Maunakea Presents an Historic Opportunity to Unite the Hawaiian People


Keli‘i Akina, Ph.D., Trustee, At-Large

E Hana Kākou! Maunakea has captured the attention of the world. While the fate of the Thirty Meter Telescope has been the focal point, deeper issues have come to the surface. Proper stewardship of the mauna, unaddressed grievances, and even Hawaiian identity itself, have inspired thousands of Kanaka Maoli to rally. Some have stated that “it’s not about the TMT.”

As for the TMT, recent surveys reflect that Hawaiians do not all hold the same view. A Civil Beat poll published on August 8, 2019 shows that 48% of those surveyed who identified as Hawaiian oppose building the TMT on Maunakea, while 44% support it (7% are neutral/undecided).

The news media largely focus on the conflict between the kia‘i, or protectors of the Mauna, and the state government. The less publicized conflict, which is evident to us in the broader Hawaiian community, is the conflict between Hawaiians with differing views on TMT.

Hawaiians on either side of the issue are equipped with sophisticated, valid arguments. But what stands out is what they have in common. Regardless of their stance, they are sincere, passionate and committed. And both sides sense that the time has come for a renewed Hawaiian identity.

I respect the kia‘i, and stand with them in calling for pono management of Maunakea. And I commend my colleague, Trustee Hulu Lindsey, for the courage with which she stood in her beliefs, with other kūpuna arrested on the Mauna.

I also respect those Hawaiians who support the TMT for the scientific, educational and economic opportunities it can bring Hawaiians and the world. Theirs is a vision that Maunakea has room for both science and the sacred.

As master navigator Kalepa Baybayan says, “There is more than enough room for people to have their own practice, cultural practice, scientific research. We just need to have the collective will to share the Mauna.” Some disagree with him. And others disagree with Trustee Hulu Lindsey. But I hope that we can all agree that both of these kupuna deserve our utmost respect and aloha.

Our path forward as a lāhui must first be one of civility and tolerance toward each other.

Secondly, we need to look beyond our differences and build upon our common ground. For example, I voted in favor of an OHA resolution to provide humanitarian aid to beneficiaries on the Mauna. I proposed that the resolution be amended to also acknowledge OHA beneficiaries who support the TMT. This would have been consistent with OHA’s official position of neutrality on TMT, and OHA’s kuleana to stand by all Hawaiian beneficiaries regardless of their political views. OHA must play a role in bringing people together.

Hopefully, TMT supporters can embrace the deep concerns of the Kia‘i Mauna, and in turn the kia‘i can consider the values of TMT supporters and explore how reverence for Maunakea can co-exist with the TMT.

Maunakea presents a historic opportunity to all Hawaiians, to unite rather than divide. For divided there is nothing we can do, but united there is nothing that can stop us. If we reduce Maunakea to a win-lose proposition, then almost half of all Hawaiians will be disaffected. That’s a terrible price to pay for not being able to come together. But if we can listen to and respect each other, and embrace what is common between us all, we have a historic opportunity to define ourselves. Let’s realize the significance of this moment, and seize the opportunity to move together in unity as a great lāhui.

E hana kākou! / Let’s work together!