There was a gnawing sense in my naʻau combined with the urging of my daughters, Na Kumu Hula Napua Greig and Kahulu Maluo-Pearson, that compelled me to make the journey to our sacred Mauna a Wakea and stand with our people. For me and my ‘ohana, Mauna a Wakea is a significant natural resource and a sacred site, a source of water used in healing and cultural practices and is used as a sacred repository for the piko of babies born to families connected to the mountain. For generations, my ‘ohana took the piko of our children to Lake Waiau, establishing my tie to the sacred mauna. Additionally, as a child of Moku o Keawe born in Kohala and raised in Waimea, I fondly remember riding the planes of Mauna Kea on horseback with my Papa.
My grandfather, Albert Uiha Lindsey, discussed his father, William Miller Seymour’s, journey escorting Queen Emma to Lake Waiau and Mauna Kea. A significant journey for anyone at the time, he recalls the difficult ascent to Mauna Kea, where Queen Emma would later bestow the name “Kahalelaumāmane”; commemorating the shelter found under the māmane trees. Shortly after the death of her husband and their young son, Queen Emma traveled to Lake Waiau for spiritual healing and rebirth. From a handful of mele written to celebrate her journey, we understand that Queen Emma not only recognizes the healing properties of a place like Waiau and Mauna Kea, but reminds us of the value and sacredness ascribed to ‘āina.
Some astronomers argue that the TMT observatory offers an infinite amount of scientific knowledge, creating 150 permanent positions and 300 construction jobs, thereby giving back to the local economy. However, this rhetoric fails to realize that local people will not attain these specialized construction projects; instead these jobs will be contracted out from the consortium of international countries (Canada, China, India, and Japan) and the University of California system. TMT will exacerbate cultural and environmental harms to our lands and our people for their own economic purposes, while our local residents continue to struggle with lack of job opportunities and education. Science that is organized through this transnational project, bringing together various economically powerful and geopolitically influential countries without a clear commitment to the people on whose land the work is being done shares an alarming continuity with oppressive approaches to science and technology.
TMT boasts that its THINK Fund invests in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education on Hawai’i Island, hoping that education will strengthen the island’s workforce and economy so that families and communities thrive. I question how many Hawaii students benefit from the project itself – none come to mind. This leads me to believe that TMT will actively prioritize students and employees from the consortium of international countries. Pono science practices center around community and indigenous voices and should be done in partnership with those that are directly impacted, subjecting itself to being accountable to local people and places.
Our mauna is sacred as the highest point in the Pacific, its connection to the genealogy of our people, and as a representation of ea and right to advocate for our ‘ā;ina. It is through these kinds of realizations that we understand our kuleana to ‘āina; and for me, my ties to sacred Mauna Kea. I stand with other kupuna and our mo’opuna because we will live in, be fed by, will stand by, and will aloha this ‘āina. Mahalo for all of you for the outpouring of support. Until the very last aloha ‘āina.