National CAPACD stands in solidarity with Native Hawaiians
to protect Mauna Kea

The National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) is disappointed that a judge in Hawaii denied a request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea. Located on the Big Island, Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano of significant cultural and natural value to Native Hawaiians. The mountain is an origin of Hawaiian cosmology and the center of the Hawaiian universe – it is where Earth Mother, Papahānaumoku, and Sky Father, Wākea are said to have met. In addition to housing numerous religiously significant sites, Mauna Kea is also home to precious natural resources.

Mauna Kea is on ceded Hawaiian land – land that belonged to the Hawaiian monarchy until Queen Lili’oukalani was overthrown by the US leaders who ceded the land to the federal government. The land was returned after Hawaii became a state; Hawaii is required to hold this land for specific purposes based on the 1959 Statehood Act, including improving conditions of Native Hawaiians.

The TMT is a $1.4 billion development project of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California system, and the governments of Canada, China, India and Japan. Resistance to its construction is a decade old. Importantly, the final environmental impact statement found that the TMT would store large amounts of domestic and chemical waste on the site on a regular basis before it would be removed. In 2015, protesters were arrested for blocking TMT construction work and a second attempt to start construction ended with more arrests. In 2018, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that construction could continue.

Since July 10th, when Hawaii Governor David Ige announced that construction for the TMT would begin again,  kia’i (protectors) mobilized a small hill, Pu’u Huluhulu, at the base of the Mauna Kea access road as a refuge for people opposing the TMT. There are some 2,000 supporters in the sanctuary. Nearly 40 protestors, the majority of them elders in their 70s and 80s, have been arrested for blocking access to construction. Increasing tensions between law enforcement and the kia’i at the site led to Governor Ige issuing an emergency proclamation to “protect the health, safety and welfare” of the people.

National CAPACD stands in solidarity with indigenous Hawaiians protesting the construction of the TMT at Mauna Kea. While proponents of the TMT cite economic and educational opportunity as positive outcomes, placing profits and development ahead of respect for Hawaiian culture, history, and the environment is deeply unethical. We agree with scientists Kelou Fox of UC San Diego and Chandra Prescod-Weinstein of the University of New Hampshire who state, the TMT “is a clash between colonial science – the one in which, under the guise of progress, has all too often helped justify conquest and human rights violations – and a science that respects indigenous autonomy.” We must stand against “progress” that comes at the cost of people.