History on the use of non-violence by Kanaka activists

Those who study Hawaii’s long history in the struggle for social justice and Native Hawaiian self-determination, are not surprised at the courage, code of conduct, and effective use of non-violent civil disobedience shown by the Native Hawaiian (Kanaka) activists on Mauna Kea against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

Today, the protectors (Kia’i) use of social media and worldwide networking is a total “savvy” package they refer to as “Kapu Aloha.” Governor lge and the TMT machine is no match for them. What follows are a few past examples of non-violent resistance led by Kanaka activists.

On Aug. 1, 1938, Kanaka Longshoreman, Harry Lehua Kamoku of the ILWU from Hilo, led a peaceful sitdown of over 200 workers at the Hilo Docks for unionization and wage parity that was violently attacked by the “Big Five”corporations using the Territorial Guard and the Hilo Police.

Kamoku, using his cultural understanding of bringing people together, was able to unite all workers regardless of ethnicity for a common cause for the first time in Hawaii’s labor history. Before the sitdown, he walked straight into a Hilo Chamber of Commerce meeting and confronted them for not treating workers fairly.

The action led by Kamoku was the first recorded act of non-violent civil disobedience in Hawaii that opened the door to successful union organizing throughout the islands.

On May 11, 1971, 32 local activists, many of them Kanaka, who were educated at Kamehameha School, were arrested for trying to prevent the evictions of local families, farmers and ordinary working people by the Bishop Estate in Kalama Valley, Oahu. The wealthy trustees of the Bishop Estate didn’t know how to handle the uprising of educated Kanaka youth who questioned the trustees colluding with developers.

There was a month long well organized and peaceful occupation against a high income housing development by hundreds to prevent evictions. There was no drug or alcohol use and weapons were not allowed. Young Kanaka leaders like Larry Kamakawiwoole, Moani Keala Akaka and Soli Niheu gave solid direction and public voice to the occupation. Thousands visited the valley. There were even organized tours of students brought in by their teachers.

This was the first time in Hawaii’s history that there was an organized resistance to driving people off the land. The struggle got worldwide coverage in countries like Japan and Canada. Honolulu’s two major newspapers even published over 100 articles about this fight a year before the eviction.

Although residents were ultimately evicted from Kalama Valley, the struggle inspired other communities to resist evictions in the early and mid-seventies, like the farming community of Waiahole-Waikane in Windward Oahu.

With many disciplined non-violent demonstrations to developers homes and offices, the activists occupied and blockaded the valley, forcing then Governor Ariyoshi to stop the eviction. Getting supporters united and on message were young Kanaka leaders like Pete Thompson and Joy Ahn, both Kamehameha School graduates.

In 1976, Walter Ritte of Molokai and the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana led a series of occupations on the island risking injury or death to stop the destructive bombing of the island by the U.S. Navy. Tragically, Kanaka activists George Helm and Kimo Mitchell were lost at sea returning from a trip to Kahoolawe.

Remarkably, without the help of today’s social media and computer technology they were able to educate all of Hawaii and the rest of the world about this courageous movement that eventually stopped all bombing by 1990.

As for TMT, we have to follow the money. Governor lge, the TMT International Observatory consortium, corporate supporters like high-tech mogul Gordon Moore of Intel and the Hawaii construction industry barons are salivating at the millions to be made.

They are driving a false narrative of jobs and science or “understanding the universe .. to divide our community. They are only able to rally a few dozen each time they gather to spread their message. They call their feeble attempts, the voice of the “silent majority.”

Compare this to the many thousands of all races across Hawaii, the U.S. continent and the world who stand against the desecration of Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea protectors or Kia‘i, are being portrayed as unreasonable anti-science proponents living in the past by TMT supporters. Far from it, they are informed natural scientists who fully understand that the main water aquifer of Hawaii Island is on Mauna Kea’s northern plateau and it is beyond reason to break ground into the pristine mountain and build an 18 story monstrosity on it with two 5,000 gallon sewer tanks below.

What the Kia‘i or protectors on Mauna Kea are defending is the most sacred Mountain in Hawaii to the Kanaka Maoli people. It is the soul and spiritual foundation for their lahui (nation) and it is not for sale. Their culture and resources continue to be plundered for the benefit of a few and they have had enough.

There is no “silent majority” that supports the TMT, but there are many thousands throughout Hawaii and the world that will stand up against the desecration of the Mauna. Mahalo to activists like Andre Perez and Kalama Niheu who in 2016 went to show solidarity with the Sioux of North Dakota in their fight against the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline under their sacred lake Oahe.

This support continues to be reciprocated many times by the Sioux and other Native people of North America protesting against the TMT sponsors on the U.S. continent. The Kia‘i of Mauna Kea have developed a world-wide network of mutual support. The TMT may have some leading politicians, money and guns, but the movement has the fighting spirit of the people and Hawaiian culture behind it.

