The Lāhui at Mauna Kea: Nation-Building as Returning and Futuring (A Zine)

Page 1


The LAhui at Mauna Kea: Nation-Building as Returning and Futuring A Zine by Rachel Wang

For the strong kiaʻi mauna For the Lahui For my teachers For my friends And for those who want to learn


Ku Kiaʻi Mauna! Until the last aloha ʻaina.

We begin with this mele hanau (birth chant) called ʻŌ Hānau Ka Mauna A Kea:

O hanau ka mauna a Kea Born of Kea was the mountain ‘Opu’u a’e ka mauna a Kea The mountain of Kea budded forth ‘O Wakea ke kane, Wakea was the husband, ‘o Papawalinu’u ka wahine Papawalinu’u was the wife Hanau Ho’ohoku he wahine Born was Ho’ohoku, a daughter Hanau Haloa he ali’i, Born was Haloa, a chief Hanau ka mauna, Born was the mountain, He keiki mauna na Kea... a mountain-son of Kea


context The mele you just read is one of the many currently being chanted on a daily basis by the kiaʻi (protectors) standing strong at Mauna Kea. As the tallest mountain in the world from sea floor to summit, Mauna Kea has long been sought after by companies such as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Corporation as an ideal construction site for astronomical observatories. Since 1968 thirteen observatories have been built on Mauna Kea. All were promised to be the last one, but none were. In 2010, The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, on behalf of the TMT Corporation, filed an application for the proposed construction of yet another observatory, unprecedented in its size. Its construction would mean massive ecological destruction and desecration of sacred land. When construction was attempted in April 2015, many Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) and their allies took a stand, using their bodies as physical barriers to block construction crews from ascending the mountain. 31 kiaʻi were arrested, but the stand persisted and grew in strength for many months. That December, construction was paused when the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court reviewed the TMTʻs permit and ruled that it was invalid. However, the permit was reaffirmed in a second hearing on September 30, 2018. Construction was announced to resume on July 15, 2019. Kiaʻi immediately responded by gathering on Mauna Kea access road, eight of whom chained themselves to a cattle gaurd to block entry of construction equipment. Itʻs December now, and the kiaʻi are still standing strong —their numbers growing impressively over the summer into an organized puʻuhonua (sanctuary, place of refuge). Most non-Native people who have heard about the opposition to TMT at Mauna Kea could probably understand why construction would be detrimental in terms of its devastating environmental impacts. The TMT would require excavating close to 2 million cubic feet of pahoehoe lava and earth. Huge 18-ton tanks for storing chemical and human waste would be dug underground, right above vital aquifers that provide water for the main island. But we start with this mele to recognize that Mauna Kea is more than just a unique natural environment.

This mele is an invitation to understand Mauna Kea As Sacred. This mele is an invitation to Engage with Kanaka Maoli bodies of knowledge.

Mauna Kea Is...

a kupuna, a revered elder. an older sibling. a beloved ancestor. a piko, a summit, an umbilicus. a genealogical cord. a Wao Akua, a holy realm. a dwelling place of Poliʻahu (goddess of snow) and her sisters. SACRED.

Scholar Iokepa Casumbal-Salazar in his article “A Fictive Kinship,” gives a comprehensive retelling of the moʻolelo (stories, histories) that genealogically connect the mauna with Kanaka Maoli. As the mele hanau describes, Mauna Kea (also known as Mauna a Wākea) is the firstborn of Wākea (“Sky Father”) and Papahānaumoku (“Earth Mother” or Papa who gives birth to islands). Wākea and Papa also have a daughter Hoʻohokukalani (“she who creates stars in the sky”) who gives birth to a stillborn child. The first kalo plant (taro) sprouts from the childʻs burial ground, becoming a staple food for Kanaka Maoli that “allowed for the Lāhui (the nation and people) to flourish” (Casumbal-Salazar 5). Hoʻohokukalaniʻs second child is Hāloa, the first human being and first aliʻi (ruling class) to govern the Lāhui. When we understand Mauna Kea through this genealogy, it becomes more than just a mountain. Mauna Kea is a family member, an old and distinguished forebear. Mauna Kea is sacred.

