I have invited Trisha Kehaulani Watson to express her views about Maunakea. The following are her thoughts.
There are places on this planet so beautiful that to simply stand still in its aesthetic landscape leaves you with a sense of wonder.
Hawai‘i is blessed to have many such places, but none are quite as majestic as Maunakea.
Standing at the summit of Maunakea, you have no doubt why our kūpuna saw fit to identify it as the meeting place of heaven and earth. It is the piko of our cosmos, and dawn of our time.
For every Hawaiian, every mo‘okū‘auhau takes us home to Maunakea.
The continued development and mismanagement of our mauna by the University of Hawai‘i is not only shameful, it is painful. It is unfortunate outsiders view our grief as anger; the struggle to protect Maunakea is not a conflict of science and culture. Rather it is the continued effort to have our worldview respected by those who refuse to see that indigenous ways of knowing have much to offer.
Indigenous peoples, including Native Hawaiians, have spoken for millennia for the necessity of living in kinship with the world around us. Our sciences and knowledges have always been tools to enhance life and sustainability. We have never viewed the advancement of knowledge as a means of destruction.
There is no disputing the harmful impacts the TMT Observatory will have on our mauna. The Final EIS reads: “From a cumulative perspective, the impact of the past and present actions on cultural, archaeological, and historic resources is substantial, significant, and adverse; these impacts would continue to be substantial, significant, and adverse with the consideration of the [TMT] Project and other reasonably foreseeable future actions.”
Whether intentional or not, the continued development of Maunakea comes at too high a cost. The path of destruction that will lead to the observatory is not only physical but spiritual.
Proponents of the project eagerly point to the scholarship monies being given as compensation for the desecration, but is this really the lesson we want to be teaching our keiki? That desecration is acceptable at the right price? Is this who we are as Hawaiians?
All the money in the world will mean nothing if we do not have clean water, if our lands can no longer grow food, if we have no sacred spaces to commune with our Akua and our kūpuna.
We are the first scientists of this ‘āina. We are the designers of loko i‘a, the engineers of lo‘i kalo, the builders of wa‘a. It is time for the University, as a “Hawaiian place of learning,” to give up their crusade to conquer our mountain. There is no good ending that can come from continuing this conflict.
The University has demonstrated that it cannot effectively manage this sacred space. It has developed within the conservation zone uncontrollably for years. It continues to fail on its timelines and obligations as a manager.
It is time for the development of Maunakea to stop.
A determination by the University to stop the further development of the TMT observatory would not be simple. There may be legal complications. Many would surely be unhappy with the outcome.
Such a decision would not be easy, but it would be right. And I only hope that in these days when emotions are high, and the conflict is seemingly overwhelming, the leaders at the University and state call upon the better angels of their nature to find the grace and courage to do what is honorable by our land, our people, and our Maunakea.