Protecting Mauna Kea, Hawai’i’s Tallest Sacred Mountain – Part I

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This is the first of a two-part interview with Mikilani Young on the movement to protect Mauna Kea, the tallest volcano on the island of Hawai’i, a sacred site to the native peoples, from a massive Thirty-Meter Telescope constructed for space research.

Mauna Kea, sacred site, Hawaii

Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano on the island of Hawaii. Its peak is 4,207.3 m (13,803 ft) above sea level, mostly underwater, and when measured from its oceanic base, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world, measuring over 10,000 m (33,000 ft) in height. Mauna Kea is about a million years old, and has thus passed the most active shield stage of life hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Ku Kia’i Mauna: The Mauna Kea Movement to Protect Sacred Sites

Part 1 of 2

Kumu Mikilani Young discusses with Carry Kim from EcoJustice Radio about the proposed, highly controversial 30-meter TMT telescope which would be built atop “ceded” conservation lands on Mauna Kea, considered the most sacred mountain for native Hawaiians or Kanaka Ma’oli. The TMT telescope would be the largest telescope in the Northern Hemisphere and is being spearheaded by the University of California, the California Institute of Technology as well as: Japan, China, India and Canada.

In Hawaiian mythology, the five peaks of the island of Hawaii are sacred. An ancient law (kapu) allowed only high-ranking ali’i to visit its peak. In Hawaiian, Mauna Kea is a shortened form of Mauna a Wakea which denotes the mountain’s connection to the sky father Wakea; however, the English translation of Mauna Kea is “white mountain” in reference to its seasonally snow-capped summit.

Ancient Hawaiians living on the slopes of Mauna Kea relied on its extensive forests for food, and quarried the dense volcano-glacial basalts on its flanks for tool production. When Europeans arrived in the late 18th century, settlers introduced cattle, sheep and game animals, many of which became feral and began to damage the volcano’s ecological balance.  — Wikipedia

Mikilani also speaks on her aims and actions to unite First Nations of California as well as indigenous peoples globally to protect sacred ancestral territories, living waters and the heritage of indigenous peoples for future generations. In this episode, Kumu Mikilani shares the meaning of oli (prayerful chants of Hawai’i), intricacies and origins of the Hawaiian language, the sovereignty and “occupation” of Hawai’i, cultural appreciation vs. appropriation and a conversation about who is “indigenous.” Learn more about the culture of “Aloha Aina,” the “birthright” of Kanaka Ma’oli (native Hawaiians) and their living relationship to Ke Akua (Creator), Na Kupuna (Ancestors) and Na Aumakua (deified Ancestors) — their gods and Ancestors.


“This is not the state of Hawai’i. This in fact continues to be the Kingdom of Hawai’i under International law.. and so all of these contracts that the state of Hawai’i has negotiated with the TMT and other affiliated companies are in fact void, because the state does not exist under law.”  — Dexter Kaiama

For Part 2, Click Here

Interview by Carry Kim from EcoJustice Radio.
Host and Engineer: JP Morris
Executive Producer: Mark Morris

Updated 18 July 2019

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