Following the October 30, 4-1 Hawaii supreme court decision approving construction for a Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the Maunakea summit, a sacred mountain that holds cultural and spiritual significance to the Native Hawaiian people, Abigail Awai, the multicultural affairs senator for SOU, organized three protests on November 5, 6 and 7 to raise awareness for the issue and to have students sign a petition in protest of the TMT being built.
“It started off with me wanting to get my friends together from Hawaii to just kind of raise awareness and get the information out about what’s going on, but now it’s turned into a bigger thing,” Awai said, and since she started raising awareness for Maunakea, students have been coming up to learn more about the issue and to help support the cause.
According to the TMT International Observatory, allow humans to see deeper into space and observe cosmic objects with “unprecedented sensitivity.” With its 30 m prime mirror diameter, TMT will be three times as wide, with nine times more area, than the largest currently existing visible-light telescope in the world.
Protests have been going on for nearly half a decade since the telescope was first supposed to begin construction in 2014, and now that it is in motion to be built, Native Hawaiians and allies alike are once again taking action, with students on our campus joining the cause.
This isn’t the first time SOU students have protested the telescope explained Shanztyn Nihipali, a student at SOU. “This started years ago, the planning of a potential design of a telescope, an extremely large telescope,” he said. “We stood out here in front of the SU and protested it, and now that they voted in favor, you know we’re here again and stating our case in hopes that the SOU community will support us.”
He continued, “I think the best way for everyone to support us and the cause to protect our mountain would be to educate yourself fully about the issue, and [to] also realize the sacrifice the Native Hawaiian’s have faced due to westernization and colonization and understand that it was never something we wanted but something that was forced upon us.”
To do this, you can find the Protect Maunakea Facebook page, and if you would like to sign their petition you can do so here.
Jade Mahoe, another student standing for the protests and the director of multicultural affairs said, “I just think that it’s very disheartening to see them building a telescope again on Maunakea, because this isn’t the first one but it’s definitely the largest one.”
According to the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy page, there are already 13 telescopes on the mountain, making the proposed TMT the 14th telescope on Maunakea.
“For them to continuously destroy our land and vote within the interest of White people and occupiers and science with complete disregard for Hawaiian culture and the meaning and the sacredness that that place holds, it’s hewa, or very saddening, it’s harsh,” Mahoe continued. “I’m at a loss for words.”
“The Hawaiian people look at it as where we came from,” Awai said. “It’s our most sacred place because that’s where the Hawaiian islands started.” More than that, Maunakea, which is actually the tallest peak in the world surpassing, Everest by nearly 2,000 meters, is seen in Hawaiian culture as the connection between two of their gods, Wākea, Father Sky, and Papahānaumoku, Mother Earth. Awai said, “It’s a sacred place, it’s a birthplace of the Hawaiian people, and the Hawaiian people would cease to exist without this birthplace and this connection.
“I just want people to know that there are a lot of native Hawaiian students on campus and a lot of students from Hawai’i who are being heavily affected by this telescope being built,” Awai said, “and to just stand with each other even if you don’t identify, because we can all be allies to each other.”
The Hawaii Tribune Herald reported on Saturday that the state Supreme Court agreed to give Thirty Meter Telescope opponents more time to consider asking for reconsideration of its recent ruling, the opponents have 10 days from Friday to make a request for reconsideration.