Panelists Discuss the Clash of Cultures and Land Ownership on Hawaii’s Sacred Peaks
(from the Kilakila O Haleakala website)
‘The law of Aloha is in the land.’ Kealoha Pisciotta
Respect for Kanaka Maoli Spiritual Practices
Panelists explained that from a kanaka maoli perspective, the summit of Haleakala is considered ‘wao akua,’or the realm of the gods. The very lands of Haleakala are seen by many as the kinolau (physical manifestation) of the sacred goddess Pele, a place that should be regarded as a temple.
Sierra Club Maui, MCC Hawaiian Studies Program, and Kilakila o Haleakala sponsored a May 17th panel discussion on a new 14 story tall telescope proposed for the summit of Haleakala. Pictured above,are panelists Kiope Raymond, Hawaiian Studies Department head at MCCand President of Kilakila o Haleakala and Kealoha Pisciotta, president of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, a group on Hawaii Island that led an alliance (including Sierra Club) who successfully challenged the state for failing to follow its own management plan and deal with the impacts of expanding the telescope complex on the summit Mauna Kea.
Kanaka maoli come to such places to worship and feel close to their ancestors.
Psciotta, who had worked at a telescope facility on Mauna Kea for many years, expressed respect for the scientists who work on the mountain, but not for the treatment of the land. She referred to the many pollutants (such as mercury and other waste products ) that came with the use and maintenance of the telescope facilities and the fact that their impacts on groundwater and native flora and fauna were not adequately considered by the state.
KilaKila board members are concerned that the summit of Haleakala has no comprehensive management plan. No one seems to be discussing the huge amount of energy the proposed 14-storyhigh ‘solar’ telescope would be consuming on Maui to maintain ideal temperatures in its huge footprint. All the panelists referred to the need to leave the landforms unaltered on the mountain peaks because they have connections to other landforms which are all part of the kanaka maoli spiritual tradition.
Panelists Ed Lindsey,president of Maui Cultural Lands and Debbie Ward, who worked closely on the Mauna Kea telescope challenge campaign as a representative of the Sierra Club’s Moku Loa (Big Island) group. Not pictured are the fifth panelist, Kaleikoa Kaeo, Hawaiian studies professor at MCC and panel moderator Rich Lucas. Representatives of the UH Institute of Astronomy and others supporting the telescope project were invited to be panelists, but they declined to participate at this time.
The telescopes of Haleakala’s ‘Science City'(more properly described as the Ahupua’a of Papa’anui in the district,or moku of Honua’ula) sit on ceded land. These are lands that belong to the Hawaiian Kingdom and were ‘ceded’ to the U.S. government with the 1898 annexation. Most of the 1.8 million acres of’ ceded’ lands became ‘state lands’ when upon Hawaii statehood in 1959. A recent Hawaii Supreme Court ruling decreed that the state had no authority to enter into agreements about the ceded lands with other parties until the land claims of kanaka maoli were settled. The state is appealing this decision.
A New Vision:
Panelists, all of whom opposed the construction of further buildings on Hawaiian mountain peaks, were united in one vision. The state of Hawaii needed to have a shift in perspective regarding the island’s land. Ceded lands need to be managed by kanaka maoli. Mountain peaks like Haleakala and Mauna Kea need to be respected as part of the spiritual heritage of all of Hawaii’s people, not as a real estate commodity to be leased by state agencies for a dollar a year to military and research facilities whose activities can impact landforms native creatures and the groundwater sources.
‘Aloha is the guiding principle of our life here in Hawaii,’ explained Pisciotta ‘and the law of Aloha is in the land.’