Categories Archives: Indigenous Autonomy

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

Protecting Mauna Kea: Stopping Murder-Suicide

Will Falk’s third installment in his series on protecting Mauna Kea addresses this culture’s conflation of spirituality with superstition. Many proponents of the massive Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project dismiss out of hand the cultural concerns of Hawaiians who defend the sacredness of Mauna Kea and decry the construction of yet another telescope as desecration.

I often get an explanation like this, “I support indigenous people, of course, but the telescope is for science. Isn’t it a little…superstitious to block an astronomy project for a mountain?” Spirituality, I forgot, is anathema in many leftist circles.

It shouldn’t be.

I understand that many in this culture have been wounded by their experiences with religion. Some religions have, on the whole, been disasters for the living world. But, to write off all spirituality because of the actions of a few religions, is not just intellectually lazy and historically inaccurate, it erases the majority of human cultures that lived as true members acting in mutual relationship with their natural communities.

Falk explores how spirituality, a culture’s way of relating to the world, influences how members perceive others and thus how they act toward them. Many civilized religions, including the Catholicism into which he was indocrinated from birth, see the material world and natural human urges as impure and shameful. They share with science a conception of a hierarchy of beings, with God and angels (or the mind and intellect) superior to human bodies, which in turn are superior to other animals, plants, insects, and “unliving” objects such as mountains. Conveniently, both science and the major religions of civilization provide justification for human exploitation of the rest of the world.

Falk felt betrayed by the hypocrisy of Catholicism and its antithetical stance towards affirming life. In what he now recognizes as a mistake, he extrapolated his disillusionment and anger to all spirituality. He makes a powerful case in this piece that we must seek out, embrace, and protect those spiritualities which actually benefit communities of humans and non-humans:

To stop the TMT project, to stop the genocide of indigenous peoples, and to save the world, I believe we need to empower spiritualities that learned how to live in balance with their land bases. We need to empower indigenous spiritualities around the world.

Read the entire article at Deep Green Resistance News Service – Protecting Mauna Kea: Stopping Murder-Suicide. See all of Will Falk’s “Protecting Mauna Kea” essays, plus other resources, at our page Protect Mauna Kea from the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Is Hawai’i an occupied state?

The Nation recently published a fairly concise summary of the differences between, and controversy over, federal recognition vs full independence as routes to Hawaiian sovereignty. The article reports a surprising swell in support among Native Hawaiians for a complete break; until recently it was believed that most were willing to settle for the more paternalistic option of recognition by the US government without full autonomy.

The debate hinges on the illegal overthrow in 1893 of Queen Lili‘uokalani of the sovereign Hawaiian nation, and the subsequent illegal occupation by the US. Nothing has changed to make the occupation legal, so the growing independence movement is appealing to international law to help get the US out of Hawai’i.

Over the summer, the US Department of the Interior held a series of hearings inviting Native Hawaiians to comment on the formation of a federally recognized nation. The hearings confirmed what many Hawaiians already knew: opposing camps have formed in the debate over Hawaiian sovereignty. One side views federal recognition as a pragmatic alternative to the status quo. The other side, at first thought to be a marginal segment of the movement, seeks the full independence that Hawai‘i had in the nineteenth century. Surprisingly, after decades in which the federal recognition advocates represented the mainstream, the voices for full independence seized the spotlight. The overwhelming response at the hearings to the question of federal recognition was “a‘ole”: no.

[…]

At its root, the debate stems from divergent beliefs about law and power. Independence advocates view international law (and specifically the law of occupation) as safeguards against the continuation of an illegally constituted, and essentially occupying, government—the State of Hawai‘i. They call not for decolonization but deoccupation, as was done in the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) upon the breakup of the Soviet Union. Some federal recognition supporters are beneficiaries of Hawaiian “entitlements” such as the Federal Hawaiian Home Lands homesteading program; others are US military veterans who argue that the United States would never allow a withdrawal regardless of Hawai‘i’s legal status internationally. These views and the paths they imply appear to be mutually exclusive.

The whole article is worth reading for a crash course in Hawaiian history and contemporary resistance: Is Hawai‘i an Occupied State?

