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Mauna Kea is what the Hawaiians and most Polynesian people consider the Piko or umbilical of the Pacific, the spiritual connection connecting Papa (Mother Earth) and Wakea (Father Sky) together. The summit of Mauna Kea was traditionally never climbed except by Ali’i (chiefs) and Kahuna (skilled practitioners) who would only make the hike on very strict protocol, with permission from the mountain. This summit is where they believe the spirits of their Kupuna (ancestors) reside, as this is the highest point in all of Oceania and is literally the closest to the heavens – a place of high Mana (spiritual power). It can be likened to the Vatican or Mecca to get a clearer understanding. This is the point where one’s prayers are heard the clearest and wisdom is understood the best – the highest point in one of the most isolated land masses on Earth. After spending time in the mountain and conversing with the protectors, I have heard countless stories of divine interactions, dissolving of all earthly problems, people reaching incredibly peaceful states of mind, and feeling connected to the universe like ‘never before’; even by modern-day people who have had the privilege to climb this summit and experience the heavens firsthand. I can attest to many of these experiences personally. Mauna Kea was revered and visited by the people of Hawai’i for over two thousand years and yet remained pristine, until the illegal U.S occupation occurred a mere 122 years ago and the summit was opened up for astronomy research and with that came concrete and chemicals onto sacred land.

‘You can be building a Hawaiian temple up there and I will still be fighting you on this. Because in the Tradition of our Kupuna we do not go up there. For these areas to be kept in their sacredness and purity, it requires our absence! ‘ – Joshua Lanakila Mangauil.

Many people involved with this movement believe that this is not each person expressing their individual opposition for construction in these vigils, but rather that this is the mountain speaking and acting though them.

‘We’re only here to do what we can in the best way we can. You know what? I firmly believe the Mauna cannot let this happen, because we will self-destruct the 7th generation with the water; and the Mauna is not going to allow that.’ – Cultural practitioner, Kumu Hula and Mauna protector – Aunty Pua Case – explaining the power of the mountain.

Another powerful and weighted argument is that the environment and the harmony of the eco-systems on the summit would be disturbed if construction were to proceed, as it is home to some endemic species that are only found on the summit. In addition, the construction and maintenance of a telescope of this magnitude produces a great deal of waste and the existing 13 telescopes have already had several mercury spills that seeps through and pollutes the ground water. Mauna Kea sits on the largest water aquifer of all the Hawaiian islands and the TMT would only increase the chances that something could go wrong. Looking back at the history and patterns in our recent pa[st, any such environmental pollution issue was countered by our politicians and the ones we put in charge by statements like ‘We are increasing the budget on safety and conservation to ensure that it will remain undisturbed.’, but when we look at the events that follows, for example with the many and continuing oil spills in America, and the authorities’ solutions on remedying the issue, we can see that these statements hold little to no credibility as these disasters always seems to repeat themselves until we find real solutions. Therefore it is necessary that we do not let history repeat itself as the potential damage we’re looking at is irreparable. It isn’t in spending more money to ensure that a place will remain undisturbed that we will accomplish this, but in not disturbing it.

Given the day and age we live in, most of the people we’ve put in power are not given these positions based on the wisdom they hold, their capacity for comprehending and radiating the urgency of returning to the ways of the natural world, or their understanding and awareness of the global situation. A major deciding factor that we need to reincorporate I believe, is one’s love, compassion, respect and understanding of the sanctity of all life. This was the process and basic guidelines followed by many indigenous and Native American peoples when they elected their chiefs who were to make the major decisions for their community, which lead to more holistic approaches and solutions and thriving communities. Nowadays our leaders are instead elected based on their education from the old paradigm system which does not take into consideration our spiritual connection to nature, and the sacredness of life and the lands, but rather the level of understanding we have of the current system. It is important to remember that economy, scarcity, money, GDP, and even the current legal systems and government structures are all man-made systems and ideas that did not exist a few hundred years back, and therefore if any of these has proven themselves to no longer serve its function in upholding the righteousness of the lands and its people, new systems must be sought. The Hawaiian people are connected to the plants, trees, waters, rocks, and the stars and regard them as living beings that we are one with, and it is these basic principles that kept the islands harmonious and 100% self-sustainable with over 1 million inhabitants, whereas now we are only 15% self-sustainable with less than half that population. Every decision they made went through the question of how and if it is going to serve the next 7 generations – which they believe is every human being’s Kuleana (responsibility), to be conscious in our thoughts and actions so our planet and all of creation can thrive in the years to come.

