Multiple generations of campaigners are rallying around Mauna Kea as a symbol for the larger issues of self-determination and Aloha ʻĀina in what is becoming one of, if not the, largest mobilizations of Hawaiian activism in decades.
“There have been a lot of efforts over the years to unify the Hawaiian people. We spent millions and millions of dollars on [Kanaʻiolowalu],” said activist and Kū Kiaʻi Mauna organizer Kahoʻokahi Kanuha (pictured above, right). “Well guess what? We’ve done that for you. This is the single greatest activation, mobilization and unification of the Hawaiian people since 1897.”
The efforts of these young activists to defend the mountain, which is intrinsically tied to Hawaiian culture and spiritual beliefs, from further development have inspired Hawaiians and their supporters across the state (and around the world) to come together and make a stand for self-determination and for Aloha ʻĀina unlike anything witnessed since the Kahoʻolawe movement of the 1970s; possibly ever.
“[Hawaiians] have been silent for many years on a great many things, and we’ve had no opportunity to determine our own futures. Even when public hearings are held, our voices are not heard,” said OHA trustee Rowena Akana. “I think this telescope has given Hawaiians an opportunity to rally around something. If the board rescinded its support for the project, I think the most important thing that would achieve is to show the people that we hear them.”
Trustee Hulu Lindsey, in an emotional speech, recognized the vitality these young activists have brought to the movement: “These ʻōpio that are … that are on our mauna; they’re different,” she said, fighting back tears. “They’re not like how we Hawaiians have been in the last 50 years: screaming and yelling while people just ignore us. These ʻōpio, they’re smart. They are operating in a very humble way … and I believe they are getting the attention of the people that make decisions. So it’s really important that we respect them, respect their movement, and support them.”
“I grew up, all my life, listening to each and every one of you share about aloha ʻāina and Native Hawaiian rights,” activist Shannon Crivello told the trustees. “As a nine-year-old, I witnessed the Kahoʻolawe movement of the ‘70s and listened to my uncle George Helm share his manaʻo about aloha ʻāina. I grew up listening to uncle Walter, intrigued by his words, fascinated by the message of these young leaders during the ‘70s, amazed by the movement at that time. I listened to aunty Colette Machado and Joyce Kainoa and saw these strong young women standing there next to the men, fighting along side. I listened to the words that your generation taught me when I was the keiki. And that is the reason why I am here: because of your manaʻo.
“I am proud to be Hawaiian and, in this generation, we need that,” continued Crivello. “It was your generation that brought back the concept of speaking the language, of practicing our culture; your generation was the catalyst for Pūnana Leo, OHA, Merrie Monarch—our culture! I ask you to remember what your own kupuna taught you as Hawaiians: It is our kuleana to mālama this ʻāina, and to be the kānaka that live and practice aloha everyday no matter what. Stand with us.”
“It is my belief and understanding that the ʻāina in contention should be preserved in perpetuity as a public benefit, not only for Hawaiians like myself, but as a public benefit for all, as is stated in our state motto and made clear to me by our young Mauna Kea leaders like Lanakila and Kahoʻokahi,” said former OHA trustee Don Aweau. “‘Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono.’ They understand the essence and the mana of those words.”
Above: Mauna Kea supporters and activists held up money during Wallace Ishibashi Jr.‘s testimony in silent protest of his statements. | Will Caron
Above: Uncle Walter Ritte was one of the “Kaho‘olawe Nine,” a group of activists who landed on the island of Kaho‘olawe in January 1976 in opposition to the military bombing that was then taking place on the island. | Will Caron
Above: Kamahana Kealoha debates the TMT issue with Günther Hasinger, director of the Hawai‘i Institute of Astronomy. | Will Caron
Above: OHA Chief Executive Officer Kamanaʻopono Crabbe reviews his notes before Thursday’s meeting. | Will Caron
Above: Kū Kiaʻi Mauna supporters brought signs and held them up during pro-TMT testimony. | Will Caron
Above: Ishibashi’s testimony centered around the financial benefit the telescope would provide. Kū Kiaʻi Mauna supporters in the audience held up whatever money they had in their wallets in protest. | Will Caron
Above: Manu Kaiama pointed out, contrary to claims that the aliʻi would have supported the TMT, that the modern day aliʻi who have spoken about the TMT have come out against it. | Will Caron
Source: Will Caron for The Hawaii Independent