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Mauna a Wākea

Mauna a Wākea

Stunning Artwork by Marika Marx

Aloha kākou, 

ʻO Ariel kouʻ inoa. Eia wau maʻaneʻi e kākau nei no koʻu lāhui i ka manaolana e mahalo i nā Kūpuna a me ke Kiaʻi o Mauna a Wākea.

Hello everyone, 

My name is Ariel. I am here, writing to honor my lāhui, my kūpuna and my Kiaʻi of Mauna a Wākea. 

Back in 2009, the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory selected Mauna a Wākea as the preferred site to build and operate the TMT, Thirty Meter Telescope. Mauna a Wākea was chosen because measured from bottom of the sea-floor to summit, it is the tallest mountain, measuring 33,000 feet. Also, Mauna a Wākea was chosen for “the preferable climate stable, dry, and cold; all of which are important characteristic for capturing the sharpest images and producing the best science.” The TMTIO believes that the atmosphere on Mauna a Wākea offers “exceptional conditions for astronomical measurements with adaptive optics which will be equipped on TMT. As a result, TMT will likely revolutionize our understanding of the universe” 

But I really wonder if the TMTIO did their research, not only about the air quality conditions of the mountain that they were going to desecrate, but the history, the culture, the life that would also be destroyed with the building to that telescope. 


The Kānaka Maoli do not consent to the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope on our sacred mauna, Mauna a Wākea, or Mauna Kea. In the Kānaka culture, natural things like plants, rivers, oceans, animals, and mountains are viewed as ancestors because it is said that when we die, we embody things in our ʻāina (land). Mauna a Wākea is sacred for this reason, it is said to be our Kūpuna, our ancestor. According to the Kumulipo, the Hawaiian Creation Chant, Mauna a Wākea is known to be the meeting place and first-born child of Papahānaumoku (Earth Mother) and Wākea (Sky Father). These two gods are known to be the creators of life and birthed the islands and all of itʻs people. Because of this, Mauna a Wākea is known as the sacred piko (umbilical cord) of all of the Hawaiian Islands. It is the connection between humans and Nā Akua, the gods. 

Like mentioned before, Mauna a Wākea is the tallest mountain in the world, when measured from oceanic base to summit. Because of this, Mauna a Wākea is known to reach into Wao Akua, the Realm of the Gods. In ancient times, Wao Akua was kapu (forbidden) to everyone but the highest aliʻi (chiefs). At the top of Mauna a Wākea, in Wao Akua, sits Lake Waiau. Given the name for the goddess that birthed and created the lake, Waiau was used as a place of knowledge and learning for the aliʻi. The top of Mauna a Wākea sits close to the heavens so the aliʻi would go up there to worship, pray, and learn. Using the reflection of the stars in the glassy water of Lake Waiau, the aliʻi would study the stars to be used to voyaging and navigation, the seasons for planting and harvesting. The water of Lake Waiau is also known to have healing properties. The wai (water) is collected and used to ceremonies and healing. 

Mauna a Wākea is home to many Akua, which give life to our sacred mountain and the complex hydrological and ecological ecosystems that live within in. Mauna a Wākea is known to be the dwelling place of Poliʻahu, the beautiful goddess of snow. Mauna a Wākea is also known to home to Lilinoe, the goddess of the mist that cascades down the slopes of the mountain and Waiau, the goddess of the underground reservoir of water that comes up from Mauna a Wākea. Not only is Mauna a Wākea home to Akua, but also Kūpuna. It is known that in the uppermost zones of Mauna a Wākea, one puʻu (cinder cone), Puʻu Mākanaka contains burials of our passed ancestors. The other four puʻu on the mauna are also considered to contain ʻiwi kūpuna (the bones of our ancestors). Also, according to the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, located on the mountain, there are known to be 263 historic properties, including 141 ancient shrines. 

To put the TMT on Mauna a Wākea would be to (further) destroy the dwelling places of gods and goddesses that call the mauna home. It would be to (further) destroy the sacred piko for the Hawaiian universe. To put the TMT on Mauna a Wākea would be to disturb the final resting place of my Kūpuna, and destroy the culture and history of a sacred place, an ancestor, and a home to many Kānaka. 


There have been protests in order to protect Mauna a Wākea since the construction of the first telescope on the sacred slopes since 1964. There are now 13 telescopes on Mauna a Wākea. 

In April of 2013, the Hawai'i Board of Land and Natural Resources approved Mauna a Wākea as the site for the TMT. In October 2014, when the groundbreaking ceremony was set to take place, Kiaʻi, practicing the art of peaceful protest, stood ground at the base of Mauna a Wākea, in order to block the access road. 

