Kanuha confident Mauna Kea standoff will end peacefully

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By Kevin Dayton Aug. 4, 2019

When he isn’t serving as spokesman for the activists on Mauna Kea who oppose the Thirty Meter Telescope, Holualoa resident Chase Michael Kaho‘okahi Kanuha teaches Hawaiian language and social studies, and coaches paddling.

Kanuha, 30, grew up in Kailua-Kona, and has been fluent in Hawaiian language since childhood. He attended the first class in Punana Leo O Kona Hawaiian immersion preschool, and attended the Kula Kaiapuni ‘o Hawaii immersion school at Konawaena through the sixth grade.

Starting in seventh grade he attended Kamehameha Schools Kapalama campus, graduating in the class of 2007, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is now seeking his master’s degree in Hawaiian language at UH-Hilo, and is a founding member of the Hawaii Unity and Liberation Institute.


His upbringing and education pulled him toward involvement in Hawaiian issues, and Kanuha initially became engaged in Mauna Kea issues during his last semester at Manoa in 2013 through a project for a class on land tenure and use in Hawaii.

With that background fresh in his mind, Kanuha made certain he was present to protest at the TMT groundbreaking the following year.

“We are not compromising on another telescope. We are not giving in, we are not backing down. This is our home, and we will do whatever it takes to protect it,” Kanuha said recently.

He has now been arrested three times for protesting on the mountain, and once at a meeting of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources related to Mauna Kea issues. He has been acquitted or the charges have been dropped in each case, with one charge of obstruction of government operations still pending.

Kahuna said he has learned “on the fly” about nonviolent protest tactics — the activists on the mountain use the term “kapu aloha” — since those first protests years ago.

“I believe with all my heart it’s going to end peacefully,” he said of the current standoff on the Mauna Kea. “The only way it doesn’t end peacefully is if the opposition, the law enforcement officers and those agencies, resort to violence. I’m absolutely committed to peace and nonviolence. That’s the only thing that I believe in. I would never, ever resort to any type of violence because not only is it wrong, it’s also a game we’ll never win.”