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Scholars against desecration

We declare our opposition to SB 992/HB 1174 and SB 502/HB 1370 and any other legislation that would transfer Mauna Kea to the University of Hawai’i. These current legislative proposals would give UH complete management authority over Mauna Kea and allow implementation of a plan that has no limit on telescope construction, would close public access to the summit, and exempt UH from public oversight in the name of development.

Mauna Kea is a sacred summit, which is already being desecrated by the existing science telescopes. The Hawai’i revised statute 711-1107 on desecration specifically states that no one may commit the offense of desecrating “a place of worship or burial,” and the statute defines “desecrate” as “defacing, damaging, polluting, or otherwise physically mistreating in a way that the defendant knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the defendant’s action.” If this legislation passes, state legislators would be violating their own state law.

These legislative proposals also interfere with ongoing litigation on the current regulations governing Mauna Kea. We would also like to remind state representatives and the general public that in the recent 3rd Circuit Court case regarding the management of Mauna Kea, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs – Kealoha Pisciotta, president of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou; Debbie Ward and Nelson Ho, co-chairs of Mauna Kea Issues Committees; Sierra Club Hawai’i Island Chapter; Ali’i ‘Ai Moku, Paul K. Neves of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Moku of Mamalahoa Heiau Helu ‘Elua; and Clarence Ku Ching, individual Native Hawaiian Practitioner – and against the UH and the Board of Land and Natural Resources for violation of the regulations protecting Mauna Kea as a conservation district. This lawsuit is currently on review before the Intermediate Court of Appeals after the university appealed the lower court ruling against them. Though the university only recently withdrew its appeal from the ICA, counterclaims that go to the fundamental merits of this issue remain before the ICA.

Besides blatant desecration, and interference in ongoing litigation, the negative environmental effects are numerous. As noted in the testimony of the plaintiffs regarding this legislation, two reports by the state auditor have found that UH’s misuse and the BLNR’s failed oversight is “inadequate to ensure the protection of natural resources, and neglected. … the cultural value of Mauna Kea.” Their report further stated that the University’s Institute for Astronomy “focused primarily on the development of Mauna Kea and tied the benefits gained to its research program,” and that its focus on telescope construction has been “at the expense of neglecting the site’s natural resources.” Also, in 2005, an environmental impact statement required by federal court order found that the cumulative impact of telescope activities on Mauna Kea has had a “substantial, adverse and significant” impact.

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The current proposals also violate the land claims of the Hawaiian nation. These legislative attempts to transfer a portion of the Hawaiian Kingdom Crown and Government Lands of which Mauna Kea is a part, is in direct contravention of the Hawai’i State Supreme Court’s holding in Office of Hawaiian Affairs v. Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawai’i, 2008. The Hawaii Supreme Court barred the transfer of this land base by the state. If this legislation passes, state legislators would be violating the state Supreme Court ruling.

This exploitative venture proposed by this legislation must be stopped because the entire scheme promotes the ongoing violation of the sacred summit of Mauna Kea; it would be irresponsible and bad public policy, as well as a continued abuse of state power.

– J. Leilani Basham, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Hawaiian Studies

University of Hawai’i at

West O’ahu

– Kamanamaikalani Beamer, Ph.D.

Mellon-Hawai’i Postdoctoral Fellow

Kohala Center – Maenette K.P. Ah Nee-Benham, Ed.D.

Dean of Hawai’inuiakea School of

Hawaiian Knowledge

University of Hawai’i, M?noa – Kealani Robinson Cook, Ph.D. Candidate

Department of History

University of Michigan – J. Noelani Goodyear-Ka’?pua, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Political Science

University of Hawai’i at M?noa – Lisa Kahaleole Hall, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Women’s Studies

Wells College – Sydney Lehua Iaukea, Ph.D.

Mellon-Hawai’i Postdoctoral Fellow

Kohala Center – K? Kahakalau, Ph.D.

Founder and director

Kanu o ka ‘?ina New Century Public Charter School – Val Kalei Kanuha, Ph.D., M.S.W.

Associate Professor, Sociology

University of Hawai’i at M?noa – J. K?haulani Kauanui, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Anthropology and

American Studies

Wesleyan University – Brandy Nalani McDougall, Ph.D. Candidate

University of Hawai’i, M?noa – Noenoe K. Silva, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Political Science

University of Hawai’i at M?noa – Ty Kawika Tengan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Anthropology and Ethnic Studies

– University of Hawai’i at M?noa – Lani Teves, Ph.D. Candidate

Program in American Culture

University of Michigan – Haunani-Kay Trask, Ph.D.

Kamakak?okalani Center for Hawaiian Studies

University of Hawai’i, M?noa

– Liza Keanuenueokalani Williams, Ph.D. student

New York University