PUHI — Protesters used Earth Day to rally against the delayed Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea on the Big Island Wednesday at Kauai Community College.
“Being it is Earth Day, it’s appropriate to honor Papahanaumoku, or Earth Mother,” said Chanel Flores, one of the organizers of the rally. “We honor Papahanaumoku and wakea, or Sky Father. We are here to preserve the sacredness of all places around the globe.”
More than 70 students from the Kawaikini New Century Public Charter School and its teachers, many garbed in traditional Hawaiian attire, took to the roadway along Kaumualii Highway and the Puhi Road junction, waving signs, blowing pu, and waving to passing motorists.
“There are some of the college students who joined the event so there must be more than 100 people here,” said Lei Wann, a Kawaikini teacher. “And it’s getting bigger.”
Wann said wakea, according to genealogical history, is the Father of all Islands, not just Kauai.
“Where they want to build (the Thirty Meter Telescope) is a really sacred area,” said Kalelei Rogers, a senior at Kawaikini. “This is a place where we can connect with our ancestors to get help. If the construction continues, the concrete will prevent us from connecting. We need to save our culture.”
Construction on the controversial project, which saw dozens of protesters arrested on the Big Island, was postponed last week while the parties work on a compromise for the culturally historic site.
Yasu Morikawa of Hanamaulu said he’s been waiting a long time for Wednesday’s demonstration.
“I came early this morning,” Morikawa said. “At 9 a.m., there were only a handful of people until the students showed up. I’m glad they’re here because this is not about our generation, it’s about them and their children.”
Following the morning of sign-waving, the group was scheduled to move to the kuahu site outside of the Hawaiian Studies building at the Kauai Community College for offering of hookupu of oli, mele and hula.
“It is important for me to be here because it is my culture,” said Kamalani Hopkins, a senior at Kawaikini. “We need to teach the young ones about the importance of aina, now. Building the telescope is not pono — it can be built somewhere else.”
Tiana Laranio, a candidate for the Kauai County Council in the last election, was also glad to see the large number of keiki.
“This is so good they are teaching these matters in school,” Laranio said. “I’m glad to see my generation doing things and bringing out the next generation.”