They chose not to counter violence with violence, but instead to pursue a more radical form of resistance altogether: the cultivation of our LÄ hui. -Iokepa Casumbal-Salazar


Cultivating LAhui nation, people

Casumbal-Salazarʻs quote continues, “[Our kūpuna] maintained pono by preserving our worldviews and teaching us knowledge of ourselves. They devoted themselves, not to capitalism or settler strategies of land, labor, and resource exploitation, but to aloha ʻāina. They committed, not to shortsighted logics of an extractive culture of consumption and excess, but to ceremony. When confronting the institutions designed to eliminate Native peoples, our kūpuna provided their beloved kamaliʻi (descendants) the education necessary to insure our survival through enduring struggle and pono.” This quote captures whatʻs radical about the resistance at Mauna Kea. Throughout the history of the colonization of Hawaiʻi, the settler colonial state has always used violent tactics against the Native population. And while Kanaka Maoli would be quite justified in meeting armed violence with armed violence, they direct their energies away from opposing outward and rather focus on strengthening inward. This is the cultivation of Lāhui. Prioritizing the building up of oneʻs people and the preservation of culture becomes a powerful act of resistance in its own right. Settler colonial attacks, operating in a logic of elimination, will never reach success if the core is fortified, if the people know who they are. Indigenous survivance triumphs. And this prevailing image of ancestors providing just what their descendants need to survive recalls the strength of genealogy within Hawaiian ways of knowing and being. Its essentially an image of Indigenous nationhood—a people intensely committed to ensuring that their children and grandchildren continue to thrive.

"The Lāhui Hawaiʻi is rising up...Kanaka Hawaiʻi are rising up as a people and a nation. ʻĪmaikalani Winchester has called this a huliau: like an immense ocean current that creates change, a turning point." -Noenoe K. Silva

Rising as Returning Noenoe K. Silva identifies this rallying at Mauna Kea as a “nation rising” and as a “huliau”—a powerful word and image within the Hawaiian language that signifies dramatic change. She also talks about rising as a kind of returning. The stand at Mauna Kea is a return to indigenous sovereignty and traditional values. As people gather at the mauna, the Hawaiian language is being spoken, traditional mele, pule, oli and hula (chants, prayers, songs, dance) are being practiced every day, if not multiple times a day, and people are organizing around grounding principles like aloha aina.

Resurgence & A Flourishing of the Indigenous Inside Both Silvaʻs ideas of a rising nation and Casumbal-Salazarʻs ideas of cultivating Lāhui connect powerfully with Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Betasamosake Simpsonʻs ideas about resurgence and scholar Taiaiake Alfredʻs theories about the flourishing of the Indigenous inside. Simpson reflects on marching proudly through Canadian streets with her Nishnaabeg community on National Aboriginal Day, saying, “This was not a protest. This was not a demonstration. This was a quiet, collective act of resurgence” (11). This sentiment very much mirrors how kiaʻi at Mauna Kea insist they are protectors, not protestors. Their stand is not just a sensational piece of activism; itʻs a reclamation of indigenous sovereignty. Likewise, Alfredʻs theories about refocusing the work “from trying to transform the colonial outside into a flourishment of the Indigenous inside” resonate strongly with how kūpuna practice non-violent strategy and invest in strengthening the generations to come (17). As Alfred says, “We need to not just figure out who we are; we need to re-establish the processes by which we live who we are within the current context we find ourselves...We need our Elders, our languages, and our lands, along with vision, intent, commitment, community and ultimately, action” (17).


