As we sat peacefully at our desks or homes yesterday and today, the police were arresting Kapuna-Native Hawaiian elders, Native Hawaiian people and advocates who were defending their sacred mountain Mauna Kea.
Elder women sat on chairs on the road to the volcano so they would prevent big trucks and other equipment from going through. They wanted to be the first in line to be arrested. They were there to make the point that they were willing to go to jail to defend what is so important to them. 33 were arrested yesterday and there will be more today.
Can you imagine your grandmother or mother or aunties sitting on the land to defend what is theirs and being arrested for it. They are defending what is sacred and important to them. Doing what they were brought up to do. Asking the Hawaiian government not to desecrate what is sacred to them. Asking people to support them. Their cries go unheeded with the Hawaiian Government who would rather spend $1.4 billion in constructing a 30 Meter telescope at the top of the sacred volcano. It was very emotional watching elders and other being arrested and my spirit cried “WHY?” Grandmothers, elders, should not have to go through that.
The telescope will be 18 stories high with a footprint spanning 6 football field and that footprints means a lot of sacred earth moved. This is not a small thing and once you understand how big the telescope is you understand why the Native Hawaiians are defending their lands from such a huge infrastructure.
That is what is at issue here. Native Hawaiians want to protect a burial site, a spiritual site, a site that has greater significance than they will explain in public. It is the home to the goddess Poli’ahu and is within the realms of the God. It is a temple to the gods and a place that connects Native Hawaiians to the island itself. It used to be forbidden to anyone to enter except the highest Chiefs and priests. The astronomers want this bigger telescope because the location is the “best in the world for capturing a clean glimpse of the origins of the Universe.
Mauna Kea is a volcano that erupted 4000 years ago, it is the tallest sea mountain in the world at 13,796 feet above sea level, or 33,000 feet from the bottom of the ocean floor. It is something to see and when you enter on the mountain you can feel the power that is there and the respect that is due to the land.
The location is on the Big Island of Hawaii with the closest town of any significance is Hilo. Native Hawaiians have been fighting this development since it was first announced. I know when I was there in the spring, I saw all the efforts to educate people about why the mountain should not be desecrated. Despite this long fight, the Native Hawaiians cannot change the mind of the government. There already exists enough telescopes on the volcano so why do they need more? It is the American way, bigger and better, but not the Native Hawaiian way, that is to protect and preserve what they can of the mountain. Clash of values as always.
I hate to think of a sacred site being destroyed, desecrated and no longer there for the Hawaiians. The loss of such a site disturbs me very much.
Why is it governments can authorize developments in areas that are sacred to indigenous peoples? That they can think only of money and jobs and their reputation as pro-development. Why can’t they understand the importance of the site or refuse to understand how important sacred sites are to the indigenous people. That they can use their superiority and paternalism to impose their decisions that will alter the future and way of life of indigenous peoples forever. It is the continuation of colonization of indigenous peoples. This has never been understood by me how little indigenous people matter. We could never go in and destroy their sacred places and get away with it.
It makes me remember when I was on the leadership Council of BC and we all went up to Bear Mountain. They were building the resort and golf course up there. The Coast Salish people hadn’t disclosed the sacred site they had up there because they didn’t want anyone to know about it and they didn’t trust that it would remain confidential as they needed it to be.
They found that the site had been found and was ready to be destroyed and the archaeologists said they couldn’t find evidence of use. It was a sacred site, you don’t leave any evidence of use. You go as far as to wipe footprints with branches so no one knows you are there.
It was destroyed without any communication to the Coast Salish. We were looking down into this hole that had been filled with rocks and tires. You could feel the sorrow emanating from Mother Earth and the disbelief of the trees and absence of birds. It was a devastating experience seeing the destruction of a sacred site that had been used since time immemorial by the Songhees people.
This seems to be a big problem not only in BC but in other parts of the world like Hawaii. Why is it governments cannot understand sacred? Spiritual? Vital? Or if they do understand, why can’t they respect and protect them?
In BC, burial sites of First Nations people are disturbed a lot for the sake of development. Clashes over development and sacred sites occur regularly. While the government of BC is starting to work on an Ancestral Remains policy, will it be enough? There needs to be more tools to protect all different kinds of sacred sites. It seems that with most governments that development in the best interests of the public overrides sacred to First Nations people.
People around the world need to know what is happening on the Big Island of Hawaii. People should be writing Governor David Ige of Hawaii and telling him to stop the building of the telescope on sacred lands. Telling other people and making this issue known. Contributing to their legal fund or other funds. Signing the petition on change.org. There are things you can do.
Stand with the Native Hawaiians today! Do your part. The world must change so we respect the important spirituality, culture, traditions and way of life of indigenous peoples. You can help make this happen.
Follow on Instagram @protectmaunakea
Email Governor David Ige https://governor.hawaii.gov/contact-us/contact-the-governor/