Fast forward to March 2015. The construction of the TMT was set to begin. But filled with aloha for our ʻāina, the strength of our Kūpuna, and the spiritual connection to the mauna, Kiaʻi showed up again, blocking the access road to permit construction crews on the mountain. This temporarily halted the construction of the TMT. The construction was set to resume on April 2, 2015, but the powerful Kiaʻi were able to stop construction. And then again on June 24, 2015, when construction was set to resume yet another time. But, was halted again due to the aloha ʻāina warriors. 

While the Hawai'i Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the TMT project, the Supreme Court of Hawaiʻi later invalidated the permits in December of 2015 saying that the TMT Development Board did not follow due process. Fast forward a little bit more to October 30, 2018. The Supreme Court of Hawai'i approved the resumption of construction of the TMT and the democratic governor of (the SETTLER-STATE) of Hawaiʻi, David Ice claimed that construction would start yet again the week of July 15, 2019. 

So here we are now. In the present day. The protection of Mauna a Wākea began on July 14, 2019. Kūpuna and Kiaʻi from all over Hawaiʻi came to the Big Island of Hawaiʻi to protect our ancestor. Eight Kiaʻi chained themselves to a cattle gate at the base of the mauna for 11.5 hours in order to prevent trucks from entering the mauna. The frontline of the protectors was made up entirely of Kūpuna, our elders. Many of the elders live and breathe aloha ʻāina, a complex value of loving the land deeply and having an intimate relationship with it, and have perpetuated it since the first telescope was being built or when the United States Military used the sacred island of Kahoʻolawe for bombing practice

Tuesday, July 15, 2019. State police show up. They face the protectors. A deal was created with the commanding officers of the police. The Kiaʻi and Puʻuhonua, which serves as a base-camp style shelter for the Kiaʻi, will be left unharmed and no violence will be carried out as long as the protectors clear the road. No one moved. The Kiaʻi stood strong, as did the police line. Later that day, a mobile command center that was being used by the Hawai'i Police Department broke down on the highway. The Kiaʻi helped push the mobile command center to itʻs destination, showing the truest form of aloha the entire time.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019. The heavily armed police force arrested 33 kūpuna, who practice and maintain in the sacred act of Kapu Aloha. Chanting fills the air. Kiaʻi spirit is still high, connected through a love of the ʻāina and the need to protect our sacred. Later that day, riot police arrive the base of Mauna a Wākea. Kiaʻi link arms to form a human barrier to prevent trucks and “law enforcement” from moving up the Mauna. Speeches are given, ʻoli are chanted, the mana is strong.

Also very noteworthy and worth mentioning: On this day and for the days following, the entire front line of Kiaʻi is comprised of mana wāhine, women—remaining strong and steadfast in the face of arrest.

On this day, the Hawai'i Police Department made a speech to the Kiaʻi, informing them of what was happening or going to happen. This speech was given in English and ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi. They (the opposition, the settler-state) used OUR OWN LANGUAGE against us. A language, that at the time of the illegal overthrow and annexation of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, was ILLEGAL to speak. Because of that, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, like many other Indigenous languages, is thought of as an endangered language. Because of that, many Kānaka (myself included) are not even able to speak and understand ʻŌlelo. Also on this day, the governor of Hawai'i declared a state of emergency for the construction of the TMT.

The state of Hawai'i declared a state of emergency against itʻs own Indigenous people in their fight to protect their own sacred land. Land that was stolen from them and annexed into the settler-colonial creation of the United States. The state of Hawaiʻi declared a state of emergency against the Kiaʻi that remain in peaceful protections and protest and practice Kapu Aloha. By doing so, the state of Hawaiʻi is now able to implement more militant measures to remove the Kiaʻi. Later that day, the Hawai'i National Guard showed up. 

From then on, rallies and protests have been created in cities all across the globe in support of the Kānaka Maoli in their opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope being built on the sacred crown lands of Hawai’i. Politicians like Bernie Sanders (who later deleted his tweet in support of the Kiaʻi and Kānaka), Tulsi Gabbard (who is the representative for the district in which Mauna a Wākea sits), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have tweeted and voiced their support for the Kiaʻi and Kānaka. Since then, students at the University of Hawaiʻi and other universities across the US and Canada have voiced their support of the Kiaʻi and urged their administrations to divest from the TMT and renounce their support for the project. Since then, freeways on Oʻahu have been shut down in protest of the TMT and in support of the Kiaʻi. 

Monday, July 21, 2019. On the ninth day of protection of Mauna a Wākea, The University of Puʻuhuluhulu was created. This University teaches classes about Kānaka culture. Itʻs free. Classes are taught by Kiaʻi and attenders are Kiaʻi, Kānaka, and allies. Classes include ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, Papa Oli and Mele, history of our people, moʻolelo (storytelling), health, geography, non-binary spirituality, womenʻs health, classes in decolonization of land and women, politics, ecology, and so on. 