Aloha ʻAina Governance Laurel Mei-Singh and Sarah Marie Wiebe describe aloha aina governance as “deep, loving, and reciprocal relations with environmental forces and each other to create abundance in our lives.” Love for the land, and the responsibility therein, is what motivates and guides every kiaʻi at Mauna Kea. Casumbal-Salazar also defines the multi-faceted concept of aloha aina as “the onto-genealogical ethic of caring for land and water as cultural value, political strategy, and ʻike kūpuna (ancestral knowledge).” His use of “onto-genealogical ethic” is just a fancy way of saying that this is a way of life based on the understanding that the land is a relative, and its protection is generational. Aloha aina is a state of being, but it also inherently acts as a tactic and a body of knowledge for resisting settler colonialism . As the governing principle at the Mauna Kea encampment Puʻuhonua o Puʻhuluhulu, aloha aina also requires that kiaʻi conduct themselves in kapu aloha: living with love and compassion for others & abiding by non-violent direct action. As Kekailoa Perry puts it, “The Maunakea movement is more than good organizing. The power is rooted in kapu aloha.”

As much as all of these ontologies (ways of being) do act as radical political strategies, many kiaʻi also recognize - what Kanaka ʻOiwi do” that itʻs- “simply (Casumbal-Salazar). In an interview with Lou Cornum, kiaʻi Malia Hulleman said, “Our strategy isn’t really properly considered ʻstrategy,ʻ because it’s just who we are. Kapu Aloha — a form of commitment to pono, or what is right and just — is and has always been embedded within our DNA.”

Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu as Decolonial Future

The community and nation that has formed at the base of Mauna Kea, at Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu provides an intricate model of what society, separate from the settler colonial state, does and could look like. Many non-Natives might believe that Indigenous folks donʻt have much to offer when it comes to solving the healthcare crisis or combatting food insecurity. And yet, the kūlanakauhale (village) that has sprung up at Mauna Kea says otherwise. At the puʻuhonua, food, housing, healthcare, childcare, and education are all free. This is not some disorderly mass of people bumming it out on a highway. This is a highly structured and self-regulated environment that remains sophisticatedly organized by traditional principles and values. In the words of Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, “Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu presents a powerful, living example of a selforganized, noncapitalist community that is based on Indigenous Hawaiian values, is led by Kanaka Maoli, and includes everyone who abides by the Kapu Aloha. It is an emergent alternative to settler-colonial ways of governing, of providing for peoples’ needs, and of living in relation to the land” (Cornum). In other words, the decolonial society forming at Mauna Kea is a great example of how indigenous nationhood differs from the settler colonial “nation-state.” Quoting Andrea Smith in their “Decolonizing Feminisms” article, Arvin et al. write, “Whereas nation-states are governed through domination and coercion, indigenous sovereignty and nationhood are predicated on interrelatedness and responsibility. In opposition to nation-states, which are based on control over territory, these visions of indigenous nationhoods are based on care and responsibility for land that all can share” (16). The kind of nation being built at Mauna Kea is about restoring and stewarding land, not owning or extracting from it.

"Wāhine (womxn) have been protecting Mauna a Wākea... since time immemorial." -Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua

None of the infrastructure at the puʻuhonua would be running without mana wāhine and mana māhū (power of womxn and non-binary folks). According to Noelani Goodyear- Ka‘ōpua, womxn have been the lifeblood of the kitchen, the childcare tent, the Puʻuhuluhulu University and the medics tent. Womxn have been overseeing and coordinating communications, media, and donations. Womxn and non-binary folks have been at the frontlines of this protection work, linking arms to create a massive barrier when a largely male police force threatened to arrest the elderly kūpuna. Noenoe K. Silva likens this act of mana wāhine to the moʻolelo (story) of the god Haumea, manifesting as hundreds of women, to defend the male god Wakea from the “male fighting forces of an ill-intentioned aliʻi (chief).” Mana wāhine is especially symbolic when we consider that many of the deities that dwell and give life to the mauna are female--Poliʻahu (snow), Lilinoe (mist), Waiau (lake), and Kahoupokāne (springs) to name a few. Many kiaʻi have felt a closeness to these deities as they protect the mauna and offer up daily pule (prayers). Goodyear- Ka‘ōpua shares, “We have all witnessed sudden blankets of mist, sudden clearings, and rainbows of very rare kinds in response to different kinds of pule.” David Maile also cites these moments of connection as sites for victory: “Thick mist covered the road. Clouds rolled in to blanket the mountain. Sometimes, even with the wind intensifying, nēnē geese would glide close overhead. Our akua and ‘aumakua were with us. As we chanted each line, TMT could not be built. There was no buzzing from heavy machinery just the roaring sound of our voices. We were winning.”

