It is sunrise at the yurts and I’m compiling my notes and thoughts into a cohesive explanation of what’s happening at Mauna Kea. Intermittently, for the past 2 weeks, I’ve been camping with protectors at the intersection of Daniel K Inouye Highway (Saddle Road) and Mauna Kea Access Road. We are here in solidarity with the Kanaka of Hawaii to prevent the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) construction team from ascending.
But this action isn't about a telescope. This movement, conflated with the history of the illegal United States occupation of the kingdom of Hawaii creates a layered tale, the likes by which myths become legends. I am participating in this movement so that I can better understand the conversation between Kanaka (the ancestrally connected people of Hawaii) and the US Government, to share sound and accurate information, and to learn, through observation, the underpinnings of a native people’s triumph over tyranny. As many, myself included, have noted in discussions on the Mauna and beyond: The Hawaiians have already won. Now, all we have to do is spread the good news.
What I share comes from my perspective. I ethnically identify as a dispersed African and socially identify as a Black woman. Colonialism has affected my lineage and I see the aftermath in every aspect of society, particularly in the way that the sovereignty of Black and other indigenous people (whether infringed upon or kidnapped) is illegally suppressed on a regular basis. Though our struggles and methods are different, I relate at a soul level to the current fight of Kanaka (Maoli, ‘Ōiwi, etc.) for sovereignty on the land of their ancestors. I also am curious as to how they got here and where they’re going because by observing this process, I am discovering relevant information that also applies to indigenous/aboriginal peoples throughout the world.
The Hawaiian history of colonialism (referred to in many Hawaiian history texts as “contact”) began about 200 years ago (James Cook arrived in 1778 followed by an influx of British Americans shortly thereafter). Hawaii’s distal isolation and recency of colonization has afforded Kanaka the unique ability to retain their culture, language, and traditions, influencing their current stance against further advancement of destructive agendas. Hawaiians have a clear understanding of who they are and who they are not, an understanding that cannot be infiltrated or confused by forces that aim to undermine the culture and the people. It is because of this clarity that I am attracted to this movement as not only a cohort, but also as a student.
Environmental Impact of TMT
The sociopolitical and environmental implications of We Are Mauna Kea are interconnected and interdependent. Hawaiians trace the lineage of their royal ancestry to the darkness from which emerged the slime that spawned earth and every living thing. In the Kumulipo (Hawaiian creation story), mankind descends as a part of a genealogy beginning with the slime that birthed the microorganisms, plants, sea life, land life, and so forth. As a result, Hawaiians view nature and natural phenomena as their actual familial ancestors. When Hawaiians say “We are Mauna Kea,” they mean that, literally. We are the mountain and by protecting the mountain, we are protecting ourselves and our family. By preserving nature, we are preserving ourselves and our lineage. By honoring nature, we are honoring ourselves and our ancestors. When we harm nature, we desecrate our foundation and, therefore, forfeit ourselves.
This conflict is not a fight between religion and science. Hawaiian mythology and history is integrated with natural logic and Hawaiians have used their scientific knowledge to succeed in areas of long distance maritime navigation and environmental sustainability, the likes of which continue to baffle and intrigue scientists worldwide. Moreover, environmental scientists are aligned with the Hawaiians and do not support TMT for 3 main reasons:
1. Construction would cause great damage to the endemic ecosystem,
2. Keeping the telescope running and keeping the compound air conditioned 24/7 would put a mammoth strain on the island’s power grid and resources, and
3. We are in the midst of a man made environmental crisis. We don’t need another big thing polluting the land, air, and water.*
*Scientists have used ice core samples to measure carbon levels in the atmosphere over the past 8000 years. A drastic spike occurred within the last 50 years that correlates directly with the industrial revolution. The evidence that the current environmental crisis is man made and can be reversed is staggering, which I will discuss in a later post.
Simply put, the Hawaiians are fighting to preserve the pristine environment on the Mauna and the sacred connection between the environment and the life it supports.
Kapu Aloha: The Strategy
The spirit of Kapu Aloha, which can be simply defined as “personal integrity” (though I will discuss this more in a future post), governs this movement. Kapu Aloha, as a military strategy, is revolutionary because it does not focus on the enemy. Instead of fighting an enemy by the rules of the enemy, Hawaiians are dancing, chanting, and caring for one another in reverence to the Mauna. There is no external defense against Kapu Aloha because it is a self-directed discipline. To be defeated, the human would have to violate its own kapu (sacredness/restrictions/rules) and defeat itself.
Hawaii is an illegally occupied kingdom. Still, as a form of intimidation, Hawaii state police officers and the National Guard are surrounding the area 24/7, waiting for the slightest of opportunities to raid.** Through behaving with Kapu Aloha, protectors are not giving officers a reason to represent the movement negatively or justify more illegal intimidations.
**But when Steel Pulse came to perform, the police (pronounced pŌ-LEES) abandoned their posts to come watch the band play. Yeah. We saw you.
Even under Kapu Aloha, arrests of kupuna (elders) have been made. The images of seated Hawaiian elders being lifted and carried into squad vehicles were broadcast and shared around the world through news and social media. That was not a good look for the state. Nevertheless, the threat of a violent raid exists at the Mauna because as long as TMT is not being permitted to start construction on the telescope, the Hawaii state government and TMT are losing money. Lots of money.
Kapu Aloha, in practical terms, means that the Kanaka of Hawaii are not going to move. TMT asked permission from the state of Hawaii to build a telescope on land that doesn’t belong to the state of Hawaii. Additionally, the astronomy community is splintered in their attitudes about what to do. In time, we will see if the Democratic governor of Hawaii has the character to order a raid that would endanger the lives of 500-3000 Hawaiians and allies who are legally standing in defense of Mauna Kea on land that doesn’t belong to the State of Hawaii. And did I mention that the land in question does not belong to the State of Hawaii?
We are watching history unfold in real time. TMT may not have known that they were asking the wrong people permission to build a telescope, but now that they're on the wrong side of an epic conflict, they have become the catalyst for revealing the truth to the world. Through watching what happens here, we stand to learn a lot about how the people win against big armies by knowing and being their truest selves.
If can, come. If no can, but want to find out how you can support We Are Mauna Kea, visit https://www.puuhuluhulu.com, the official source of accurate, up to date info about this movement. Keep learning. Keep being curious. Imua!
Special thanks to Kahnma for supporting and providing a platform for the We Are Mauna Kea series where I'll be diving deep into my perspective and experience of the movement and its implications worldwide. It's a lot, but we'll get through it together.
To the scientists, historians, Hawaiian language and culture scholars, and Kanaka who have more accurate interpretations of what I write, please share your comments below. I aim to inform, not misinform.
Dr. Cathryn D. Blue (pictured center) is a social psychologist from East St. Louis, IL who currently lives off grid on the Big Island of Hawaii. She sings, acts, writes, plants food, and travels throughout the world in pursuit of true stories and world peace.
© Cathryn D. Blue, 2019. All Rights Reserved