Deep Green Resistance supports the independence movement, and efforts by indigenous peoples everywhere to maintain or regain autonomy and control of their lands. Read our Indigenous Solidarity Guidelines to learn how members of settler culture can support indigenous on the front lines of social justice and environmental struggles.

Hawaiians halt Thirty Meter Telescope ground-breaking ceremony

On Tuesday, October 7, a ground-breaking ceremony was attempted to kick off construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a $1.5 billion desecration of sacred Mauna Kea. The project has been rammed through by the so-called “state” of Hawai’i despite environmental, cultural, and legal concerns. Native Hawaiians led a protest and, joined by non-Hawaiians, successfully disrupted and halted the ceremony, forcing the organizers to shut off the live stream and go home early.

This is a multinational project with funding from India, Japan, Canada and California, including Cal Tech and the UC system as partners. The ceremony was intended to convince astronomers and the international audience that the TMT has the general backing of Native Hawaiians, going so far as to incorporate traditional Hawaiian cultural and ceremonial practices. The protesters broke through the charade and made clear the fierce opposition to the project. 250 people gathered to participate in the protest, though only a few were able to reach the ceremony at the summit.

This was an unprecedented victory for Hawaiians against an occupation which routinely ignores their cultural and legal rights. But much more needs to be done to stop the project for good. Please contact Kamahana Kealoha to get involved or support the ongoing work:

Email: sacredmaunakea@gmail.com
Website: Sacred Mauna Kea
Facebook

Deep Green Resistance Hawai’i was unable to participate in the event, but we’re honored to publish these original photos from the event:

Sunrise offerings before the protest at the ahu (alter)  across from the base of Mauna Kea

Sunrise offerings before the protest at the ahu (alter) across from the base of Mauna Kea

Six Hawaiians went to the summit to do protocol and pule (prayers) after the sunrise ceremony.

Six Hawaiians went to the summit to do protocol and pule (prayers) after the sunrise ceremony.

View of Mauna Loa from the summit of  Mauna Kea

View of Mauna Loa from the summit of Mauna Kea

photo 3

The blockade of the road was at 9000 feet. It was a bit chaotic with so many law enforcement vehicles, including  homeland security. And people didn't want to get arrested before the people doing the  ground breaking ceremony arrived.

The blockade of the road was at 9000 feet. It was a bit chaotic with so many law enforcement vehicles, including homeland security. People didn’t want to get arrested before the people doing the ground breaking ceremony arrived.

Non Hawaiians came out and stood strong with the Hawaiians

Non Hawaiians came out and stood strong with the Hawaiians.

photo 2_4

The protesters opted for a slow-down rather than starting right into a blockade

The protesters opted for a slow-down rather than starting right into a blockade.

But the desecraters had been  smuggled past in paramedics  vehicles

But the desecraters had been smuggled past in paramedics vehicles

Then they climbed into  white SUVs and drove up.  It was an ill feeling to look up and see this line of vehicles.

Then they climbed into white SUVs and drove up. It was an ill feeling to look up and see this line of vehicles.

The protest spread out

The protest spread out.

It's highly inaccurate to accuse Hawaiians of selfishly opposing western science, with 13 telescopes on Mauna Kea now.

It’s grossly unfair to accuse Hawaiians of selfishly opposing western science, with 13 telescopes on Mauna Kea now.

photo 3_2photo 2

People started to fan out and some drove to the summit, elevation about 14,000 ft.

People started to fan out and some drove to the summit, elevation about 14,000 ft.

photo 1This truck made it onto the summit before the cops closed the road. Those who made it to the top had to walk miles in and then wander the labyrinth of trails looking for the event.

This truck made it onto the summit before the cops closed the road. Those who made it to the top had to walk miles in and then wander the labyrinth of trails looking for the event.

Lanakila

Lanakila was the first one to find and intervene in the event. He stood there and challenged them for 15 minutes before other protesters could join him, just in time to stop the ground breaking.

photo 3_5

The financial backers had to stand there and listen to Hawaiians telling them they don't want their money for this desecration.

The financial backers had to stand there and listen to Hawaiians telling them they don’t want their money for this desecration.

The minister on the right, former Senator Daniel Akaka's son, was about to sell out fellow Hawaiians by blessing the project.  Instead, his own people told him he had to stop.

