The Situation at Mauna Kea
The fight of indigenous peoples for the protection of land that is sacred to them is one that has spanned centuries, not only in the United States, but also in other nations born by colonialism (such as Canada). The demonstration that took place in a Dakota Native American reservation known as Stand with Standing Rock or No DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) serves as a prominent example of such action to protect native lands.
But today, a new obstacle has arisen, and parallels can be drawn between the meaning of the Standing Rock demonstrations and those that are currently taking place in Mauna Kea, on the island of Honolulu in Hawaii. Before delving into the standoff that is going on, one must first analyze the significance of Mauna Kea, as it is essentially a mountain that is deemed sacred to Native Hawaiians. The threat to this mountain’s sacredness lies in the hands of astronomists who are seeking to build a Thirty Meter Telescope there; the reasoning for which being the mountain’s height, accessibility, and limited light pollution. Additionally, there are approximately thirteen other telescopes already built on Mauna Kea. However, many Native Hawaiian elders have been spending days preventing the construction, and have been joined by younger people as well.
The parallels between the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Thirty Meter Telescope, besides the fact that their construction was (and is) seeked out to be on native lands is the economic motivation for their construction, which is not surprising, and is the reason for support of both projects even by indigenous people. Many feel that the telescope will offer opportunities to the community surrounding Mauna Kea, even if it does disrupt the significance of the mountain. However, financial motivation has been concurrent throughout history in many aspects of the seizure of native lands, and one must consider that mainstream religion and culture is not as disregarded when it comes to projects such as a telescope.