Since then, classes are still being taught at the University of Puʻuhuluhulu. Water and land protectors from the Standing Rock Sioux have came and joined the Kiaʻi on the Mauna, just as we stood with them in the #NODAPL protections. Tongans and Micronesians have shown up in support of the Kānaka. More rallies and protests continue to happen throughout the islands and continental “United States.” People like Dwayne “The Rock”Johnson and Jason Mamoa have shown up on the Mauna and stood with the Kiaʻi. Since then, social media has revolutionized the story, and mainstream media outlets have begun covering what is happening at Mauna a Wākea (even though the coverage is one-sided, biased, racist, or shitty). 


The Kānaka Maoli are reclaiming our lands and learning our culture. We are striving for sovereignty while holding Kapu Aloha at the forefront. We are living Aloha ʻĀina. We are resisting settler-colonialism. We are holding space for our Kūpuna and honoring our ancestors every step of the way. We are creating a way of life that would bring tears to the eyes of our Kūpuna. We are rebuilding our Kingdom, the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.

A lot of supporters of the TMT and opponents of the Kiaʻi paint a gross picture that the Kānaka Maoli are against the TMT because we are against science. AND THAT IS COMPLETELY WRONG. The Kānaka Maoli, along with many other Indigenous people and cultures, WERE (AND ARE) “SCIENTISTS” BEFORE THE WESTERN VERSION OF SCIENCE WAS EVEN A THING. My ancestors lived and sailed by the stars; they used astronomy to find new islands and know to harvest their food. We are not anti-science. We are anti-desecration of our sacred lands. We are anti-colonial.

Since the start of the protection of Mauna a Wākea, there have many other Indigenous uprisings against their oppressors. There was a recent victory in Puerto Rico as the people ran out the governor. Our relatives in Aoetearoa (New Zealand) are fighting at Ihumātao against colonial development. There is the Free West Papua Movement, which fights for the independence of West Papua from Indonesian occupation. There still exists the continual fight for Palestine and Sudan. And then, there is always the continual fight against colonialism and racism that Indigenous People all over the planet face.

But this is not the end. In fact, it is just the beginning. The Thirty Meter Telescope being built on sacred Kānaka land is just one instance of oppressors not caring about the land, itʻs people, and their culture being traded for profit. It is just one instance of Indigenous resistance. It is just one instance of the power of the people. And it will not be the last. 


Stand with the Kānaka Maoli and be on the Pono (righteous) side of history! Do not let the colonizers win! Not again. 

Sign the Petition to start the Immediate Halt of the Construction of the TMT 

Donate to the Kānaka Bail Fund

Donate to the Mauna Kea Legal Defense Fund

Contact Gov. Ige and Tell him that You Oppose the TMT

Other ways to support the Kānaka Maoli 

  • Email the Partners of the TMT and tell them that you support the Kānaka and Kiaʻi in their protection of Mauna Kea













  • Call their Partners of the TMT and tell them that you support the Kānaka and Kiaʻi in their protection of Mauna Kea

    • Aura Astronomy, (202)-483-2101

    • Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, (650)-213-3000

    • NAOJ, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, +81-422-34-3600, +81-422-34-3524

    • Canadian Space Academy, +1-450-926-4800

  • When visiting Hawaiʻi be aware of the issues. Learn about the fucked up history that the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi has with the “United States”

  • There are a lot of fake advertisements going around for shirts, hats, etc., that supposedly supports the Kānaka. Do your research. Be an informed consumer. Only buy products where proceeds GO TO THE KIAʻI.

  • Look out for cultural appropriation. DO NOT wear those god-awful so-called “aloha” shirts. DO NOT use the shaka. DO NOT go to those tacky tourist-trap “luaus” *(Lūʻau is the CORRECT spelling)

  • DO NOT support Dole or buy Dole Products. Sandford B. Dole played a pivotal role in the ILLEGAL ovethrow and annexation of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. 

  • When visiting Hawaiʻi do your research. Try to support Kānaka businesses, hotels, shops, etc. It might be challenging, but do your research! Remember that by visiting Hawaiʻi and vacationing on the beaches, you are benefitting from colonialism and the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. 

  • Share this! Use your voice! Let people know what is happening! Do not stay silent! About this, OR ANY OTHER INJUSTICE. 

  • If you are privileged enough to be able to visit the Mauna and stand and support the Kiaʻi, look into your intentions. Why are you actually going? DO NOT assert yourself in front of the Kānaka, Kūpuna, or Lāhui. Be respectful. Check-in at Puʻuhuluhulu, check the regulations and rules. ALL PROTECTORS MUST OBEY THE RULES OF KAPU ALOHA.

Further Reading:

Bani Amor’s piece, “The Link Between Tourism and Settler Colonialism in Hawai’i #Dispatch: Maile Arvin

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