The masterful use of Kapu Aloha is a sign of strength. It will be foolish for Governor lge and his administration to think they can smooth talk the Kia‘i into giving in. There is only one solution- drop the charges against all those arrested, end the “Emergency Proclamation” now and move the TMT to Chile or the Canary Islands where it is wanted. The Kanaka have given up too much. It is about time that some genuine Aloha be returned to the Lahui. A‘ole TMT.


Raymond Catania is a resident of Lihue

  1. Ken Conklin July 28, 2019 6:34 am Reply

    UH law professor Williamson Chang has a lengthy essay in Saturday’s online newspaper “Indian Country Today.” Google to find it. Chang explains that the concept of Mauna Kea being “sacred” is not at all about religion — he explains “sacred” is used in the sense we say a child is sacred to its parents, or even a dog is sacred to a family. Chang’s main point is his view that neither the State of Hawaii nor UH has jurisdiction over Mauna Kea because (he claims) there is no Treaty of Annexation. I wrote an online comment providing evidence Chang is wrong about the Treaty. But the main point is that Chang makes clear that the whole brouhaha over Mauna Kea is about Hawaiian Sovereignty, not religion. The whole religion “sacred” thing is pure shibai.

    “Kapu Aloha” — great propaganda phrase. What it means is: We’re gonna take over public lands and make them our own. And we demand everyone else let us get away with it. Things will be peaceful as long as they leave us alone. It’s a silent form of violence where force is needed to restore the rule of law. Blocking roads is violence.

    Remember the U.S. Civil War. The Confederacy said: “We reassert our right to protect and preserve our culture, way of life — the independence we are rightfully entitled to.” All they wanted was kapu aloha: just let us do our own thing. We’re not attacking anyone. Leave us alone. Some people in the South still call 1860-65 The War of Northern Aggression. Stone Mountain Georgia is a sacred Mt. Rushmore of the South — huge images of Confederate heroes carved into the mountain. Millions of people visit it in memory of “the lost cause.” If Abe Lincoln had simply observed Kapu Aloha and left the Confederacy alone there would have been no violence.

    The best use for the phrase “kapu aloha” in the context of the Mauna Kea controversy would be as a label for amnesty for the protesters.

    “Kapu aloha” means that Governor Ige, Mayor Kim, the National Guard and the police will pledge not to physically attack or arrest the protesters when they surrender and come down off the mountain, provided that they must clean up and bring with them all the junks they have assembled up there, including tents, tarps, stoves, dozens of porta-potties (including the poop they now contain), etc. The protesters have disrespected and desecrated the Mauna by their behavior and their junks; but now we will charitably give them amnesty on condition they do the right thing by cleaning up during their surrender and withdrawal.

    1. Kauaian July 29, 2019 5:21 am Reply

      I have also felt the same as I watched this event grow even clearer. Thank you for your posting.

    2. chuck booth August 2, 2019 9:33 pm Reply

      “It’s a silent form of violence where force is needed to restore the rule of law. Blocking roads is violence.”
      Ahh, there it is… the dumbest shit I’ve read all day.

  2. Wailua auntie July 28, 2019 7:38 am Reply

    Very good letter. Thank you, Raymond.

  3. Makani B. Howard July 28, 2019 10:10 am Reply

    False narrative of jobs and science? Are you kidding me? They have given….. yes given millions to STEM already to educate the keiki of the state of Hawaii.

    Talk about a false narrative!!

    When will the protesters start looking ahead and not back?

  4. Kip Goodwin July 28, 2019 5:28 pm Reply

    Indigenous cultures worldwide thrive through memory of places. Take away the place, or debauch or desecrate is as is the threat here, and the memory is short circuited, and what was affirmation becomes mythical lore, and diaspora of the culture follows. We all lose, because knowledge gained about a place from centuries of trial and error living in that place may serve us well if our 1st world lifestyle ever collapses.

  5. Rudy Niederer July 29, 2019 9:45 am Reply

    Takers and Contributors
    Kā I kanele loa a Haʻawina
    The takers:
    The takers came with the horse with mane, the came to take away the “ Āina hoʻoliana ” theme. They took away the style of life, so dear to their “ ʻĀina hoʻoliana ” life. The Horse with mane brought tears to name; it took the land and destroyed the sand, the taker’s aim, which is their claim and shame. Oh rider high on horse, you banned the people’s tongue, no longer the children can sing mahalo oh eia hoʻi aloha Akua I ka lani; that is a hurtful thing.
    The contributors:
    The contributors, oh they like to share, even if it is a mare, oh yah, to preserve, so they dare. The “ Āina hoʻoliana ”, “Mauka”, and “Makai” they like to preserve, they know their contribution is not like the taking horse with mane. Their style of life is to contribute, you know, and that is wise. They like to hear the ring of their keiki ʻau.lia mele, (cute singing) they He hoʻokipa a meke aulike kekahi i kekahi (A people who treat visitors kindly) that is a soothing thing.
    Rudy Niederer

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