The University’s Plan for Maunakea Comes up Short

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Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, Trustee, Maui

I was raised by my parents and grandparents in Waimea, Hawaiʻi, literally on the slopes of Maunakea.

I rode the range with my Papa, Albert Uiha Lindsey, the youngest of seven Lindsey brothers. He would take me through Waikiʻi, then to Humuʻula – especially when the Parker Ranch hands sheared the sheep once a year – then on up to Lake Waiau and Maunakea. I never forgot how freezing cold it was.

While at Waiau, he would share stories with me. He told me that my great-grandmother, Kaluna Kaʻinapau, whose name appears on the Kūʻē Petition, was a close friend of Queen Emma. My tutu was pregnant when the Queen asked her to accompany her to Lake Waiau. Being late in her pregnancy and feeling very uncomfortable, she apologized and offered her husband to accompany her instead. My great-grandpapa, William Miller Seymour Lindsey, escorted the Queen.

Maunakea has always been a sacred place for my ʻohana and Lake Waiau was where my ʻohana deposited each child’s piko. Many ʻohana who live on Hawaiʻi Island have similar practices and are very protective of this sacred Mauna.

Since 1968, the University of Hawaiʻi has been acting as a trustee responsible for the management of Maunakea, which are public trust lands leased to it by the State of Hawaiʻi for a dollar a year.

By the provisions of Article XII, Section 4 of the Hawaiʻi State Constitution, these public trust lands exist for the benefit of Native Hawaiians and the general public. The lands on the Mauna are also former crown and government lands alienated from Native Hawaiians and ceded to the United States stemming from the events surrounding the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1893. Native Hawaiians have unrelinquished claims to these lands, and many Native Hawaiians view these lands as sacred and as having significant importance for the exercise of their traditional Hawaiian cultural and religious activities.

Unfortunately, the University’s stewardship and management of the Mauna has been seriously flawed, and calls have surfaced over the last several years for the University’s removal from its trustee/management role for the Mauna.

The University recently released its draft management plan entitled E Ō I Ka Leo (Listen to the Voice). In its letter accompanying the rollout of the plan, the University Board of Regents Chair and the University President wrote, “From what we have heard from the community, it is clear that we have more work to do in seeking, considering, and acting on community input, particularly from the Native Hawaiian community…”

In my estimation, this plan comes up short. For example, TMT is still on the table, even though the kiaʻi and many in the community have rejected that possibility. The plan suggests installing a kiosk and gate across the Maunakea Access Road, raising concerns that Native Hawaiian practitioners will be denied access to the Mauna in the future. In the event TMT is not built, the plan enables future telescope development on the Mauna, a situation which underscores the University’s historic incompetence as a trustee/manager of these lands.

The plan must be seen for what it is – a failed attempt by the University many years too late to reverse the tide of critical audits, cultural insensitivity, broken promises, and failed stewardship. Citing the values, principles, and ʻike of reciprocity and of caring for and respecting the Mauna is not the same as abiding by those values and principles in practice. I, for one, am extremely skeptical of the University’s plan. I would urge all who read it to adopt that same mindset.