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