On July 15, Gov. David Ige of Hawaii approved the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project to proceed on the highest point of the mountain Mauna Kea of Hawaii without notifying the public.
On that same day, hundreds of Hawaiian protesters fled to Mauna Kea to stop the construction and start the continuing protest that has now lasted almost two months.
To Hawaiians, this mountain is central in their culture. Mauna a Wakea, the original name given by the earliest native Hawaiians, means “Sky Father,” implying that the mountain is the father to Hawaiians.
In Hawaiian religion, Mauna Kea is the meeting place of “Sky Father” (sky god) and “Mother Earth” (Earth goddess), who are the parent couple of high chiefs of Hawaii. The mountain is also the burial site of the many early high-ranking chiefs and priests.
As a Hawaiian and Samoan, I am for the protection of our sacred land and our culture. We are an underappreciated race that is taken for granted on so many circumstances. But this protest is just the beginning of a Hawaiian revolution. However, the government has tried to stop this revival of Hawaiian culture and has begun to profile the protesters poorly.
A few days after the TMT project approval, Ige used force to arrest 33 protesters, claiming it was for the protection and safety of the people on the Big Island and across the state.
Hawaiian protesters were only exercising the right to protest peacefully and protect their culture that the government never fully recognizes and understands.
With this ignorance, the government disrespects our culture and tried to use force as the fastest way possible to disband this protest.
Why this urgent push for protesters to leave Mauna Kea? TMT will be a $1.4 billion project. This project can help gain more government funds as well as more jobs on the island. But if this deal does not work as planned, they will move the project to LaPalma, Canary Islands in Spain. The governor is facing a ticking clock. So, force was the fastest solution to make the deal with TMT happen.
Fortunately, Ige’s first initial plan to discourage protesters failed. All 33 protesters were released almost immediately, and the protest has not been met with force since then. With this protest, a new wave of Hawaiian patriotism has formed throughout the islands among the younger generations and even myself.
All ages have gathered together to not only fight for their sacred land but to celebrate Hawaiian culture with dancing, singing and sacred rituals on the mountain. And thousands have marched through the streets on other islands with Hawaiian flags in hand and the Hawaiian spirit in their hearts.
Even celebrities, such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruno Mars, have shown up to Mauna Kea to show their support.
They have participated in many of the festivities, shown respect to the protesters and even shared the protest with fans through social media in continued efforts to spread the support of the cause.
As one can tell, this is much more than stopping construction of a telescope.
This protest is to save our dying culture from being extinct and to protect Hawaiian land from being stolen even further. So far it has already been a revitalization of Hawaiian culture in the islands as well as support from people across the world.
As this protest continues, it is also a plea to the nation and world to notice us; and to recognize us as a rich, fulfilling culture rather than the next tourist vacation.
Recognize us as a strong, diverse race rather than a race where strong athletes come from.
Polynesians are so much more than that. And we want to show the world who we really are.
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