This was posted on a FB feed, and I felt it appropriate for this time. All I will add is what one commenter wrote, and my reply:
Commenter: “Because they see our weak history regarding this kind of thing. The developed will cave and give them more money , which is the whole point of the “protest”
Kp response: “Money has absolutely nothing to do with the protectors actions. Never has, never will. There is a very very deep inner connection to this (and others here) Mauna, which will never be extinguished. Perhaps if you came here and lived here and learned the spirituality of these people, you would have a better understanding of this.”
A highlight or two.
“Hawaii, conquered by the U.S. but never fully colonized, has strong legal protections for indigenous cultural uses of public lands. The court stipulated that the relevant evidence ought to have been gathered before the permit was granted even conditionally. The BLNR had created the appearance of bias, so the permit has been torn up and the project put back to square one.
“The Thirty Meter Telescope is meant to benefit the whole world, and Mauna Kea is the best and most rational place to build it, but that just makes the drama of indigenous resistance more compelling. One can detect the imperialist tenor in those words even if one concurs with them. Canadians know well what this sort of fight looks like at home. It turns out other places have aboriginal peoples who want the right to say no, too.”
Remember the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)? Of course you do: it’s a $1.2 billion international big-science project that became a federal issue here a couple years ago when Canadian scientists started to fret about the quarter-billion we had promised to contribute. The world’s largest optical telescope, designed to have 10 times the resolving power of the famous orbital Hubble, is to be built by a B.C. company and shipped to the summit of Mauna Kea on the main island of Hawaii.
The Harper government, making a timely gesture designed to reassure the voting public of its scientific bona fides, gave the green light in April. This was to be good news for world astronomy, good news for Canadian high-tech know-how, good news for the cause of global scientific collaboration … but, um, there’s just a teensy little problem with the local development permits.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) had wrongly issued a conditional permit to construct the telescope on the peak of Mauna Kea, which is within a conservation district that Hawaii operates as a public trust. Apparently there was not quite so big a hurry to get the thing built after all — assuming it can ever be built on the proposed site, which the court’s decision calls into serious question.
Canadian participation in the Thirty Meter Telescope is supposed to be a symbol of our country’s “best self,” as liberals and greens envision it. But at ground level, in Hawaii, we are starting to look like heedless imperialists, and it is nationalistic indigenous Hawaiians who are pushing back. Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898 after a prolonged political drama engineered by the usual suspects — missionaries, then Anglo and other foreign traders, and finally ambitious, sleazy statesmen. Some Hawaiians are beginning to question the axioms of history, to ask whether it is possible to undo the capture of their land as an outpost for American force projection.
The TMT makes for a very natural rallying point, physically and historically. There are already 13 astronomical observatories on the slopes of Mauna Kea, including the Canada-France-Hawaii 3.58-metre telescope built in 1979. The TMT, incorporating money from China, Japan and India as well as Canada, was supposed to be the crown jewel. But telescopes need access roads, adjacent buildings and plenty of wiring. Planners never imagined that the mountain would be dotted with so many telescopes, and Hawaiian traditionalists are starting to ask whether this one is one too many.
At BLNR hearings, the TMT received support from some indigenous elders and scholars. One, Wallace Ishibashi Jr., said he had consulted a “snow goddess” of Mauna Kea and been given the all-clear. Hawaii could only have been colonized by people who mastered astronomical navigation, he pointed out, and Ishibashi wanted to see his grandchildren “learn more about ourselves, our God and what’s out there beyond the stars.” But a noted anthropology professor of Hawaiian descent, Kehaulani Kauanui, complained that telescopes on Mauna Kea are “supplant(ing) our indigenous temple of worship” and that the TMT would constitute a “desecration” of the cynosure of Hawaiian existence.
It turns out other places have aboriginal peoples who want the right to say no, too.
The Hawaii Supreme Court decision is a technical due-process matter. The BLNR had not given the final go-ahead to construction; it merely granted a permit with a list of conditions, including a more extensive hearing for the traditionalist objectors to the project. But this, the court ruled, was going about things backwards.
Hawaii, conquered by the U.S. but never fully colonized, has strong legal protections for indigenous cultural uses of public lands. The court stipulated that the relevant evidence ought to have been gathered before the permit was granted even conditionally. The BLNR had created the appearance of bias, so the permit has been torn up and the project put back to square one.
The problem is that time is probably on the side of the TMT’s opponents. Protesters began to appear unexpectedly in small numbers this spring as equipment was being brought up the mountain for staging. More recent protests have attracted hundreds, and the state’s governor was convinced to impose a moratorium on preparations for construction.
Scholars involved with TMT did not see this coming. “I can’t explain what suddenly got all of these new people involved,” Honolulu-based Canadian astronomer Bob McLaren told Nature in September. “There were elements of this (Hawaiian) sovereignty movement and disenfranchisement in there, but they were secondary.” Now, to McLaren’s surprise and annoyance, they are occupying centre stage. Rising Hawaiian national consciousness will not be easy to overcome: the place comes equipped with a history of independence and even a native aristocracy aware of a well-documented past.
The Thirty Meter Telescope is meant to benefit the whole world, and Mauna Kea is the best and most rational place to build it, but that just makes the drama of indigenous resistance more compelling. One can detect the imperialist tenor in those words even if one concurs with them. Canadians know well what this sort of fight looks like at home. It turns out other places have aboriginal peoples who want the right to say no, too.