The Temple of Science

  • Bill Fernandez

Worshipers at the Temple of Science claim it is anti-constitutional for native people to believe that Mauna Kea is desecrated by building an eighteen-story telescope atop that volcano. This viewpoint shows a lack of understanding of, and respect for, the desperate need of Hawaiian people to preserve their culture and destiny after decades of destruction of Hawaiian lands. It is not an attack on science.

Suppression of the Hawaiian culture began in 1820 when missionaries arrived and decreed that Hawaiian culture and language, the hula, mele, oli, chants, and songs were immoral, lewd, and pagan. They ignored the oral tradition of communicating history and values by stories of daring voyages, brave leaders, the beauty of nature, hula, mele and oli, and communal living. They condemned the story telling and it ended. This suppression continued until the Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970s.

Key to Hawaiian culture is the fundamental belief that the land is a living thing. It nurtures you, takes care of you, and you must take care of it. It’s part of your ohana, family. Historically, colonizers throughout the world made sure that native people became landless, cutting the connection that indigenous people have with the land and nature. Hawaiians lost their land to the colonizers.

Colonizers also know that suppression of native language is key to subjugating a native people. Look at Hawaii. After the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893, they banned the use of the Hawaiian language (Act 57, section 30 of the 1896 Laws of the Republic of Hawaii). This law led to the suppression of native newspapers unfavorable to the new government, and the end of teaching Hawaiian language in schools.

Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond in his classic book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, describes how cultures with advanced weaponry and disease immunities easily overcame native peoples. The decline of the Hawaiian society fits the pattern. Guns made King Kalakaua a puppet of the sugar plantation interests. Guns ended the Hawaiian monarchy. Germs reduced a robust society of as many as 600,000 native people to 40,000 by the end of Liliuokalani’s reign.

When annexation and the Organic Act created the Territory, the Hawaiian people received nothing because no government existed to protect them nor categorize them as the indigenous people of the eight islands of the archipelago. Unlike some North American tribes on the continent no treaty was enacted.

As Queen Liliuokalani said: “The people of the islands have no voice in determining their future but are… relegated to the condition of the aborigines of the American continent.” The Hawaiians became a subjugated ethnic group facing extinction. Unable to trust foreigners many withdrew into what academics call ‘cultural safety’ where the value system is ohana, family, kupuna, elders, and the Hawaiian Way.

There are more than 370,000,000 indigenous people on this planet. (Word Health Organization, 2010). Many have suffered loss of their culture and ethnic identity by guns, germs, and steel inflicted on them by colonizers. Humanitarians, concerned about this ethnocide or cultural genocide, sought help from the United Nations to halt this steady dehumanization of native people.

In response, the United Nations issued a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (2007). The resolution seeks to prohibit states from taking actions that will deprive native people of their identity as distinct people and their cultural values.

In the 1970s dispossessed Hawaiian farmers in the Kalama Valley, Oahu, awakened young people to the loss of their land, culture and language. (Until then the true Hawaiian story had been submerged.) This Hawaiian Renaissance taught that ancestors were not ignorant savages.

At a time when Europeans were barely able to navigate the Mediterranean Sea, Polynesians had crisscrossed the Pacific in small wooden canoes without metal instruments because they understood the skies and ocean. Before Columbus limped across the Atlantic using compass and sextant, Hawaiian way finders had already established a growing society using knowledge of the stars, currents, and other natural guides to travel the Pacific.

These ancestors housed, fed, clothed, and kept healthy, hundreds of thousands of people using wood and stone implements and ingenuity. Following the Hawaiian Renaissance movement other indigenous people sought to protect cultural values and sacred lands. The young Sioux efforts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing sacred land, for example.

Why should we care about protecting cultural values? Lose your culture, you lose your identity. You dehumanize ethnic people and they have no value. They lose their will to survive.

Recently, a presidential candidate said a key issue for the future is the replacement of the worker by robots and artificial intelligence. The advance of science is so swift that Moore’s law is a reality. Computers last for two years before they become obsolete and are replaced.

On Mauna Kea science wants to build another observatory which will take 10 years. A monster, 18-stories high. Are the other 12 obsolete? If Moore’s law has meaning in the astronomy world, then in two years will another larger and better telescope need to be built on Mauna Kea? Surely science that is advancing so rapidly can find another alternative to study the heavens than building this telescope on Mauna Kea. Perhaps a better Hubbell telescope?

Indigenous people fear loss of identity through loss of culture. Because of the rapid advance of science should all humans fear the same thing? Read the literature. Today the cyborg, half mammal and half machine, is approaching reality. With robots, artificial intelligence, and cyborgs, humans are not needed. Scoff! Yes, but consider that could happen. Where do you draw the line between preservation of identity as a human and science?

I believe in the importance of science. It has done wondrous things for humankind. But there is a point where science must find an alternative to striking down the cultural beliefs of native people essential to giving them a sense of well-being and safety. Because Hawaiians have had no avid spokespeople in government nor treaty rights with America, protection of cultural rights must rely on reasonable protest.

