In the early morning of March 23, Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner Lanakila Mangauil heard that construction of the world’s largest optical telescope had begun atop the Hawaiian sacred mountain Mauna Kea. He immediately spread the word to the community, who had been keeping vigilant watch, and ran up the summit to stop the desecration of this wahi pana, a place of cultural significance and practice. Others followed Lanakila’s lead, however, nobody expected that this would spark a global movement to protect one of our planet’s sacred sites.
Resistance against the project has been ongoing for years, but the recent onset of development has ignited a movement that is uniting the people of Hawaii on all islands and abroad. Many say they haven’t seen civil resistance like this since the fight to reclaim Kaho’olawe, where young Hawaiians occupied the island that was being used as a U.S. military training ground and bombing range in 1976.
For over a month, people referring to themselves as the “Mauna Kea protectors” — instead of protesters — have staged an encampment on the mountain to blockade construction. They have engaged in traditional ceremony, poetry, protest song and particularly dance, as people from around the world traveled to the city of Hilo on the island of Hawaii for the Merry Monarch Hula Festival. Hula groups and musicians traveled up to the summit to dance, sing and chant for the gods and goddesses of the mountain. Thirty-one protectors were arrested for preventing work vehicles from getting to their sites. Although they were charged with trespassing and disobedience, they maintain with conviction that they have done everything with aloha, which loosely translates to love, peace and compassion. As a result of their blockade, construction has been held indefinitely.
All people who join the encampment must abide by Kapu Aloha, a system where each protector can only express aloha while on the mountain.
This movement is gaining national and international support, particularly by indigenous and First Nation peoples. Demonstrations have been held across the globe from Australia to Canada to China to Saudi Arabia and throughout the continental United States. They have extended their support because they are aware that sacred sites are being violated around the world, and they understand the significance of protecting them. Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations and the 19th generation keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe released a statement of solidarity. He likened indigenous sacred sites to a church or temple, and illustrated the importance of protecting Mauna Kea for all people by saying, “We, the spiritual leaders and medicine people, know that the sacred site is part of all of our lives.”
According to 17-year-old protector Kay Ala Kahaulelio, “The sacredness of Mauna Kea is beyond what we can comprehend in the human realm. It is so sacred because it is the portal and the closest temple where we can connect with our akua [god].”
In Hawaiian genealogy, the mountain is revered as the piko, or center of one’s being, for Hawaii Island. It holds burial grounds and is a place where people scatter the ashes of their loved ones. In a press release, the protectors explained that the summit is also the domain of Hawaiian gods and goddesses.
The water in Lake Waiau atop the mountain is used for ceremonies and healing. People fear that contaminants from the construction, such as sewage, mercury, diesel, ethylene and glycol, which are used in quite large amounts, could flood their freshwater supply as the mountain feeds the largest aquifer on the island of Hawaii.
In a message to Gov. David Ige, Mauna Kea protector Kamahana Kealoha said, “Consider the legal ramifications of denying kanaka [human beings], and all Hawaii citizens, the basic humanity and protections securing the absolute safety of Hawaii Island’s main freshwater aquifer, a resource essential to all life.”
This movement is about more than fighting against the desecration of this sacred mountain. It has become a platform for native Hawaiians to speak about Hawaiian independence as well. Another considerable argument in the courts is that the nation of Hawaii is still under illegal occupation by the U.S. government, and the Hawaiian Kingdom still exists. On November 28, 1843, the Hawaiian Kingdom was recognized as an independent sovereign nation by joint proclamation from Great Britain and France. In 1893, a U.S. marine’s armed coup d’etat overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom government. Despite local resistance, the islands were seized five years later for strategic military use during the Spanish-American War.
As the protectors stated in a press release, “Protectors of the mountain call upon all countries involved to honor the continued independence of Hawaii that America has refused to acknowledge for the last 122 years while illegally occupying Hawaii in violation of the laws of occupation.” If the state of Hawaii is illegal, then all agreements between the state and TMT investors are illegal as well.
Since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Native Hawaiians have endured the desecration of their land, culture, spirituality and way of life. But through their actions to protect Mauna Kea, they are saying, “enough is enough.”
Source: Imani Altemus-Williams for wagingviolence.org and dissidentvoice.org