustainable collective…with aloha.

Kapu Aloha requires a sovereign mindset and a willingness to learn.

Sovereignty with Kapu Aloha

Sovereignty is the choice to govern oneself. Self governance requires self determination (power over one’s own destiny) and self discipline (the ability to behave well in context as a consequence of focused self work). If you are sovereign, you cannot go to someone else for mediation. If you have a problem, you must solve your problem. If you have a conflict with another being, you must create the most possible continuous opportunity for peace between you and that other being. If you get sick, you must get well. If you need a home, you must build it. If you need food, you must provide it for yourself. If you need help, you must ask for it specifically and reciprocate when you are called to help others. If you are living in a sovereign community, you are an intricate function in the sustainability of your community as everyone must do their job in order for everyone to survive and be healthy.*

*No job is more or less valuable than another (though I’d argue that the people who keep the toilets clean and stocked are the kings and queens and the hierarchy descends from there, as sanitary human waste management is at the core of a sustainable society. Everything else can be more or less improvised).

At Mauna Kea, sovereignty is not symbolic. Sovereignty is not a metaphor. We are camped out at the foot of a mountain on a lava field with a complete community that is built and maintained by us. In an emergency, we cannot call the police. The police are not on our side. They are only there to intimidate us and arrest us for breaking any laws they can enforce on Hawaiian Homelands (which are not many, since they have no jurisdiction on that land…doesn’t mean they won’t break kapu and arrest us…but when you’re involved in a direct action, that’s par for the course). We all exercise Kapu Aloha as crises prevention. If we cannot discipline ourselves, we must make the judgment to leave camp and come back when we can.

If someone gets sick or has an accident, we have medics on site who handle it. The medics are us. We take care of ourselves because we don’t want to be a liability to ourselves, others, or the movement. If someone does have issues, we all work to get that person well. Each individual must be responsible for themselves. This means we must monitor and nurture our physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well being honestly.

If our tent fills with water during a rain storm, we must live with that reality. When the weather is dry again, we must secure our tent better to prevent rain the next time. We know that the mauna is an extreme climate with low air pressure and every natural element known to mankind. We must stick together. We must help each other. We must do our best. That’s the only way we can survive up there and continue the work of preventing construction that would desecrate the sacred mauna and disturb the bones of the Hawaiian ancestors. If that’s not our goal, then we shouldn’t be there.

Willingness to Learn

Sovereignty in the context of Kapu Aloha cannot be practiced without learning the culture, the land, and ourselves. The ground is lava rock with large holes and sharp rocks everywhere. The wind is strong. The nights are cold. The days are hot. The sun burns with greater intensity at such a high elevation. We all have different personalities and habits that conflict sometimes. Awareness and application of real time lessons is how we continue to make it.

Some things I've learned:

Vitamin C helps to prevent muscle stiffness and cramps in cold weather. Sunscreen made of zinc is natural and prevents burns (with the elevation, even dark skin burns, so nobody is exempt. I learned this one the hard way). Staying dry by wearing appropriate clothing like ponchos during even the lightest drizzle keeps our bodies warm. Changing socks regularly prevents foot rot.

Kia'i protocol. Hula in the rain on the mauna. Photo Courtesy of Uncle Sparky Rodrigues

Healthy foods full of protein, nutrients, and fiber help us stay regular and sepsis free. Water with high mineral salts help our bodies to retain water which prevents dehydration and promotes physical health, mental health, and mood.

When we learn of and take care of our first kuleana (responsibility) to ourselves, we are an asset. When we neglect our primary responsibility to our own health, we end up being THAT guy. You know the one. Everyone knows that guy because that guy is always having problems. You don't want to be THAT guy.

Education is a core pillar in maintaining a society, and therefore, a principal component of the We Are Mauna Kea Movement. Pu'uhuluhulu University offers classes on the Mauna that equip kia'i (protectors) with information about the culture, law, and health.

Keeping Kapu Aloha in Wao Akua

Wao Akua is the realm of the gods. This is where our camp is located.The atmosphere commands reverence. Each day, 3 times a day, kia'i meet for protocol. During protocol, we pray, chant, and dance hula. The prayers and chants describe the significance of our presence on the mauna. Earth's processes become a part of our muscle memory through hula, so when we memorize the dances, we are reminded of how the islands came to be and our role as participants in this phenomenon called life.

