Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Sacred sites destroyed for observatories

The Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii. Photo by Alan L / Flickr

Dina Gilio-Whitaker of the Center for World Indigenous Studies explores the fight to protect sacred sites in Hawaii from being destroyed for the Mauna Kea Observatories:
On October 7, Native Hawaiians and their supporters successfully blocked a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of a new telescope atop Mauna Kea. The thirty meter telescope (TMT) will be the world’s largest telescope and is a joint project of some of the richest countries and corporations in the world. This video shows two parts of the protest: a road blockade which prevented dignitaries from arriving at the site of the ceremony, and the actual site where the ceremony was to commence.

The conflict over development at Mauna Kea is a decades-long struggle for the protection of an indigenous sacred site. To Native Hawaiians, Mauna Kea is the most sacred site in all of Hawaii. A research report from Harvard University described it as Hawaii’s “garden of Eden,” because in Hawaiian creation narratives Mauna Kea is the birthplace of humanity, the place where Mother Earth and Father Sky met and gave birth to the human race. It is a ceremonial site and the location of over 3,000 burials (including those of Hawaii’s highest born and most beloved ancestors), and shrines which have never been abandoned by Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners.

Big Island Video News: Full Coverage of Thirty Meter Telescope Disruption
Over a dozen telescopes, buildings and satellite dishes have been erected at the site over the last 40 years, with little to no input from Native Hawaiians. Local laws were routinely ignored. The Harvard report tells us that “Lacking enforceable—or enforced—land management guidelines, the fragile natural landscape has been devastated by piles of trash, construction refuse, chemical runoff, and pollution from the observatory residents and employees. Not only was there little attempt made to preserve this ecosystem, but there has historically been no heed paid to the hundreds of sacred sites and family shrines: if they stood in the path of a telescope, they were destroyed.”

Get the Story:
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Spiritual Warfare and Sacred Site Protection in Hawaii (Indian Country Today 12/2)

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