Indigenous Students Union (ISU) held a week of events to bring awareness to the crisis of Mauna Kea from Nov. 11 to Nov. 15. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano on the main island, Hawaii. When measured from its underwater base, it is the tallest mountain in the world, reaching almost 10,210 meters in height.
The conditions of the mountain make it a prime candidate for the construction of observatories and telescopes, something many do not want. Protests at Mauna Kea surrounding the development of a billion-dollar telescope began around Oct. 7. The ongoing protests have purposefully interrupted the construction process with the hopes of stopping them altogether.
ISU held a screening of "We Are Mauna Kea" on Nov. 11 in Roski's Dining Room. The short film is a documentary produced by Jason Momoa about the protests surrounding Mauna. "This entire gathering at the Mauna is changing everything for our people. It's not just about a telescope. This is our chance to remember what it's like to live with one another again and to share," said one of the protestors in the documentary. These protests are about the preservation of culture. They tackle the issue of modern-day colonization while fighting for the dignity and respect of the people of Mauna Kea.
Kiana Liu is a freshman film and television production major who is a part of ISU and a native Hawaiian. "As Hawaiians, we consider Mauna Kea to be a sacred place, so building a thirty-meter telescope (TMT) would be an act of desecration," said Liu. There are currently 12 facilities housing telescopes already at or around the summit of Mauna Kea.
On Tuesday, Nov. 12, a Mele & Hula workshop was held in St. Robert's Auditorium. The workshop showed participants the hula that is taught and practiced on Mauna. They also taught a mele that has defined the movement: Ku Ha'aheo e Ku'u Hawai'i (Stand Tall My Hawai'i).
"Mele is a song and hula is a dance; [used together] you're telling a story," said Alena Copeland, a senior graphic design major and Assistant Design Editor at the Loyolan.
The workshop worked on ʻŌ Hanau Ka Mauna A Kea", which roughly translates to "They are all that happened." It discusses the mountain being born and the king and queen who lived there. Hula has been a part of the demonstrations on Mauna, as can be seen in the documentary.
"I think the main reason students should be aware of this issue is because this is the same issue that many other indigenous people face," said Liu. This is not only an environmental issue, but it's also a humanities issue; it involves generations of culture and land being taken away from the natives. It's an issue that centers around sacred land and recognizing that these people should have the right to decide for themselves how this land should be used and protected.
Pualani Case, one of the protestors, said, "I'm against anything that will destroy sacred land, people's cultures." She went on to clarify that building the telescope in the name of science does not mean that it is right or just.
"The goal of this week was to bring awareness to native Hawaiian culture and to prove that it is still alive and thriving," Liu said. You can find out more about efforts to stop the desecration of Mauna Kea here and sign the petition to immediately halt the construction of the TMT on Mauna Kea.
This is the opinion of Gloria Ndilula, a senior economics major from Windhoek, Namibia. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.