Mauna Kea Protests

For the last few months, protests on the Big Island have gained a lot of media attention and support from around the world. These protests, known as the Mauna Kea Protests, are a series of demonstrations aimed at stopping the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Indigenous Hawaiians and people of Hawaii consider the site of Mauna Kea to be sacred land, and the protesters, also known as the protectors, do not plan to give up this fight any time soon. These protests bring forward the timeless issue of colonization in this country and make us question when taking a stand in the name of justice will actually make a difference for those on the front lines of the fight.

With any fight for social justice, understanding history is essential for understanding the passion behind the fight. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano that sits on the Big Island of Hawaii. Believed to be the home of the god Wakea, or the “sky father,” and Papahanaumoku, the earth mother, Mauna Kea is a highly sacred place in Hawaiian tradition. It is known to be a place of divine worship, representing the home to the deities and a safe haven. 

Back in 2009, Mauna Kea was chosen as the site to build a billion dollar TMT. This telescope’s purpose is to further construct research on astronomy. It is because of Mauna Kea’s high elevation and clear skies that it was believed by astronomers and researchers to be the best location to build TMT. 

Believed to be the home of the sky father and the earth mother, Mauna Kea is a highly sacred place in Hawaiian tradition.

Protectors of Mauna Kea argue that losing Mauna Kea to this telescope construction would mean losing a part of Hawaiin culture. It should be noted that Mauna Kea is also considered ceded land, which means that Mauna Kea is being held in a trust to be preserved for future generations of Hawaiins. What started as a protest of a few hundred has grown to ten to fifteen thousand. These protests have gained celebrity support as well. Hawaiin natives Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Momoa joined the protectors to show their support.

Although the Supreme Court of Hawaii has ruled that the telescope does not violate any of the state laws, the state protects Native Hawaiians' rights to practices related to cultural, religious and subsistent practices under Article 12 of Hawaii’s constitution. This means that as long as the TMT is scheduled to be constructed, these protests will continue as well. The state has approved a two-year deadline extension to begin construction of the TMT, which proves how powerful the people of Hawaii can be when they get together to fight for their beloved land. For the time being, however, it is simply a waiting game to see which road the fight for Mauna Kea takes, and here’s to hoping it is the road of preservation.