LIHUE — In Tuesday’s early afternoon heat, kupuna and kanaka gathered at the intersection of Ahukini and Kapule Highway, known as the airport corner.
It started with about 30 Hawaiian natives, longtime residents, community members and supporters of indigenous rights standing in a circle and listening to the stories from Dan Ahuna and Peleke Flores, both recently returned from the summit of Mauna Kea.
“This is stronger than holding your sign out there,” Flores said as he talked about rallying support to stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea, where hundreds are gathering in protest.
He told the story of groups on different islands rising up to stop construction.
“For centuries different indigenous people have been fighting battles, but we never did see each other’s fights before,” Flores said. “Now we have these (cell phones and social media). If we win this it will be the start of the people rising up.”
“Astronomy owns the mountain now,” Ahuna said, addressing several keiki who were at the rally. “And we have to drink the bitter water now, so you don’t have to drink the bitter water later.”
He continued: “We fight in aloha and aloha is not weakness.”
As they spoke, the crowd grew from 30 to 50 and then to 100 as people found parking and joined.
Shara Bucasas, an educator who has worked at both Kamehameha Schools and Waimea Canyon Middle School, shielded her son, Ili, with a Hawaiian flag while Ahuna and Flores spoke.
“I brought him here because if I don’t show him, he won’t know,” she said. “We have to educate our children about the ‘aina and what’s sacred. If we don’t protect it for our keiki, they won’t have it.”
After storytelling and conversation, the people spread out on the grass along the intersection, waving signs and flags and cheering. Drivers passing by honked horns and threw shakas; some even engaged in conversation as they were waiting at the stoplight.
Kahiau Niheu and John Tremaine held several Hawaiian flags between them, all hanging upside down.
“It’s a sign of a nation under distress,” Niheau said. “Not in agreement with Mauna Kea.”