The governor’s rush to order troops to quell peaceful protesters was an open adoption of plantation-style control where, in the past, they shot strikers. The protectors of the Mauna are not “lawless, violent, (causing) riots” as the governor claims. They are peacefully protecting their cultural values in the only way available to Hawaiians.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green got it right when on Mauna Kea he said, “It is time for reconciliation with Hawaii’s host culture.”

I am a believer in science but not a worshiper at its temple. When culture and science meet head on, I choose culture. None of the Hawaiian objectors are saying such a telescope should not be built anywhere. As a half-Hawaiian I might be accused of bias but I also support science.

Destruction of a culture should not be an option for scientists. I hope others will feel the same way. I believe that where science has an alternative to bulldozing a cultural belief, science should choose the alternative: the Canary Islands welcomes the telescope.


Bill Fernandez is a former attorney, judge and mayor, is an author and is a resident of Kapaa.

  1. Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. August 9, 2019 7:21 am Reply

    Wow, Bill Fernandez — such a litany of grievances, most of which are based on twisted versions of history or outright falsehoods. It’s hard to imagine how this fellow functioned as a judge, supposed to apply laws to facts to derive logical conclusions and deliver impartial justice.

    For example, he says Hawaiian culture was suppressed beginning “in 1820 when missionaries arrived and decreed” various things. Fernandez should be reminded that the missionaries had no authority to decree anything. They were welcomed by the native chiefs who had already abolished the old religion the year before the missionaries came; and any new laws were “decreed” not by missionaries but by the dictatorial authority of the native kings and chiefs exercising self-determination on behalf of the natives.

    For example he says “When annexation and the Organic Act created the Territory, the Hawaiian people received nothing …” That’s absurd! The natives received whatever everyone else received, including a guarantee that revenue from the ceded lands must be used “for education and other public purposes” for the benefit of all citizens including natives. Fernandez is complaining that there were no racial entitlement programs benefiting ethnic Hawaiians exclusively based on race alone, such as over a thousand such programs we have today. I hope he’ll go to the library and read my book identifying what he apparently champions: “Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State.”

    Among his numerous falsehoods, the one where I have greatest expertise is his lie that the revolutionary government “banned the use of the Hawaiian language (Act 57, section 30 of the 1896 Laws of the Republic of Hawaii). This law led to the suppression of native newspapers unfavorable to the new government, and the end of teaching Hawaiian language in schools.” Your “honor”, you need to read what the law actually said and learn how it was implemented. You — a lawyer and judge — need to read what the law said! It’s easy to tell a lie and move on; it’s harder to explain the truth. Bear with me.

    The Hawaiian kingdom had a compulsory school attendance law, which was continued under the Provisional Government, Republic, Territory, and State of Hawaii. Any school attendance law must include a definition of what constitutes a “school.” To make sure parents or factories or taro farms cannot get around the law by establishing sham “schools,” the government defines the minimum requirements that must be met before a “school” is certified as meeting the requirements of the attendance law. Such minimum requirements for facilities, curriculum, and performance review apply to all schools, both government and private. Government certification of schools does not prohibit other schools or academies. For example, churches can operate “Sunday schools” for religious instruction, or ethnic groups can set up after-school or weekend academies to perpetuate a culture and language — the Japanese did that with hundreds of after-school academies.

    Following the revolution of 1893, the Republic of Hawai’i passed a law in 1896 specifying that English must be the language of instruction in any school receiving certification as meeting the compulsory attendance law. Here is the exact wording of that law:

    1896 Laws of the Republic of Hawaii, Act 57, sec. 30: “The English Language shall be the medium and basis of instruction in all public and private schools, provided that where it is desired that another language shall be taught in addition to the English language, such instruction may be authorized by the Department, either by its rules, the curriculum of the school, or by direct order in any particular instance. Any schools that shall not conform to the provisions of this section shall not be recognized by the Department.” [signed] June 8 A.D., 1896 Sanford B. Dole, President of the Republic of Hawaii.

    The law clearly concerns only schools, not society at large and certainly not newspapers. It does not single out Hawaiian language at all — it applies equally to all languages other than English, including Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese, etc. The majority of the children at that time were children of Japanese and Chinese plantation workers, and there were also numerous immigramts from Portugal working on the plantations, mostly as lunas. The law wanted every citizen to have a language in common that they all could speak — especially Japanese and Chinese kids born in Hawaii who would grow up to become American citizens after annexation. The law does not prohibit establishing private after-school or weekend academies where the medium of instruction could be Hawaiian (or any other language) — it merely states that such schools will not be recognized by the government as satisfying the requirement that all children must attend school. The law clearly states that other languages (including Hawaiian) may be taught in a language course.

