In recent weeks, aloha ʻāina activists have attracted worldwide attention in their opposition to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Maunakea. On April 10, 2015, hundreds stood in solidary at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus to carry pōhaku along Dole Street to construct an ahu near Bachman Hall.
“We did it here today together, and we went halihali pohaku for almost half a mile. All by hand. So the mana in that alone, we connect that to Mauna a Wakea,” said Kaina Makua, an aloha ʻāina activist.
“People are springing to the defense of the mountain not just because they love Maunakea or they’ve been there or they have themselves been involved in some kind of sacred practice on the mountain. They are coming to this because they can see that this mountain and the development of this telescope are symptomatic of this notion in Hawaii that any ʻāina can be developed,” said Jon Osorio, a professor at the Kamakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at UH-Mānoa.
Following on the momentum of gatherings in previous days, UH-Mānoa students, faculty, and staff conducted a walk-out and rally to highlight their steadfast resistance to further construction on Maunakea as well as discuss UH’s approach to engaging the Native Hawaiian community.
In response to inquiries by ʻŌiwi TV, UH officials state that resolution of this issue is a top priority and there are ongoing conversations at every of level of the administration along with state, county, and government officials.
“The University did not think that the opposition would be so large, that it would actually have to pay attention to the things that we were telling them. And it turns out that they were completely wrong about this,” said Osorio.
“I came today to support what is happening at UH-Mānoa because it’s really important that we keep up the pressure on Oʻahu and the University as kind of the poʻo of the UH system,” said Shelley Muneoka, a board member of the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance (KAHEA).
“It’s time to insert into this conversation, into this narrative, what kanaka maoli believe should happen on this mountain,” said Osorio.
“It comes back to who has say over what happens and how sacred places are cared for. But it’s not just on Maunakea. You see that in other research areas and other things that involve our natural resources, geothermal, things in our ocean. So for UH, they have to understand that these things are all connected in our minds. And we’re going to keep connecting those dots for them until they begin to understand that it’s not just a tweak to this project or that project; it’s in the big change in the way they interact with the community in Hawaiʻi,” said Muneoka.
“I am predicting that this is going to continue on until there is an honest resolution. But I also believe that because the issue is deeper than just the mountain, that the mountain is symbolic of the fact that we are all fed up with what is happening to ʻāina in general, that aloha aina is actually the issue. Aloha ʻāina is so much part of things that we teach young people, kanaka and non-kanaka maoli, alike in schools, at the Center for Hawaiian Studies, in charter schools, in regular schools. This is the issue. I believe that we’re creating a different type of mindset here,” said Osorio.
“ʻĀina, people, quality of life, the survival of kanaka putting that at the center helps to reprioritize the way we frame the interactions with each other,” said Muneoka.
“Do I think that the University should have a more responsible position with regard to native Hawaiian culture? I absolutely do. And I look forward to the day when I can actually say it seems to be happening,” said Osorio.