Earth mother, sky father: they are who we originate our lives from. Although Hawaiʻi carries several origin stories behind the creation of the Hawaiian islands and life as we know it, in Hawaiʻi, there is one story that commonly comes into mind – kanaka, The Kumulipo.
As a three hour long recital, performed strictly from memory, The Kumulipo speaks upon the creation of everything. Beginning with darkness, like many other cultural beliefs and religions, we see a continual evolution out of the light that soon follows. As the recital proceeds, we see every creation connected in one way or another. From fish to butterflies, to land masses themselves, we find Papa and Wākea, our earth mother and sky father, respectively, as our genealogical relatives amidst this line of creation.
Papa and Wākea are akua known for birthing the islands of Hawaiʻi. The two together parent the islands of Hawaiʻi and Maui first, later continuing to birth the rest of the Hawaiian islands, either jointly or separately, and then a girl by the name of Hoʻohōkūkalani.
Unlike the two islands, Hoʻohōkūkalani finds herself in the form of the stars. Dispersed across the sky at night, Hoʻohōkūkalani soon came to carry two boys with Wākea – Hāloanakalaukapalili and Hāloa. The first born, Hāloanakalaukapalili, was stillborn and so was buried upon his arrival. Following this burial, came his brother who was named after him, Hāloa.
Hāloa, although not stillborned, was also seen with a birth defect- in reference to his human form unlike his godly parents. Amidst the burial of the older brother, a taro plant sprouted, commonly known to Hawaiians as kalo. Kalo came to be a prominent source to feed and perpetuate Hāloa and the rest of Hawaiian humankind for years to come.
As kanaka, or human beings, we see ourselves as direct lineages of these high gods we call akua. Not only are we genealogically connected to these gods that shape our cultural beliefs, but we also see a familial relation between us and the land through our ancestors. With this being said, we carry a true and strong connection between ourselves and our ʻāina, our land. This relationship is one that cannot be broken and will be protected no matter what we have to do or face.
In 2014 our kinship was tested upon the arrival of a thirty-meter telescope (TMT) that was proposed to be built upon Mauna Kea, the highest and one of the most sacred places for our Hawaiian culture.
The mauna, mountain, finds itself along the lineage of Papa and Wākea, like we Hawaiians do, and was considered in traditional times a place above the clouds where Hawaiian gods lived. At the time, no commoner was able to traverse to the mauna – only high chiefs with specific purpose were allowed. Mauna Kea sees a related name of Maunawākea, meaning “mountain of Wākea.”
Our mauna’s name emphasizes the genealogical connection to our akua, as well as the perpetual cultural significance it denotes; nevertheless, we see westerners disregard our beliefs with 13 standing telescopes, many of which for years have been unused, upon our mauna. With the continual disrespect towards our land, family, culture, and identities, we refuse to allow one of the largest and tallest buildings in Hawaiʻi to be constructed on our sacred mauna.
Construction was set to begin in 2015 and then later was pushed to 2019, but we showed up in numbers. Whether through protesting on the foot of the summit or in the courtrooms, we did whatever it took to prioritize culture before desecration. In both years of proposed construction, we sent out a call across the world, and in 2019 we truly saw this call returned in immense numbers.
With the continual disrespect towards our land, family, culture, and identities, we refuse to allow one of the largest and tallest buildings in Hawaiʻi to be constructed on our sacred mauna.
At this year’s sit-in at the summit’s ground- the location of the mauna’s only access road- hundreds of kiaʻi, protectors, stayed day and night. Here, kanaka also established a small community. Free educational Hawaiian classes, daily cultural protocol, and food and health resources were made publicly available throughout the summer’s protest.
With local kiaʻi, people around the world came in groups to stand with us and exchange their culture. Japanese, Tahitians, Samoans, Māori, Native Americans – just to name a few – and even celebrities like Dwayne Johnson and Jason Mamoa, stood with us in solidarity in front of our sacred ʻāina. Flags of cultures all around the world flew alongside our distressed Hawaiʻi flag, yet these actions still only secured a halt on the project.
Our almost one year long sit-in, concluded due to the rise of COVID-19, clearly did not exemplify how far we are willing to go until TMT cancels all further plans. The project plans to work with our corrupted and greedy local government to persevere with construction from 2020 to 2021; but we, and the rest of the world, will not let that happen.
It should be said that we are not against furthering our knowledge or scientific studies, but we are against cultural desecration. Evident through our Kumulipo moʻolelo, we see that our ancestors were scholars. They understood the sense of the “big bang theory” as well as evolution, without even knowing of it.
We used stars to navigate hundreds of thousand miles to reach Hawaiʻi, so, no, it is not a culture versus science argument. It is consciousness of what is right versus what is wrong. The same moʻolelo that defines our culture’s integration with science also tells us that this ʻāina is our family, our ʻohana.
Pain, suppression, and manipulation are much too common in the hostility direct toward our culture, and since our government officials won’t be our voice, we created our own. We won’t stop until we are finally heard.
Last updated 9/6/20