The minister on the right, former Senator Daniel Akaka’s son, was about to sell out fellow Hawaiians by blessing the project. Instead, his own people told him he had to stop.

photo 2_7

Hawaiians mobbed the event and chanted

Hawaiians mobbed the event and chanted.

The VIPs were to line up, each holding an o'o with his or her name carved into it.  Cultural practitioner Akaka was to chant to them, commanding them to pound and dig. This grotesque pimping of Hawaiian culture was halted, and these o'o went unused.

The VIPs were to line up, each holding an o’o with his or her name carved into it. “Cultural practitioner” Akaka was to chant to them, commanding them to pound and dig. This grotesque pimping of Hawaiian culture was halted, and these o’o went unused.

The observatory people decided to give up their ceremony and to leave

The organizers decided to give up their ceremony and to leave.

photo 1_8

Hawaiians helped speed the desecraters on their way by packing up their chairs and rolling up their carpet

Hawaiians helped speed the desecraters on their way by packing up their chairs and rolling up their carpet.

The sight of them leaving marked a historic victory in Hawaiian resistance to occupation.  This is just the start.

The sight of their leaving marked a historic victory in Hawaiian resistance to occupation. This is just the start!

Tuesday: protest of the Thirty Meter Telescope

Press release from Keala Kelly. For more information, contact her at:

Phone: 808-265-0177
Email: sacredmaunakea@gmail.com
Website: Sacred Mauna Kea
Facebook

What: Mauna Kea Protest
When: Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 7am to 2pm
Where: Saddle Road at the entrance to the Mauna Kea Observatory Road

Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians will gather for a peaceful protest against the Astronomy industry and the “State of Hawaii’s” ground-breaking ceremony for a thirty-meter telescope (TMT) on the summit of Mauna Kea.

Cultural Issues

Mauna Kea is sacred to the Hawaiian people, who maintain a deep connection and spiritual tradition there that goes back millennia.

“The TMT is an atrocity the size of Aloha Stadium,” said Kamahana Kealoha, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner. “It’s 19 stories tall, which is like building a sky-scraper on top of the mountain, a place that is being violated in many ways culturally, environmentally and spiritually.” Speaking as an organizer of those gathering to protest, Kealoha said, “We are in solidarity with individuals fighting against this project in U.S. courts, and those taking our struggle for de-occupation to the international courts. Others of us must protest this ground-breaking ceremony and intervene in hopes of stopping a desecration.”

Clarence “Ku” Ching, longtime activist, cultural practitioner, and a member of the Mauna Kea Hui, a group of Hawaiians bringing legal challenges to the TMT project in state court, said, “We will be gathering at Pu’u Huluhulu, at the bottom of the Mauna Kea Access Road, and we will be doing prayers and ceremony for the mountain.”

When asked if he will participate in protests, he said, “We’re on the same side as those who will protest, but my commitment to Mauna Kea is in this way. We are a diverse people…everyone has to do what they know is pono.”

Environmental Issues

The principle fresh water aquifer for Hawai’i Island is on Mauna Kea, yet there have been mercury spills on the summit; toxins such as Ethylene Glycol and Diesel are used there; chemicals used to clean telescope mirrors drain into the septic system, along with half a million gallons a year of human sewage that goes into septic tanks, cesspools and leach fields.

“All of this poisonous activity at the source of our fresh water aquifer is unconscionable, and it threatens the life of the island,” said Kealoha. “But that’s only part of the story of this mountain’s environmental fragility. It’s also home to endangered species, such as the palila bird, which is endangered in part because of the damage to its critical habitat, which includes the mamane tree.”

Legal Issues

Mauna Kea is designated as part of the Crown and Government lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Professor Williamson PC Chang, from the University of Hawaii’s Richardson School of Law, said, “The United States bases its claim to the Crown and Government land of the Hawaiian Kingdom on the 1898 Joint Resolution of Congress, but that resolution has no power to convey the lands of Hawaii to the U.S. It’s as if I wrote a deed saying you give your house to me and I accepted it. Nobody gave the land to the U.S., they just seized it.”

“Show us the title,” said Kealoha. “If the so-called ‘Treaty of Annexation’ exists, that would be proof that Hawaiian Kingdom citizens gave up sovereignty and agreed to be part of the United States 121 years ago. But we know that no such document exists. The so-called ‘state’ does not have jurisdiction over Mauna Kea or any other land in Hawaii that it illegally leases out to multi-national interests.”