Kapu Aloha means that we are not protestors. We are protectors: kia'i. We are mauna-focused. TMT is an afterthought. We are here to protect and defend the mauna and our planet. It doesn't matter what other people are doing. It only matters that we kia'i with Kapu Aloha individually and then, collectively. When we kia'i the planet we are protecting and defending our own lives : a fragile manifestation of a delicate natural balance that took an infinity to produce. In Wao Akua, we are faced with this reality at all times which hits differently than when we are in Wao Kanaka (the realm of people).*

*Kapu Aloha with home field advantage (Wao Akua) is only defeated by self. It is a "guiding, transformational and liberating force."


Sustainability does not require a lot of resources when one views oneself as a part of nature. The colonized mind sees nature as something to overcome. The idea of accomplishing “advancement” and “progress” by digging a hole in a mountain is a consequence of the colonizer mentality. Progress is a natural phenomenon. All things are impermanent and change is a constant. With each change, all of creation is moving forward. Humans are not in charge of this advancement. Our ideas are the result of our egos convincing us that we are in control of what is going on. As we have seen clearly, no matter what we do, nature always wins.

Living in harmony with the winning team (nature) means paying attention to what is really going on, then learning how to position oneself within the flow of reality. Going with the flow is such a familiar concept that it sounds like I’m not saying anything. However, if we were really going with the flow, we wouldn’t have the problems that we have within our bodies, within our relationships, within society, and in conflict with the natural cycles with which we exist.

Yo: I’m not perfectly in the flow. The fact that I’m NOT perfectly in the flow is why I can see so clearly the reasons why I’m not and the moments when I am. I know that when I get sick a lot and when I’m always upset, it’s because I’m going against some natural flow. My body is letting me know through my physical condition and mood that something isn’t right. If I let go of my idea that I know what’s going on and just listen to my body saying, “NOOOOOOOOO!” then I can stop and say, “Ok, body. What do you really need? What am I missing?” I am always very surprised and a little insulted by my own ignorance when I listen to my body. I embarrassingly discover that the reason my whole life is in shambles is because of one of the following. I’ll call these The Big Five of Being A Hot Mess:

1. I haven’t had any water today.

2. I am hungry.

3. I am tired and need to rest or sleep.

4. I am trying to do too many things at once.

5. I am caring about other people and not caring for myself first.

If I am unsure because I’ve gone too far, then I can reverse all 5 and I usually feel better the next day:

-1. I drink water for the rest of the day.

-2. I eat a healthy meal.

-3. I go to sleep.

-4. I stop doing all the things, a natural consequence of going to sleep.

-5. I re-center myself and stop worrying about everybody else*

*That’s usually ego. If I didn’t care about other people, they’d be fine. The reason that caring for them hurts me is because I’ve enabled them to not care for themselves by doing things for them that they can do for themselves. Once a person has achieved mastery of their opposable thumbs, they are capable of doing most things required to survive on their own. If they are in my care, I will watch them closely while they figure things out and assist them if they need my assistance, which they will inform me of by communicating in a language that we both understand. Sounds harsh, but you don’t become sovereign by relying on others. You become sovereign by relying on yourself.

In Conclusion...

Kapu Aloha is a process that is teaching me things that I never learned as a member of an artificial society where the power is hidden from the people and we become afraid of self actualizing. I am learning how to be life among life. From this foundation, I gain the awareness to choose the conveniences I need and be grateful for those who provide them, give what I can from my excess, and leave the rest alone. When everyone does this, we’re fine.

It took me a while to write this piece because of the depth of meaning which, once unravelled, leads to a plethora of possible interpretations. Kapu Aloha is an inside job that begins with self and radiates outwards. No one can see it. You can't broadcast it on the news. It will not be televised. You can only do it, feel the changes, and live in that flow. Even if no one else is Kapu Aloha, I'm Kapu Aloha because I'm the one who has to consistently live with the consequences of my choices.

The Hawaiian people 's movement to protect Mauna Kea sets an example for how the world can overcome the problem of colonialism. Reconnect with nature, honor life, and exercise sovereignty in a loving way. In other words, don't focus on the problem. Focus on the lifestyle you want to pass on. Kapu Aloha.

(c) Cathryn D. Blue. All Rights Reserved

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