Tuesday, January 21

Op-ed: The UC’s Mauna Kea telescope project infringes upon a sacred indigenous site

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the Thirty Meter Telescope project would donate $300,000 to education. In fact, they promised to donate $1,000,000.

This post was updated March 10 at 11:50 a.m.

Hawaii is often thought of as everyone’s getaway paradise for its beautiful sandy beaches, abundant rainforests and rich culture. Like the massive waves that meet the shoreline each day, a connection is always present between the beauty of the things we see before us and the underlying factors that aren’t always acknowledged.

Hawaii and the dark past forced upon its people continue to collide to this day.

Kānaka Maoli, the indigenous people of Hawaii, have been in combat with racial structures that insist on overshadowing issues relevant to the community. The United States has a history of violating cultural patrimony, and this time, it hit close to home. The University of California is spearheading the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, a sacred site to Kānaka Maoli. Construction of the telescope on the island was prompted by the mountain’s high elevation, convenient for space observation.

TMT scientists justify the construction of the telescope on indigenous land by promising to donate $1,000,000 a year for the education of “Hawaii Island students.” Not only does this term convolute the identity of Native Hawaiians, it also justifies the construction of the telescope under the guise that it’s for the betterment of the indigenous population.

Conflating Kānaka Maoli with others currently occupying indigenous land and saying that they’re all Hawaiian leads to the erasure of indigenous people. The board of TMT went a step further by establishing the Akamai Workforce Initiative internship program, purposed to increase involvement of Native Hawaiians in the STEM field.

The reality of the situation, however, is that only one-fourth of those participating in the internship are of Native Hawaiian descent. The board of TMT has made these, and many related efforts over the past five years leading to the approval of this final telescope, irrespective of how it is taking away one of the few cultural patrimonies passed down through generations of Kānaka Maoli.

The board of TMT has made these and other related efforts to distract from the fact that they are taking away from Kānaka Maoli one of the few cultural patrimonies they have passed down through generations.

Sacred sites like Mauna Kea embody cultural values much larger and more complex than any scientific endeavor can account for. For centuries, before the intervention of colonial forces, Kānaka Maoli have inhabited Hawaii, and now, they are an extension of it. At the core of Kānaka Maoli values is the notion of “malama ka aina,” a message which transcends from Hawaii to each of the Pacific Islands: “If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.”

Indigenous landmarks like Mauna Kea are the birthplace of culture, and serve in native communities to connect past generations with future generations. Mauna Kea is a spiritual site. It is a home. Scientists, tourists and nonnatives alike are all visitors on that land.

These connections between Kānaka Maoli and their land have been continuously disrupted since Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown in the 1890s and the U.S. illegally annexed Hawaii. Scientists believe they can diminish thousands of years worth of indigeneity on this land because they can benefit from the convenience of its location.

But that land cannot simply be replaced.

All nine UC campuses with undergraduates are built on land from Native Americans, giving the UC the title of a “land-grant institution.” However, the grant to build the telescope on Mauna Kea was passed by the Hawaii Supreme Court, consisting of five justices who are not of native descent – Mauna Kea was not granted to the UC system by Native Hawaiians.

This exchange is just one example of the colonial structures that dismiss the concerns of indigenous folk and belittle their humanity. By removing indigenous voices from the narrative, we cannot hope to reconcile centuries of violence, forced assimilation and oppression. The intentions of TMT and the Akamai internship do not align with the issues currently pressing Kānaka Maoli. Kānaka Maoli make up only about 10 percent of Hawaii’s population, but more than 42 percent of Hawaii’s homeless population. These are the factors we must consider when asking the central question of TMT: At what cost?

The UC system is complicit in violating the rights of Native Hawaiians and must be held accountable. Let this be a stepping stone toward reconciliation. Let the power dynamic shift toward returning land rights to indigenous groups.

Science has always seemed to offer respite, in its discoveries of the galaxies beyond our own to the bonds we find in our own DNA. It is prided for attaining knowledge for the benefit of mankind.

Mauna Kea is not a protest of science; it is a fight against the legacy of colonialism that permeates Hawaii’s roots and the founding of the STEM field. The UC should recognize that and divest from TMT.

