A mountain which used to be sacred, is for many years now a place for science.
Following a protracted legal battle and years long protests that left a state deeply divided, the Hawaii Supreme Court in November 2018 cleared the final legal hurdle for a $1.4 billion telescope project to resume construction atop the Big Island’s Mauna Kea, a mountain considered sacred by many Native Hawaiians. In a 4-1 ruling on Tuesday, the court upheld a 2017 decision by the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources to grant a construction permit on Mauna Kea for the Thirty-Meter Telescope, better known as TMT.
The court said it had carefully considered the arguments put forth by the project’s opponents who’ve described the telescope’s construction as an attack on indigenous culture and a desecration of sacred land. But, per the ruling, it had ultimately determined that “astronomy and Native Hawaiian uses on Mauna Kea have co-existed for many years and the TMT Project will not curtail or restrict Native Hawaiian uses”.
The ruling also noted the telescope’s potential to “answer some of the most fundamental questions regarding our universe” – a benefit that won’t just be enjoyed by Native Hawaiians but all of humankind.
“We are not anti-science or astronomy,” Lanakila Manguil, an activist who’s been protesting against the TMT project for years, told HuffPost in 2017. “It’s about construction, development and industrial-sized work happening in conservation lands and particularly very sacred lands to our people.” The mountain, which measures about 32,000 feet from seafloor to summit, is home to burial sites and is where Native Hawaiians have been known to bury their umbilical cords as a way of connecting to the sacred land. (1)
In the old days we used to have sacred lands.
In the old days we used to walk on the land.
In the old days we used to dream of the stars.
Only because we believed we were part of them.
Now we want to look at them closely.
To observe and analyze them.
Now we do not have anything sacred.
Now we do not even believe in ourselves.
And we long so much to get out of that land.
And reach the stars.
Only because we believe we do not belong with them in the first place…