Protecting Mauna Kea: Talking Story

From his new perspective as part of the Thirty Meter Telescope blockade, more than nine thousand feet above sea level, Will Falk contemplates our modern jet-fueled culture in which everything is a commodity with no place or relationship truly sacred. He contrasts this to the glimpses he’s already seen into the multi-generational, deeply connected relationships and stories formed by Native Hawaiians with Mauna Kea and the rest of the aina. The dominant culture systematically ignores, denies, or actively destroys those stories and the respect they engender for the landbase. The lessons of ancient wisdom are anathema to a system based on exploitation and short-term profit couched in religious, economic, and scientific trappings.

Falk explains:

I am writing this Protecting Mauna Kea series, in part, to understand how it is possible for a culture to think it is acceptable to desecrate another people’s most sacred site by building a massive telescope on the top of a beautiful mountain. I want to understand what the individual humans responsible for this project think and feel. Are they simply mistaken about the nature of physical reality? Do they really think that digging deeply into a mountain to build a telescope will be harmless? What I have learned, so far on the Mountain, from the protectors, from Kahookahi, and from the director of the DLNR provide, perhaps, an answer.

Quite simply, when you understand a place is full of stories and the beings who provide these living stories, it becomes very difficult for you to destroy those stories. When you understand the language of a place and learn how to communicate in that place, it becomes very difficult for you to destroy that place. When you learn to talk story wherever you are, you can learn to understand, and fear becomes more difficult.

I think the TMT project is the result of a culture that has forgotten how to talk story, has forgotten the living stories unfolding everywhere around us. When you look at Mauna Kea and see a simple mountain – just a collection of earth as I’ve heard some insensitive folks describe it-you will treat it one way, but when you look at Mauna Kea and see, as traditional Hawaiians do, a vast collection of stories and living story-givers, you will treat it in a much different way.

Falk explores the importance of the renaissance in Hawaiian culture and language, rescued from more than a century of active attempts to suppress, erase, and destroy indigenous knowledge in Hawai’i. This reclaiming of identity is helping fuel growing Hawaiian resistance to the illegal occupation by the US, and is currently focused on the TMT project.

Falk, like most of us members of settler culture, can’t know the full experience of a lived spirituality integrated with land: land who nourished and sheltered your ancestors; land who reclaimed and reused their flesh and bones and spirits. But he’s spending time listening to the stories of those who have participated in such long-term relationship with the aina. For those of us without direct access to such stories, his reports are well worth reading at Deep Green Resistance News Service ― Protecting Mauna Kea: Talking Story

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