Will Changes in the Leadership at University of Hawaiʻi Address the Outstanding Cultural Problems on Maunakea and Kumukahi?

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Mililani B Trask: Trustee Hawaiʻi Island

Ever since the Overthrow of our Monarchy, Hawaiians have had to fight to protect our “Wahi Pana,” Sacred Places. Mauna Kea is a good example. For years, commercial science and the UH Institute of Astronomy have subjected the Mauna to overdevelopment, toxic spills and commercial tourism while failing to accommodate Hawaiian cultural uses including the right to worship. They have consistently violated the law which requires that those who use ceded State lands belonging to the public and native Hawaiians must pay fair market value for their leases. In the case of Mauna Kea, the rent for use of the entire summit for over a dozen science related structures is $1 a year of which OHA get 20 cents and the Public receives 80 cents!!!!!

Commercial science, the University of Hawaiʻi, the Institute of Astronomy, and the NSF have ripped us off for years. During this time Hawaiians, including 65 Kupuna, have demonstrated, been arrested, charged as criminals and dragged through two years of trial. We were never given the chance to present our story…. our right to worship and mālama the ʻāina. In the end, the Judge dismissed the charges because the State Attorney General could not prove its case!! We lost Kupuna during this time, and no resolution was forthcoming.

This year, on January 17, the day our Monarchy was overthrown, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs by and through its legal counsel, Robert Klein, filed a case against the State of Hawaiʻi over Mauna Kea. I supported this filing because it is OHA’s job to protect our peoples’ right to worship at our traditional sacred places and it is the States obligation to protect our sacred cultural places.

Over these many years, UH President David Lassner and Alapaki Nahale-a, Chair of the UH Board of Regents, looked the other way and continued to receive their huge compensation packages. Hawaiians went to jail and the Mauna continued to be degraded and treated as the private property of global researchers working for foreign governments, and their local politicians and powerbroker friends.

Mauna Kea troubles are only a small part of the problems at the UH system which came to light in recent legislative hearings. Given the numerous examples of Nahale-a’s ignoring or opposing the concerns of UH students and faculty and his failure to exercise his “oversight responsibilities of accountability” from 2019 to 2023, it is no wonder that the Senate Higher Education Committee did not re-appoint him.

I welcome the new UH BOR members, including Neil Abercrombie. He has been involved in our State & Hawaiian community issues for years. He speaks in a straightforward manner and does not play political games. He tells you his manaʻo and is willing to wrangle it out when a disagreement arises. He is not a liar and when he makes a commitment he follows through until he is informed or educated about why he should change his mind. After years or frustrating delays, excuses, Kupuna arrests and trials, I welcome a straight shooter looking for solutions.

Aloha Alapaki, Aloha Neil, We GO FORWARD,

Akua Bless Us All,
Mililani