Satele is a first-year human biology and society student and a member of the Pacific Islands’ Student Association.

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  • http://www.id6649433.sexyxtex.website disqus_IVk3n3fWtO

    A Freshman who has a Freshman’s take on the issue and manages to get it all wrong. Throwing a few historical facts into your inchoate analysis does not confer validity to your position. Some of the words you chose do not mean what you seem to think they mean…further illustrating the pedestrian nature of your paper. Were it to have been submitted for grading… it would have been hard pressed to have earned a “D”.

  • Andrew Cooper

    You ignore those native Hawaiians that support the telescope, who see the great observatories as a direct continuation of the spirit of exploration that brought them across the vast tracts of the Pacific Ocean. Over half of the Hawaiians support astronomy on Mauna Kea and understand that the telescope have never done anything that make life worse for those born in these islands. On the contrary, a large proportion, the majority at some observatories, of the staff are people who were hired locally. $100 million in local spending and jobs, that goes a long way to making life better on our island. Good jobs, jobs that go with a a pride and knowledge that they have helped expand man’s understanding of our universe.

    “As Hawaiian I recognize that I am a descendant of some of the best naked eye astronomers the world has ever known. It is culturally consistent to advocate for Hawaiian participation in a field of science that continues to enable that tradition and a field of work we ought to lead.” – Chad Kalepa Bayaban, navigator on the Hokulea, direct testimony in the TMT contested case

    • Cecilia

      Hey, Andrew, did you talk to all the Native Hawaiians in Hawai’i to come to this conclusion– “Over half of the Hawaiians support astronomy on Mauna Kea and understand that the telescope have never done anything that make life worse for those born in these islands.” ? The fact is that the construction of this telescope requires destruction of land. The other fact is that many Native Hawaiian families have been displaced by haoles since the illegal annexation of Hawai’i and replaced by tourists, resorts, military, Asians, and people who think living on the island makes them Hawaiian now. Being as Mauna Kea is actually sacred land too, construction of the telescope directly aids the destruction of Hawaiian culture. In some places, they would call this genocide. Science is good, but it does not have to be destructive.

      • Thayne Currie

        “Hey, Andrew, did you talk to all the Native Hawaiians in Hawai’i to come
        to this conclusion– “Over half of the Hawaiians support astronomy on
        Mauna Kea and understand that the telescope have never done anything
        that make life worse for those born in these islands.””

        This is a firm result of multiple scientific polls taken over the past several years, which show majority support for TMT from kanaka maoli, not just those who happen to live in Hawai’i.

        • Cecilia

          Link me.
          I am extremely skeptical that kanaka maoli would be supportive all of a sudden. When news of the construction of the telescope first got around, real Native Hawaiians were protesting already and getting arrested. That was years ago. Since then, the establishment has been quiet about the telescope’s construction as a way to subdue resistance. With that, I highly doubt that these polls were intended to truly garner the attitudes of actual kanaka maoli. Furthermore, the opinions of non-NH should have no relevance in regards to their cultural preservation. Have the NH people changed their minds or is history just repeating itself?

          • Andrew Cooper

            Who is a real Native Hawaiian? Who gets to define who is and is not? I know quite a few Hawaiians who support the telescope, and are quite vocal about it. Talk to them maybe?

          • http://www.id6649433.sexyxtex.website disqus_IVk3n3fWtO

            Your doubts are nothing but your opinion….you over use the phrase “I doubt…”, however your opinions obviously garnered from kindred sources ignore competing facts. He Kanaka maoli au. Imua TMT… try speaking to a topic you have thoroughly researched, unlike this topic which you obviously have not bothered to research before forming your opinion.

          • Golden1One

            Cecilia you’re making a common erroneous assumption about Native Hawaiians. The last sentence in your response assumes all Native Hawaiians have or should have the same opinion on this issue. They don’t. I can tell you from living here 20 years on three different islands that among the NH community it as at least a 50-50 split on the TMT and that’s being generous to the anti-TMT side. And yes all Hawaii residents should be able to opine on this issue because it affects everyone. Many of us who support the TMT believe the Mauna is sacred and with the appropriate mitigation efforts that the TMT is a noble enough endeavor to allow for it’s existence on MK. Two things can be true at once MK can be sacred and used for the purpose of astronomical observation by the best observatories in the world. The same explanation can be used for the issue of Hawaiian Sovereignty, some want it and many don’t. There are many layers of details to these issues and all need to be examined otherwise you will continue to paint with too broad a brush.