“I agree with how George Helm felt about Kahoolawe,” said Kealoha. “He wrote in his journal: ‘My veins are carrying the blood of a people who understood the sacredness of land and water. Their culture is my culture. No matter how remote the past is it does not make my culture extinct. Now I cannot continue to see the arrogance of the white man who maintains his science and rationality at the expense of my cultural instincts. They will not prostitute my soul.’”

“We are calling on everyone, Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike, to stand with us, to protect Mauna Kea the way George and others protected Kahoolawe. I ask myself every day, what would George Helm do? Because we need to find the courage he had and stop the destruction of Mauna Kea.”

Who is Financing the Thirty-Meter Telescope?

Multi-national funding for the 1.4 billion dollar project is being provided by:

  • The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation of Palo Alto, California
  • National Institutes of Natural Sciences in Japan
  • The National Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • The California Institute of Technology
  • The University of California
  • The Indian Institute for Astrophysics
  • Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA)
  • University of Hawaii

Links to videos that convey the opposition to the TMT:

Laws being broken on the Mauna
The native perspective and cultural/religious breaches of law

Native Hawaiian Anne Keala Kelly on Resistance Radio

noho-hewa

For the August 3rd episode of Resistance Radio, Derrick Jensen interviewed Anne Keala Kelly, a native Hawaiian filmmaker, journalist, and activist focused on the modern Hawaiian sovereignty movement. Her documentary Noho Hewa, on the illegal occupation of the nation of Hawai’i by the United States, has been screened around the world and is widely taught in university courses. (Read a review of Noho Hewa on the Deep Green Resistance News Service.)

In this interview, Kelly shares an indigenous perspective on genealogy and what it means to be native Hawaiian, the history of Hawai’i prior to European arrival, the history of the illegal occupation and its parallels to other imperialistic moves by the US, and the current condition and effects of military and foreign takeover of Hawaiian lands. She explains that Hawai’i as a linchpin of the global US empire makes the struggle to free Hawai’i central to environmental and social justice worldwide, not just here. Finally, she summarizes the modern movement towards sovereignty and resistance to the occupation.

Kelly tackles a broad subject with at least a dozen major strands, doing a good job of tying together seemingly disparate issues. This interview is well worth a close listen, both for residents of Hawai’i and for anyone anywhere concerned with the ability of the US to project its power around the globe. Hawai’i could be a strategic intervention point against imperialism and its resultant environmental and social destruction.

Download an mp3 of the interview with Anne Keala Kelly, play the embedded audio below, or listen to the interview on the DGR Youtube channel.

Browse all of Derrick Jensen’s Resistance Radio interviews.

Native Hawaiians Lead Opposition to New Mauna Kea Telescope

A proposed Thirty Meter Telescope for the Mauna Kea summit faces opposition from Native Hawaiians and from environmental groups, due to the heavy impacts it would have on cultural practices and on this ecological sensitive area. Deep Green Resistance Hawai’i supports the right of Native Hawaiians to carry out their traditional spiritual practices free of encroachment by further industrial development. We should spend more time listening to the wisdom of people who’ve lived on this land for at least a thousand years, instead of sacrificing the land and its people in the pursuit of abstract knowledge.

The article Native Hawaiians Voice Opposition to Proposed Telescope on Sacred Mauna Kea describes the hearing by the Board of Land and Natural Resources, and testimony given by Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, explains:

The importance of Mauna Kea as a sacred place for indigenous Hawaiians remains one of the driving factors behind resistance, according to Kumu hula Paul K. Neves. Neves states: “We continue to educate Hawaii’s people and the public abroad, that Mauna Kea is not just a high-elevation place on earth, it is a most sacred of places. Our case is about the necessity of having respect for Hawaiian spirituality.”

However, resistance to the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea is also in response to the history of development on the mountain, and thus part of a much larger story. As anti-telescope organizer Ilima Long says: “The lack of say and control we have over our sacred places is one of the ongoing traumas of colonialism and occupation for Kanaka Maoli [Native Hawaiians] in Hawai‘i.”

Opposition is being organized by KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance. Visit their website to sign up for alerts about how you can help in this and in other struggles.