He aliʻi ka ʻāina, he kauā ke kānaka – The land is chief, man is her servant.

‘Teach your children what we have taught ours, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.’ – Native American proverb.

These highly effective morals and ethically just rules of conduct they had in place got buried with the introduction of Western principles which are more geared towards a capitalistic world which turned the collective mindset from ‘We’ to ‘Me’, only to return now with the revival of the Hawaiian people’s culture. On a country where its rightful people are of a higher consciousness and understanding, it is getting ever more apparent that the one’s in charge need to uphold these values in order to remain in these positions or they need to be replaced by persons with the capacity to.

It was very disappointing to see their current Governor David Ige going against the will of his own people, the host culture, and standing with the foreign investors of the project and it is now being discussed among the people that his impeachment will be inevitable if he continues to ignore the people’s needs and demands and more importantly, the aina’s needs and demands which had always come first to the Hawaiian people. These are the steps that the people feel are necessary and are willing and prepared to take if and when needed. The protectors are deeply saddened and disappointed in his actions following the standoff where he ordered for an immediate shutdown of the Mauna Kea Visitor’s Center which provided bathroom facilities and access to water for the protectors. Nevertheless, it has pushed them into becoming more empowered, self-sufficient and organized, expressing their message even clearer: they are never backing down until their mountain is safe. In addition, the Hawaiian islands are under an illegal occupation right now which voids any and all contracts the TMT has with the American state, and, under International Law, can be convicted of war crimes. Even under American law, the proposed construction site is on a conservation district which requires 8 different criteria to be met before building a structure on it and the TMT fails to meet several of them. The DLNR police, in allowing and escorting the TMT construction crews, can be held accountable for breaking their own laws. Nevertheless, it is evident that the current structure of law has proven itself obsolete and therefore pushes us to incorporate more holistic and sensible ways and practices so we can move forward as a species and as a planet, the rights of nature being one of the main ones. Rather than treating nature as property under the law, Rights for Nature articles acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles. And we – the people – have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the defendant. Ecuador was the first country to write Nature Rights into their constitution and there have already been many cases where they successfully defended their rivers and mountains from corporate infiltration and exploitation using Nature Rights.

In the days following the successful TMT standoff, the islanders experienced an earthquake that shook most of Hawai’i, Oahu, Molokai, and Maui and to many this is very symbolic of the mountain and is seen as a strong statement made by nature letting us know that we need to pay attention to the signs and slow our role. We can observe this when we look at the rate America is developing and the many natural disasters, severe droughts and crises that follows. It is this lost language of understanding and communicating with nature that is in revival across the world right now. The Hawaiian people has always been in alignment with nature and spirit and this is another reason why they feel strongly about protecting their mountain and their lands, given the state of our planet as a whole right now and the urgent need to prioritize our avenues of progress to lead us towards a brighter future.

‘Wrong mountain. Wrong time. Wrong people. We hear the talk that we need to possibly be looking for a new planet, a new home. I say if we cannot take care of this one, we don’t deserve it!’ – Joshua Lanakila Mangauil.

This movement is a truly inspiring sight and a beautiful example of how revolution should be conducted – in peace, with respect and understanding for all parties which is returned with mutual respect which leads to constructive arguments and solution finding. As many protectors say, it is not an option for them to give up at this point anymore as this is their highest temple at risk and therefore are dedicating their lives to the protection of their sibling – Mauna A Wakea.

‘Sacred place, sacred conduct.’ – Kaho’okahi Kanuha.

The protectors stand in Kapu Aloha towards everyone involve with the TMT, which is a standard of conducting ourselves in a sacred manner and seeing everything through with the eyes of love, compassion and understanding, yet standing like their mountain when it comes to their responsibility of protecting their temple. The protectors have made it clear that they are not against the science at all, but it’s the location of the project that has to change in order for the TMT to proceed.

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