        • kuching

          Sorry Thayne – but this isn’t a popularity contest. As you should know – these are stolen Hawaiian Kingdom lands and the u.s. – being a mere occupier and subject to Kingdom laws and International Laws of Occupation really has “NO” standing. If you can’t show a valid Treaty of Annexation you have no leg to stand on.

      • Andrew Cooper

        I live at the base of the Mauna looking up at the summit, part of the local community. There are polls, then there are conversations with folks in this small town. Waimea is a ranching town with families that have been here since before recorded history. Most folks? What you hear is “build it already”.

        Of course the reporters never talk to these folks, they seek out telescope opponents with the the same story to tell. The problem is you always get that same story, some truth, some lies, not the real story. Rather a distorted version, told to suit a specific agenda.

        The telescope have done nothing to damage the Hawaiian community, quite the opposite. A lot of local island folks work on the mauna, good jobs that pay a lot better than cleaning hotel rooms, jobs you can raise a family on. The telescopes have been here for five decades, the Hawaiian community is more vibrant than ever. Part of that is cooperation, part of that is due to the opposition too. But it is clear that the telescopes are good for the community and the culture.

        • kuching

          However, the real truth is that the Keck Observatories Outrigger Telescopes Environmental Impact Statements states that astronomy has impacted the cultural and natural resources of Mauna Kea adversely and substantially. Your no-damage claim holds no water.

          • Andrew Cooper

            I was not referring to the physical impact to the mauna, but rather the impact to the culture. Fifty years of astronomy and the culture is more vibrant than ever, makes it rather clear that astronomy is not harming the culture despite vehement claims otherwise. Indeed I daily see ways that the telescopes make life better for those who call the islands home.

            As for the physical impact to the mauna? Anything we do in simply living has impact on nature. Want to eat, you must take fish, or grow your food, these have impact. Want to build a wa’a? You must cut down a few grand koa for the hulls and gather numerous other materials.

            Those of us who support astronomy fully understand the impact to the mauna, we acknowledge that and have decided it is worth it. What impact there is is carefully considered and planned through environmental impact statements and operational procedures.

            One day the ‘scopes will be decommissioned, in the next decade, maybe a century from now. The telescopes will be gone, the mauna will still be there.

      • http://www.id6649433.sexyxtex.website disqus_IVk3n3fWtO

        I am a native Hawaiian…try asking me that stupid question

      • Jeff

        Wrong . Maybe you should get your facts straight . Over 90 percent voted to become a state . wasnt illegal .

  • Peter Maurer

    I was originally opposed to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). However, the situation with TMT is much more complicated than presented by protesters, who I discovered had used deception, intimidation, and outright lies to put forward their case. This includes ramming a telescope with a truck, bringing up rocks with fire ants, adding water from South Dakota to Lake Waiau, discouraging community members to participate in forums with TMT representatives, and digging up bones from the island and burying them on the mauna in a cynical move to stop construction. This is all documented in the media and in the contested case hearing.

    Allow me to respond directly to several claims.

    “$300,000 a year for the education of “Hawaii Island students.””

    It will be $1 million a year upon TMT’s completion. The implication that it’s a bribe is false. The community requested fair compensation. TMT agreed to the request.

    “Not only does this term convolute the identity of Native Hawaiians, it also justifies the construction of the telescope under the guise that it’s for the betterment of the indigenous population.”

    They’re referring to all students on the Island of Hawaii, upon which TMT will be built.

    “The reality of the situation, however, is that only one-fourth of those participating in the internship are of Native Hawaiian descent. The board of TMT has made these, and many related efforts over the past five years leading to the approval of this final telescope, irrespective of how it is taking away one of the few cultural patrimonies passed down through generations of Kānaka Maoli.”

    So wait, it’s bad that only 1/4 of the participants are Native Hawaiian, but it’s also bad that Akamai is taking away Native Hawaiian culture? And how is education taking away from culture? Should we stop education in the Middle East, Africa, and India because we’ll take away from their culture? Should funding of schools remain the same or be cut? What should the policy be? I’m sure Akamai would appreciate feedback.

