Protecting Mauna Kea, it’s the law

West Hawaiʻi Today Updated:   June 17, 2015 - 12:05am       Ron Cawthon | Viewpoint

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The core of the issues raised by the Thirty Meter Telescope have been simmering for decades — there is no issue that the entire mountaintop has historic sites and human burials, these facts are well documented by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation Division. The land where all of the telescopes have been built is conservation zoning. The host culture of these islands have treated Mauna Kea as a sacred site for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The historic preservation laws currently in Hawaii require historic sites such as those on Mauna Kea be protected for “future generations.” There are no laws that allow historic and cultural sites or known human burials to be destroyed or desecrated to build telescopes or anything else for that matter.

Since telescopes were first proposed on Mauna Kea, Hawaiian religious and cultural practitioners have been testifying, explaining the sacred nature of Mauna Kea, in turn extensive and expensive documentation by archaeologists verified the sacred/religious/cultural nature of Mauna Kea to the host culture of our islands, and the historical nature of those sites, that the law requires they be protected for “future generations.”
Another core issue is who enforces the historic preservation laws of these islands? One might think the DLNR Historic Preservation Division does but it doesn’t, it only administers those laws and review and comment on proposed preservation and burial treatment plans. Once a preservation or burial treatment plan is approved by DLNR, it does not have the staff, process or resources to require those plans are completed, or complied with. In theory, DLNR Conservation Enforcement Division should be the agency to make sure those plans are completed and complied with, it too does not have resources to ensure historic sites are protected and “stewarded” for “future generations.”
As a direct result, folks protecting Mauna Kea are raising awareness to the point where the current governor recently publicly scolded the University of Hawaii for not properly stewarding Mauna Kea, and effectively not complying with the agreed upon preservation and burial treatment plans. Those folks protecting Mauna Kea, raising awareness, standing for their principles, should be applauded for their efforts and keeping in the “Kapu Aloha.”

Promises have been made, the mantra becomes UH will try to do better stewarding, all those are sorry, but TMT must be continued, but the host culture and people of these islands must sacrifice a sacred site, “future generations” must sacrifice and will never have the opportunity to experience those historic places, because of short time jobs and science.

Even if TMT would generate 1,000 high paying jobs for the next hundred years, the “future generations” of the more than 1.2 million other people in these issues, our future generations, will have lost historical treasures protected in law. Some might claim important science may be lost. There have been some amazing discoveries such “dark matter,” yet at present the law protects sacred and historical places, and the constitutions protect religious freedoms, not scientific discovery.

Many folks seem to be sleeping or hiding their heads in the sand of the broader issues all people face in these islands, which became clear during last year’s U.S. Department of Interior hearings held throughout these islands, while the Office of Hawaiian Affairs wants Hawaiians to agree to lower their legal status by becoming an Indian type tribe, the majority of people testified in favor of full-on restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom. While that may seem far-fetched to some people, there have been prominent local attorneys, under oath, placing declarations in the courts since the 1990s that “The present State of Hawaii is an illegitimate government that should not be recognized. Even the Supreme Court has indicated “The illegal overthrow leaves an open question whether or not the ‘present governance system’ should be recognized.” (State v. Lorenzo, 77 Hawaii 219, 883 P.2d 641 [App. 1994] Footnotes). This may be news to many people, but not the Hawaiian people.

If you love the vibe of the people in our islands — the aloha spirit, the culture, its history — then why ignore the people that have been caring for these sacred islands for untold generations, why not protect its rich history for “future generations”? If some folks don’t love Hawaii, its people and its history, perhaps they should move to a place more to their liking, instead of destroying everything that makes our islands a sacred and special place on our planet, in the name of “progress.”

Ron Cawthon is a resident of Keauhou.

Viewpoint articles are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily the opinion of West Hawaii Today.