    Some ethnic groups, most notably first-generation immigrant Japanese plantation workers, did indeed have private schools for “after school” or weekend instruction in their language and culture (see astonishing information about just how prevalent this was, near the end of my webpage). Many, perhaps most Hawaiian parents went so far as to demand that their children speak only English at home as well as at school. There was simply no desire among Hawaiian parents to set up special academies to perpetuate Hawaiian language. Ethnic Hawaiian plantation workers were legally free to do what the Japanese actually did. The Hawaiians were also being paid at a higher wage rate than the Japanese, who were at the bottom of the scale (until Filipinos started coming to Hawai’i in 1906 and occupied the bottom). The Japanese felt it was important to invest their time and money to perpetuate their culture and language; while the Hawaiians, to the contrary, felt it was important to demand that their children speak English and assimilate to Euro-American cultural values.

    There are many, many details to explain, but not here in a mere online comment. So let me give the following webpage links:

    Was Hawaiian Language Illegal?

    Holding the State of Hawaii Department of Education accountable for propagating the lie that Hawaiian language was banned.

    “Examples of Some Angry or Bitter Published Articles Claiming That Ethnic Hawaiians Were Victimized by Having Their Language Made Illegal or Suppressed” [I’ll be adding this ridiculous Fernandez article to the collection]

    “Hawaiian Language as a Political Weapon” with 16 detailed subpages

  2. Debra kekaualua August 9, 2019 9:07 am Reply

    Hawaiian Renaissance in the late 60s, Kauai Canoe Club, Coaches Achi and Kamae, HawTel, and the Niumalu tenants association was the highlight of this movement. Before that, our ohana was brought from Rhine Main, Germany where we were stationed with my usaf intel officer dad, at Hickham AFB 1959. At that juncture, the statehood fiasco was being manipulated via the military “negotiating” table at Hickham and one of the navy dressed military who passed us by on the way to watch the Kodak Hula Show, asked my dad “what you you think about our putting a noose around Hawaii neck?” i was only age 11 and dad, being expected to answer the question, ignored the soldier, does a 180 turn away from this soldier and took me aside to explain what he could about this “Top Secret mission and duty assignment” that dad had to follow orders of his upper brass of the u.s. military. This has all been a huge failure that has been a highly dangerous mission with evil intent ever since !

    I say, GAME OVER for oppressors. Militarojudiciaropoliticovoter citizens have alway, ALWAYS used the upper hand to gain every advantage of killing the Hawaiian culture. Shall we have another Incoming missile? The first was Not an oops, it is like DEW, direct energy weaponry, that is a reality we face here, not only the fires of California, IF we allow continuing military american presence here in the Hawaiian Kingdom Nation, we will lose our hope to stand down the regime who has been less than angelic since America was founded by “Columbus”? U.S. corporate has come to take us away hoho hehe haha to the americanization funny farm!

  3. Pete Antonson August 9, 2019 3:49 pm Reply

    “Are the other 12 obsolete?” This extremely weak counter argument indicates that Mr. Fernandez did not even bother to investigate the reasons why so much effort and money is potentially devoted to this project. I’m sorry, Bill; but, that is simply petty disrespect!

  4. Kauaidoug August 10, 2019 8:09 am Reply

    I am horrified to read of the past wrongs of the Hawaiian people just as I am of the atrocities against native Americans and other indigenous people in history. What concerns me now is what do Hawaiians want for the future? Do they want the highways and infrastructure brought by “progress” to be destroyed? It’s a tough question of how to move forward while preserving old and honorable ways. This TMT is one of the greatest gifts the Hawaiian people can give to humanity and would put Hawaii at the forefront of any astronomical discoveries for the next hundred years. Discoveries that could give us answers from how the universe started and all the science connected to if we are alone or not. Hawaiian names for galaxies far far away, forever leaving a direct line from the seafaring Polynesians through Mauna Kea to the stars. But that’s okay, leave the mountain alone, let people do whatever is done up there, forget the progress, forget the stellar future of even one bright Hawaiian astronomer who could discover other worlds. Let the Canary islands get the glory, educate and inspire their future generations, the world will keep spinning.

  5. Kenneth Conklin August 11, 2019 2:42 pm Reply

    I have published a detailed point by point rebuttal to Bill Fernandez’ essay, focusing on historical falsehoods and distortions. The rebuttal is too lengthy to place here as a comment or to publish in the print edition. You can find it by doing copy/paste of the following line of 4 keywords into your browser window or google
    history mystery hawaii conklin
    or, if editor Bill Buley will allow a URL, here it is:

  6. Charlie Chimknee August 11, 2019 11:09 pm Reply

    This whole telescope hoax is about science nerds excited about outer space, but having tax pastors cover the cost…Warming precious dollars on outer space while the world hungers for solutions to so much that is wrong.

    The false banner of Global Warming when the real issue is dirty rotten filthy pollution, 90% of it caused by petrochemicals and petroleum. Carcinogenic Petrochemicals are sprayed near daily on farms, food, and people, and same petrochemicals make up the majority of medicines. Chemicals and drugs. 80% of Americans take 1 Pill a day and 55% take 4 drugs a day, and they are cancer causing.

    Even polyester clothes are made from petrochemicals.

    Petrochemicals are relatively new to the human race and other sentient beings…unless stopped they are going to do us in.

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