    “Scientists believe they can diminish thousands of years worth of indigeneity on this land because they can benefit from the convenience of its location.”

    Hawaii sought out telescopes to build on the mauna originally because Hilo was devastated by a natural disaster. It was to help the economy. Astronomy contributes about 5% of GDP to Hawaii Island’s economy. That said, there were quarries on Maunakea long before westerners appeared. So Native Hawaiians were mining.

    “By removing indigenous voices from the narrative—“

    You removed the voices of the majority of Native Hawaiians. A majority of Native Hawaiians support the telescope.

    “Kānaka Maoli make up only about 10 percent of Hawaii’s population, but more than 42 percent of Hawaii’s homeless population. These are the factors we must consider when asking the central question of TMT: At what cost?”

    How will stopping TMT help the homeless situation? This project will create jobs and opportunities. TMT will be required to hire from the island first (and it’s the preference of observatories anyway).

    Regardless, in exchange for building TMT, dozens of conditions must be met by the University of Hawaii, who manages the mauna. This includes the preservation of the mauna and educating visitors and employees on the significance of the mauna. This includes the removal of five other telescopes.

  • Ryan Montag

    The author here has gotten several facts wrong, including stating that only $300k a year will go to Hawaii’s struggling education system, when the real number is $1 million a year.


    As others state, she also ignores that overwhelming support in both the state of Hawaii and the Native Hawaiian community, with relatively recently polls showing over 70% support. In the age of fake news, it’s sad to see native identity co-opted to spread fake news and attack scientific projects, when there are far worse troubles facing Hawaii, including unaffordable housing, a homelessness crisis, and the destruction of our precious reefs, beaches, and mountains. Yet the author insists on claiming Mauna Kea is an attack on a sacred site, when even Hawaii’s supreme court ruled this was bogus because such claims about the mountain have only been made in modern times. These protesters were welcome to hearing before construction was set to began, and didn’t go. Yet now they care more about it even than the suffering of Native Children who stand to benefit from this school funding.


  • naeporue

    “Scientists believe they can diminish thousands of years worth of
    indigeneity on this land because they can benefit from the convenience
    of its location.” – Wrong! It is not thousands of years. The Tahitian-Hawaiians arrived just a few 100 years before Captain Cook. They killed the Menehune who were there before them.
    “Indigenous landmarks like Mauna Kea are the birthplace of culture” – It is just the replacement of some Tahitian hill for some of the Tahitian-Hawaiians.
    Most of the ‘Native’ Hawaiians are in favour of building the telescope.

  • Golden1One

    Very subjective article that was obviously written without a critical examination of the facts.

    1.) An EIS, cultural impact assessment and archaeological survey was conducted. No burial sites or historically significant sites were found in Area E which is where the TMT is to be built.

    2.) Completely ignore the fact that at least 50% of Native Hawaiians/Kanakas support the TMT.

    3.) Ignores the fact that as part of the mitigation requirements to build the TMT that three other telescopes will be permanently decommissioned and have their sites restored and that no new sites will be used for development. This caps the number of observatories at eleven, two below today’s number and reduces the astronomical footprint on Mauna Kea.

    4.) During the second contested case hearing none of the objectors could explain how the TMT would disrupt their cultural practices. Other claimed disruptions were proven to be invalid. For example one testifier claimed that the TMT would block his view of Maui. When an image of TMT was superimposed on this view plane, Maui was just as visible from it as it was without the superimposed image.

    5.) TMT has cleared over 10 years of planning and legal hurdles.

    6.) The HSC being biased against Native Hawaiian is inaccurate. HSC ruled in favor of the protestors and invalidated the original building permit.

    7.) Wrong on the THINK Fund contribution amount. The amount is $1,000,0000. The funds get disbursed to the Hawaii Community Foundation and Pauahi Foundation. Those two local organizations decide how to allocate the monies. TMT has paid into this fund for the last 4 years despite the disruption.

    8.) Two things can be true at once. Mauna Kea can be sacred, used for both cultural practices and astronomy. Mauna Kea is sacred to more than just Native Hawaiians.