What’s happening at Mauna Kea is a form of nation-building, and its value supersedes whatever the Thirty Meter Telescope could accomplish... It is simultaneously a return to traditional governance and a lead forward to where Hawaii should be headed. -Trisha Kehaulani Watson

Futuring What Watson is articulating in that quote is this idea that returning can also be a type of futuring. If traditional ways of being have always served the survival and continued resistance of Kanaka Maoli, then why wouldnʻt returning to them be a way of paving and securing a viable Indigenous futurity? What this zine has been wading into, by talking about genealogy and decolonial possibilities, is the fact that the protection of Mauna Kea is past, present, and future all at once. Kanaka Maoli, as indigenous people, have the unique positionality of being inextricably tied to genealogies that act as a “backbone,” connecting them all the way back to the creation of their lands, as well as all the way forward to the generations still to come. History manifests in the present in the form of Mauna Kea. History is also present in the chants, the memories, the stories that Kanaka Maoli continue to carry in their bodies and speak back to the sky. In this sense, time is no longer linear. Itʻs what "Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua calls ʻdeep time,ʻ time as deep or even deeper than the base of Mauna Kea" (Cornum). As Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada puts it, “we are operating on geological and genealogical time. Protecting the ʻāina, carrying on our traditions, speaking our language, and acting as kahu for our sacred places are not things measured in days, or weeks, or even years. This work spans generations and eras and epochs.” While the TMT corporation worries about the limited time their contract allows to construct the telescope (operating on settler time), Kanaka Maoli stand firm, knowing that their protection work both precedes and succeeds them.

"The future is a realm we have inhabited for thousands of years." -Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada

Indigenous people have faced the violence of settler colonialism before, and theyʻve survived it. They know what it means to live through apocalypse and see beyond. They know what it means to be rooted in history as a way to divine a path into the future. There is nothing they are fighting through right now that their ancestors havenʻt already battled and seen victory over.

"I am confident the Lāhui is in very good hands.” -Iokepa Casumbal-Salazar

"We’re not trying to do anything that we haven’t done before. We’re just trying to do it again." -Kamo’okahi Kanuha (from Mikey Inouyeʻs film)

Sources Arvin, Maile, et al. "Decolonizing Feminism: Challenging Connections between Settler Colonialism and Heteropatriarchy." Feminist Formations, vol. 25 no. 1, 2013, pp. 8-34. Casumbal-Salazar, Iokepa. “A Fictive Kinship: Making “Modernity,” “Ancient Hawaiians,” and the Telescopes on Mauna Kea.” Native American and Indigenous Studies, vol. 4, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1-30. Casumbal-Salazar, Iokepa. “In Ceremony and Struggle: The Lāhui at Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu.” Enduring Hawaiian Sovereignty: Protecting the Sacred at Mauna Kea, edited by J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Radical History Review, 14 Aug 2019, Cornum, Lou. “Fight for the Future.” The New Inquiry, 2 Aug 2019, Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, Noelani. “Protecting Maunakea is a Mission Grounded in Tradition.” Zora, Medium, 5 Sept. 2019, Inouye, Mikey. “Like a Mighty Wave: A Maunakea Film.” YouTube, uploaded by Puuhonua Puuhuluhulu, 9 Dec 2019, v=4J3ZCzHMMPQ. Ku`ualoha Ho`omanawanui, Candace Fujikane, Aurora Kagawa-Viviani, Kerry Kamakaoka‘ilima Long & Kekailoa Perry (2019): Teaching for Maunakea: Kiaʻi Perspectives, Amerasia Journal, DOI: 10.1080/00447471.2019.168631 Kuwada, Bryan Kamaoli. “We Live in the Future. Come Join Us.” Ke Kaupu Hehi Ale, 3 April 2015,

