Governor: Telescope protests about treatment of Hawaiians

  • In this Monday, July 22, 2019, photo provided by the State of Hawaii, Mauna Kea law enforcement personnel interact with protesters blocking a road to the summit of Mauna Kea, a site considered sacred in Hawaii. Scientists want to build a telescope atop Mauna Kea because it is one of the best sites in the world for viewing the skies. The observatory would join 13 other telescopes already at the summit, though five are due to be decommissioned in a concession to telescope opponents. The Hawaii Supreme Court upheld the permit in 2018. (Dan Dennison/State of Hawaii via AP)

HONOLULU — The governor of Hawaii acknowledged Tuesday that an ongoing protest about a telescope planned atop the state’s highest mountain is also about addressing the treatment of Native Hawaiians going back more than a century.

Gov. David Ige said he would ask Hawaii County’s mayor to lead efforts to find common ground with Native Hawaiian protesters blocking construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea, a site considered sacred by many of the protesters.

The governor said he and Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim understand that the issues go deeper than the telescope and were about “righting the wrongs done to the Hawaiian people.”

About 1,000 activists gathered Tuesday halfway up Mauna Kea in opposition to the $1.4 billion telescope, marking the ninth day of the protest. Over the weekend, crowds swelled to 2,000 people.

The demonstrators are blocking a road to prevent construction equipment and crews from going to the summit.

Ige indicated last week that he was willing to talk to protesters. But his statement Tuesday is the first public step he’s taken toward that end.

“We will be working together to determine next steps that are in the best interests of all the people of Hawaii,” Ige said.

Protest leader Kealoha Pisciotta said officials must consider not building the telescope on Mauna Kea.

She said she met previously with the mayor and governor without making any progress.

“We’ve done all of that. But it’s window dressing trying to get our buy-in,” Pisciotta said. “We really need people to honestly consider our positions this time.”

Much of the opposition has tapped into deep-seated grievances tied to the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893, clashes over water and land rights, and frustrations over tourism and the exploitation of Hawaiian culture.

A consortium of universities and national observatories is pursuing the telescope project, which they hope will allow them to peer back more than 13 billion years to early moments of the universe.

They want to build on Mauna Kea because it has some of the world’s best conditions for viewing the night sky.

There are 13 telescopes already on Mauna Kea’s summit. The protesters say building another would further desecrate the site.

  1. harry oyama July 25, 2019 3:26 am Reply

    Well it all started with the racist greedy white men who overthrew the Hawaiian government and actively engaged in the genocide of the native race through force and religion, that didn’t work so now both the State and Federal thugs continue that ongoing agenda to flush the Hawaiians down the toilet so they can plunder its riches.

    It the State wants to find a resolution, then it show let the Hawaiians determine what to do with its millions of acreas of Crown Lands that was originally set aside for their own benefit. Stop the rip off $1 dollar a year illegal leases and force these two illegal entities to pay market values which should exclusively go directly to Native Hawaiians, not OHA or any State agencies including the corrupt DNLR.

  2. Grax McCoar July 25, 2019 9:55 am Reply

    Can anyone explain how – specifically – the telescopes on Mauna Kea desecrate the mountain? There are other things built on Mauna Kea that have no connection to traditional Hawaiian culture – roads for example. Why isn’t it desecration when native Hawaiians go up in motor vehicles or walk around in shoes manufactured in China or carry cell phones (whether they work up there or not) or wear bifocals/sunglasses? None of that was on Hawaii before “first contact”. Is it that the telescope array on the mountain is more obvious , large! and newsworthy than mundane things like shoes and provides a convenient point of access for other political & social issues that existed before any of the telescopes were there ( or could even have been built)? Is there some sort of arbitrary unmarked boundary on the way up the mountain, above which is sacred space, and below which it is OK to engage in all aspects of introduced ‘Western culture? Where do the activists define that boundary as being? If the entire mauna is sacred, doesn’t everything else that is not traditional Hawaiian need to be removed too? Including everything the US military has laid claim to that is, geologically speaking, on Mauna Kea?

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