    9.) The Republic of Hawaii was annexed by Joint Resolution. This is a lawful way to annex a territory into the US. Texas was also admitted to the union by Joint Resolution.

    10.) Please accept some advice. Research all sides of this story before passing judgement. You can start by watching the Contested Case Hearing. Most of which is available on Occupy Hawaii’s YouTube channel. Reading the HSC and BLNR decisions is also useful.

    • kuching

      Your most glaring misrepresentation is that of annexation. Everyone knows, or should know, that a Joint Resolution of Congress is a domestic instrument that has no legal significance outside that nation’s boundaries, and surely NOT in a independent, foreign country that was/is the Hawaiian Kingdom, and cannot and does not annex foreign countries. AND the u.s. constitution does not, for instance, give congress any powers of annexation. If any or all of you dissidents not agree – please show me/us specifically where and how such power and authority exists.

      • Golden1One

        The Hawaiian Kingdom wasn’t annexed but the Republic of Hawaii was after petitioning the US government . The Republic Of Texas was also admitted to the Union using a joint resolution. JR is a legal constitutional mechanism for annexation.

        • Jeff

          Yeah people keep forgetting the KIng and Queen were removed .

      • Golden1One

        I’d also challenge you to point some legal language or document that states what you are claiming here which is: “that a Joint Resolution of Congress is a domestic instrument that has no legal significance outside that nation’s boundaries, and surely NOT in a independent, foreign country that was/is the Hawaiian Kingdom, and cannot and does not annex foreign countries. AND the u.s. constitution does not, for instance, give congress any powers of annexation.” Again the Republic of Texas was annexed by Joint Resolution just as the Republic of Hawaii was.

        • kuching

          Sorry Bub – Resolutions DO NOT annexations make – only treaties do!

  • http://tinyurl.com/2a9fqa Ken Conklin

    Author says “The reality of the situation, however, is that only one-fourth of those participating in the internship are of Native Hawaiian descent.” Assuming that’s true, then ethnic Hawaiians are over-represented in the internship group — only 1/5 of Hawaii’s people have at least one drop of Hawaiian native blood. I guess there might have been some sort of “affirmative action” recruitment.

    • http://tinyurl.com/2a9fqa Ken Conklin

      Here’s a book that explains what’s going on in the Hawaiian sovereignty agitation:
      “Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State”
      The book’s cover, detailed table of contents, and entire chapter 1 are available at

  • Casey Dalager

    This is a really great article that shines a light on how even today colonialism is happening in America. Its sad that some people seem to think its okay to do this in the name of “science”, but honestly, isnt that just the same excuse that europeans have used in their colonialist enterprises for the past 600 years? More people need to stand against the construction of this telescope.

    • Thayne Currie

      “Its sad that some people seem to think its okay to do this in the name of “science””

      Okay to do what? Build a telescope on Maunakea? There are already 13 telescopes on Maunakea: some have been there since the 60s. TMT’s permit requires the decommissioning of 5 of these telescopes. Read the Final Environmental Impact Statement for TMT. The telescope was deliberately sited away from the most sensitive cultural sites (e.g. Pu’u Poliahu, Lake Waiau) and does not interfere with long-standing traditional and customary practices on the mauna.

      “isnt that just the same excuse that europeans have used in their colonialist enterprises for the past 600 years?”

      False. Learn your history. Astronomy was *deliberately* brought to Hawai’i *by* the local community after seeing the devastation wrought by multiple tsunamis and the collapse of the sugercane industry. A very large fraction of the observatories employ locals, including the one I am associated with (over 50% for some). You can barely go a few weeks without seeing some news report about a high school or college kid from Hawai’i or Oahu doing something great associated with the telescopes. The observatories are seen as a source of pride in east Hawai’i.

      • sculptorshaw

        The first telescope on Mauna Kea wasn’t operational until 1970 plus your statement that astronomy was deliberately brought to Hawaii by the local community is misleading at best. The community at large was skeptical at best of the development of the summit but there were some community “leaders” that pushed it.

        • Thayne Currie

          Not correct.

          1. – The UH 2.2m structure was already built just prior to 1970 (the date of full operations, not the date for construction of the dome, which started ~1967).