Maile, David Uahikeaikalei‘ohu. “For Mauna Kea to Live, TMT Must Leave.” Enduring Hawaiian Sovereignty: Protecting the Sacred at Mauna Kea, edited by J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Radical History Review, 14 Aug 2019, Mei-Singh, Laurel and Sarah Marie Wiebe. “A Decolonial Education Takes Shape at Mauna Kea’s Ecological University.” Truthout, 7 Oct. 2019, Silva, Noenoe K. “Ke Mau Nei Nō Ke Ea O Ka ʻĀina I Ka Pono.” Enduring Hawaiian Sovereignty: Protecting the Sacred at Mauna Kea, edited by J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Radical History Review, 14 Aug 2019, Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. “Nishnaabeg Resurgence: Stories from Within.” Dancing on our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence, Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2011, pp. 1125. Watson, Trisha Kehaulani. “Trisha Kehaulani Watson: It Took a Crisis to Bring Hawaiians Back Together.” Civil Beat, 1 Aug 2019,

Thank you for reading! A little about me... My name is Rachel (she/her/hers) and Iʻm currently a junior undergrad at Brandeis University. I made this zine as a final project for a class I was in this semester called Decolonization: A Native American Studies Approach. (Pretty cool that I get to research something Iʻm passionate about as my final!) As a settler ally, Iʻm very aware that thereʻs still so much I donʻt know about Mauna Kea--the politics, the Hawaiian language, the indigenous epistemologies and ontologies that Kanaka Maoli are drawing from etc. so please correct me if you spotted something in this zine that was wrong or needed expanding on! The cool thing about zines is theyʻre fluid and I can keep adding to this as it lives on online! You can reach me at Letʻs keep learning together :) Hereʻs an awesome resource for ways you can stand for Mauna Kea when you canʻt physically stand there:

@protectmaunakea @puhuluhulu

Special thanks to... Lee Bloch, for teaching Native American and Indigenous Studies at Brandeis. Leanne Day, for being the first to teach me about Hawaiʻi. And BAATF, for introducing me to zines and being a space to advocate for Pacific Islander Studies.

Stay updated on the stand at Mauna Kea by following these platforms!

Did you know... Brandeis University currently does NOT have a Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) department or program! The Florence Kay Levy postdoctoral fellow currently teaching the only NAIS classes at Brandeis, Professor Lee Bloch, will be leaving after Spring 2020 as per their two-year contract. Brandeis has shown no commitment to rehiring or establishing long-term positions for NAIS professors. Furthermore, Brandeis has not fulfilled its promise to hire a Pacific Islander Studies professor under the emerging Asian American & Pacific Islander Studies (AAPI) program (after over 500 students, faculty and alumni petitioned for such a hire in Spring 2019).

This is unacceptable. This is a blatant erasure of Indigenous peoples and scholarship. Brandeis MUST reckon with the erasure they are complicit in, as they purport to be a "social justice" centered university and as they literally occupy Indigenous lands. Brandeisʝ recent changes to the student handbook regarding how students must now "seek prior approval for schedule and location� of any protests they wish to participate in is also deeply concerning, considering how many critical departments, like the African and African American Studies department, were born out of student protest and direct action. (Please read more about why this policy is wack here: If you want to take steps with other Brandeis students to ensure that this policy is repealed and that ethnic studies departments like NAIS and AAPI are actually established in full, please reach out and I can help plug you in with folks have been organizing around these issues! (

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.