          – There was one telescope built in 1968, which was removed in 2008 with an entirely new dome in its place: https://hilo.hawaii.edu/news/press/release/702 . Another was finished in ~1970 and eventually replaced by Gemini, I believe.

          In any case, regardless of the exact date, it is true that most of the *current* telescopes have been there for decades: 5 since 1979, 12 since 1999.

          TMT requires the removal of five of these telescopes.

          2. As discussed in Leandra Swanner’s “Mountains of Controversy”, opposition to the observatories did not surface until after the first telescopes were built, when plans were discussed for international projects (i.e. CFHT). And even here the concerns raised were about restrictions on recreational use and some concerns about ecology, where the remedy focused largely on a need for a Master Plan for development (which happened: multiple times). Awareness of (and opposition to some observatories from) a belief in Maunakea’s cultural significance took much longer to develop.

          • sculptorshaw

            en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauna_Kea_Observatories First telescope operational in 1970 which would be the time most people would use to date the telescope and there was opposition from the beginning by many groups. I get that you can parse words and create false data to further any argument but the truth is the truth.

          • Andrew Cooper

            The Wikipedia article is woefully short a few details… First astronomical observations from the summit of Mauna Kea by a non-Hawaiian astronomer, 1891. First operational telescope, 1964 (site test instrument). Second operational telescope was 1968.

          • sculptorshaw

            I stand by my statement, anyone could say the summer of love wasn’t 1967, all that happened then occurred before but if you’re honest you understand it never happened on that scale. I really don’t get why you’re so obstinate, do you see that as positive quality. What do you gain by making a questionable claim that it started in the 60s when it more logical to accept that the first telescope that became part of many on Mauna Kea became operational in 1970. This reminds me of how you insist to everyone else it should be Maunakea instead of Mauna Kea but in that case you don’t even believe your own BS because the acronym for the Office of Mauna Kea Management is OMKM, not OMM

          • Andrew Cooper

            Not obstinate, I just have a obstinate preference for the facts. The history of astronomy on the summit of Mauna Kea goes back well before 1970. This is not a subject I am passingly familiar with… This is a subject I have long followed, including digging up old records and talking to folks that were there.

            Mauna Kea versus Maunakea? Not “our” idea, at least not from the observatories. This comes from the ‘Olelo Hawai’i experts at the university and elsewhere. Apparently a proper name should be all one word according those who preserve the language. OMKM and the observatories are simply using what they have been told is proper out of respect for the language.

            Personally? I still use Mauna Kea most of the time just because it has been the standard usage for a couple centuries, including in the first written versions of the name. I have considered switching, but have not at this point.

          • Jeff

            Wrong . Those telescopes are being fixed as well .

      • kuching

        They problem is that the TMT is proposed to be in the middle of a historic and religious site complex – and ignores the supposition that all/many of these sites have relationships one to another. To call the vacant space between the elements of a religious complex is to ignore the areal and regional interrelationships of the entirety of sacredness that is Mauna Kea.

        • Andrew Cooper

          The northern plateau is notably void of significant sites, with none found in the immediate vicinity of the construction site. The site that do appear in the archaeology tend to be minor find sites, not religious structures as found elsewhere. Most of the more significant sites are clearly linked with the adze quarry, Lake Waiau and the trails found on the southern plateau. Relocating astronomy facilities to the northern plateau just makes sense in avoiding the most significant cultural sites. Removal of several telescopes on the southern face makes this even more effective. The TMT will not even be visible from the lake, the trails, or the true summit.

          • kuching

            But it will be 100% visible from the old summit where the Kecks are now located AND from where I live in Waimea. Must I have to look at your temple every day?

    • kuching

      You have it right. The TMT is just another example of “Manifest Destiny” at work – illegally and immorally.

      • Jeff

        Looks like you were wrong . It is getting built .

  • Veronica Ohara

    I’m Kanaka Maoli and I support TMT & astronomy on Maunakea. It’s nice that people worry about us but once again the writer missed the large picture. A good number of us and Hawaii residents support this project. We descend from astronomers and TMT is the next step in our tradition.

    TMT has been supporting our future generations with better access to STEM & STEAM education. It’s no secret that Hawaii struggles with education.

    TMT has raised awareness on stewardship of Maunakea and our other observatories have followed in their footsteps. Historic properties now have better preservation. The unique Alpine landscape has increased conservation for flora and fauna.

    Lands that are not being used are under consideration for “return”. Leases for observatories are under careful appreciation. Most important is the new programs currently in place to give our students access to our observatories.

    We cannot undo our past but we chose to make a better future. A life in line with our heritage with a better grasp of the present and the future.

    It is our right to use our natural resources to benefit ourselves. The keiki who aspire in astronomy, astrophysics, robotics, medicine have the right to a better future. Their future is in our hands and it falls on us to make sure they have the tools to flourish. They are the cultural practitioners of tomorrow and like our ancestors their studies will echo along side the sacred chants of our Kupuna.

    • Cecilia

      See, this is why Samoans still have (independent) Samoa… and our language and tats and etc.

      • Golden1One

        And Hawaiians still have their own language, tats and definable culture.

  • Sterling McElrath

    Thanks for writing this. I’m glad to know more about this issue and I understand and agree that this telescope should not be built on the current site.

    • Golden1One

      Do you agree based on this one biased subjective article from someone who obviously has spent little to now time in Hawaii?

      • http://www.id6649433.sexyxtex.website disqus_IVk3n3fWtO


  • sculptorshaw

    I have to seriously question the collective intelligence of humanity when I read through these comments, this is not an investigative article, it is an op-ed, there is a difference. The person is expressing an opinion with their understanding of the facts, you can refute the facts and have a different opinion but that doesn’t have to happen in a condescending manner. Throughout the history of oppression there have always been instances where people have supported their oppressors over their own interests, there is nothing new to that, so it is not surprising that TMT can claim some Native Hawaiian support, but not Kanaka Maoli support. Once you have given up on your culture and relegated yourself to being a statistic in the narrative of your oppressor the smartest thing to do is go along to get along and if you have some influence they will even throw some scraps your way.

    • Andrew Cooper

      The problem is with the whole “oppressor” idea, it does not apply well here in Hawaii. I suggest you take a look at the local government webpages for the counties and State of Hawaii… Look at the island elected officials, police, judges, and mayors, look at the legislature webpages where there are nice photos and bios of the state senators and reps. You will find a huge mix of heritages present, including quite a few Native Hawaiians in the mix.

      Hawaii is a multicultural society to a degree that puts any other state to shame, this state is run by local folks who were born and grew up here, not some transplanted foreign “oppressor” or “colonizer” class. In most districts you need to be local to even consider running for office, and the definition of local is usually not “white”. Is everyone happy with this? Of course not. It is just that in this day and age, the language of “post-colonialism” is popular in some circles and makes a convenient excuse. Colonialism ended as a real power in Hawaii a few generations ago, while there are vestiges and legacies, it is not the prime issue here. You need to look elsewhere to understand the situation here.

      • sculptorshaw

        I’m sticking by what I said, your Hawaii and mine aren’t the same, you ignore the reality of the occupation but that is not surprising. It is also not surprising that the people who control Hawaii let others do their dirty work for them. The huli is happening though, are you ready. The world is sick and tired of pretentious so-called scientists who have no vision telling everyone that they know best. The most ignorant person is someone who thinks he’s above everyone else. Post-colonialism has not occurred in Hawaii, you are not allowed to make that call. It will happen when the control of the destiny of Hawaii is where it belongs. The people running the show now are so inept and corrupt that they are practically handing it over. How many more years will it take for them to complete the rail, they are in way over their heads with the homeless problem, the education system is falling apart, but dammit they are going to do all they can to build TMT. Newsflash, there will never be a good reason to go to Mars and TMT is not going to be built on Mauna Kea so why not turn our efforts towards something productive, like people figuring out how to be functional. If we were rational we would concentrate on maintaining a livable biosphere and developing workable social structures.

        • Andrew Cooper

          I am not saying the world does not have a lot of problems… Income inequality, education, political polarization, climate change, and the rest of the very long list. What I do see is that Hawaii is controlled by those who live here, grew up here, and were mostly born here. Corrupt or not, they are Hawaii, not some foreign power. If you are looking to end an occupation as a solution to the problems you are unlikely to solve anything, and will be left with the same problems despite your efforts.

          • sculptorshaw

            There is something to be said for being able to own your own problems, are the people in Haiti clamoring to have someone take over. If the occupation started doing at least a decent job of controlling Hawaii they would have a stronger leg to stand on but they are too arrogant to care. The Kanaka Maoli were here for centuries and they were content and self-sufficient enough that they no longer saw fit to sail to all the corners of the Pacific as their ancestors did. They deserve to have a place where they call the shots and according to you they favor the TMT so why not quit being a racist and join the huli.

          • Andrew Cooper

            Therein lies the problem for me… Any solution that hands power to one group based on nothing but racial makeup is inherently racist. I have listened to quite a few of the sovereignty activists and federal recognition advocates and have heard no good answer to this issue. Who is to say who is and who is not Hawaiian? Is a 100% Hawaiian that does not live the culture more valid than someone who has one drop, but speaks Hawaiian and honors the values? What about the descendants of plantation workers that have lived here for generations? Is this not their home?

            I have seen no good answers to these questions, quite the opposite, the solutions I hear proposed are simply bad. Sorry, I do not believe in building walls.

            The Kingdom of Hawaii was never a racist government from the very start, anyone was recognized regardless of race if they chose to be so. The solutions on the table exclude members based on race, not culture. If you form a new system with anyone allowed to join, a new kingdom or whatever, you are right back where we are now… The State of Hawaii.

            Understand the irony of what I am saying here… I am a card carrying member of a sovereign government that exists inside the United States, federally recognized.

  • Vinn Chow

    Thank you so much for writing this informative article, Melody. It definitely raises an important point of discussion and spreads awareness. We should definitely be talking about this. It seems to me that the action of constructing this telescope can definitely be viewed as an erasure of indigenous people, if not an oppressive, colonial, perhaps even violent course of action. There really needs to be more discussion about this proposal/decision.

  • Bri

    I think everything that needed to be said about the TMT has been said in the comments, and really shows the naivete of the author and their knowledge of the TMT program. But I would like to focus on their comments regarding the Akamai program, an internship I did as a native Hawaiian engineering student for two years in college and I am now a mentor for as well. TMT did not establish the internship program, it was a collaborative effort that was started by UC Santa Cruz and initially funded by the Center for Adaptive Optics back in 2001. As of 2010 TMT has been the primary funder of the program which aims to keep Hawaii students in Hawaii STEM careers. Sure you can cite the “low” native Hawaiian student participation but Akamai wishes to reflect demographics that match Hawaii’s overall population (e.g. 23% of Hawaii’s overall population is native Hawaiian). [https://akamaihawaii.org/]

    Also comparing TMT and Hawaii’s homeless population is comparing apples and oranges. They’re completely unrelated, that’s like saying well due to colonialism we have cars. Cars drive over the land that the people of Hawaii used to own, farm and thrive on so that must be the reason why there’s a high native Hawaiian population among the homeless because we’ve taken away the livelihood of the people.

    • Thayne Currie

      Well said.

  • Jay Why

    Wonderful composition! Well written and very insightful. Your grasp of indigenous issues in Hawaii is excellent. Despite the many comments attempting to detract from the eloquence of your article, your dignity and intelligence clearly shine through. It is completely understandable how American culture influences its constituents to think in such a way that neglects the cultural importance of other races and ethnicities. There are countless examples of American conquest throughout its history. One need look no further than the American institution of manifest destiny to understand what implicitly drives its sociocultural narratives. When Native Americans were sequestered on reservations, as slavery ravaged throughout America, when the kingdom of Hawaii was illegally overthrown (as has been recognized by the United States Congress), when the Chinese exclusion act dissolved their citizenship, when Japanese-Americans were interned, and today immigrant children die in American facilities, these are just some examples of the repetitive oppression of non-white “Americans” and indigenous peoples. Which, is ultimately the issue we are dealing with and TMT is simply a manifestation of the injustice that continues to haunt native Hawaiians to this day. As a freshman, you should be proud that your prose is so elegantly fashioned, and as a native Hawaiian you should be resolute in your stance because you have our support. Malaho piha, onipa’a kakou!