KEN CONKLIN TESTIMONY JANUARY 12, 2004 NASA EIS SCOPING HEARING: How the telescope campus on Mauna Kea serves the spiritual essence of this sacred place in accord with Hawaiian creation legend; why testimony from Hawaiian sovereignty activists should be discounted in view of their motives

(c) Copyright 2004 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

Testimony was submitted orally. An annotated written version was also turned in. What appears below is the annotated written version.


Aloha kakou.

{English translation at end of written testimony}

O Ken Conklin ko'u inoa.
Mai ke ahupua'a o He'eia mai au, Ko'olaupoko, O'ahu.

E pule au.

E pule kakou, paha.

{ku i luna, paha}

E ko makou makua, i loko o ka lani,
E na kini akua a pau o keia pae 'aina,
E ho'ano'ia kou 'oukou mau 'inoa.

E ha'awi mai ia makou i keia ahiahi
I ka maopopo pono no na po'e a pau, noho ana ma Hawai'i nei.

E ha'awi mai ia makou i ke aloha kekahi i kekahi.

Aloha ke akua.

Aloha kakou.

{noho i lalo}

{English translation at end of written testimony}

I have no expertise on environmental issues, and will not be addressing them. But part of an environmental impact statement is a cultural impact statement. My testimony is in support of maintaining and expanding the telescope campus on the summit of Mauna Kea. This testimony rests on a foundation of Hawaiian legends to show why the telescope campus on Mauna Kea is a modern fulfillment of Mauna Kea's timeless spiritual essence. The testimony is offered as ho'okupu [offering] to Mauna Kea, Wakea, Papa, Ho'ohokukalani, Poliahu, and Haloa, as well as to government officials who must make decisions, and astronomers who use this sacred mountain.

Please do not misunderstand. I believe it would be wrong to impose religious beliefs on political decisions in our multicultural society. Hawaiian activists must not be allowed to do that. My testimony is aimed against those activists who use only a shallow understanding of why Mauna Kea is sacred, to claim that modern technology is a desecration of that sacredness. I will show that a deeper understanding of Hawaiian religion supports continuing and expanding the telescope campus.

Hawaiian activists like to say that all Hawaiians are related to each other, to these islands, and to the gods as members of a single family. They say it's not about race, but about geneology. Logically we know that geneology can be a proxy for race. The Supreme Court has ruled that ancestry is indeed a proxy for race when it comes to "Native Hawaiians." But let's put that aside and look at what Hawaiian religion says about the family relationship among Hawaiians, the 'aina, and the gods.

According to Kumulipo (a favorite Hawaiian creation story), the progenitor, or original ancestor, is Haloa, from whom all Hawaiians are descended. But who is the mother of Haloa? She is the goddess Ho'ohokukalani, which means: she who placed the stars in the heavens. So it is proper that Hawaiians should worship Ho'ohokukalani. Part of that reverence must surely include studying the stars she placed in the heavens.

But the story goes much deeper than that regarding Mauna Kea. Haloa was the progenitor ancestor of all Hawaiians. And who was Haloa's father? Haloa's father was Wakea -- sky father. Wakea mated with his wife Papa (earth mother) to give birth to the Hawaiian islands as living beings. Later, they mated and produced their daughter, Ho'ohokukalani. Later, when Papa was away on a trip, Wakea mated with his own daughter Ho'ohokukalani (a ni'aupi'o mating normal among Hawaiian ali'i) and produced Haloa. Thus Hawaiians are the younger siblings in a family that includes the islands and the gods.

Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the Pacific, which means it is closest to sky father Wakea. The name "Mauna Kea" appears to translate as "white mountain" (appropriate because of its snow-covered summit in winter). But the name "Mauna Kea" is actually a shortened form -- a contraction -- of its ancient name Mauna A Wakea, which means "the mountain specially belonging to Wakea." Listen to its name again: Mauna a Wakea. Wakea's mountain. And since Wakea is the father of Haloa, who is the progenitor ancestor of all Hawaiians, then it is right for Hawaiians to come to Mauna Kea to worship Wakea on his special mountain. And the best way to do that is to also use Mauna Kea, closest to the heavens, to worship Haloa's mother, daughter of Wakea, Ho'ohokukalani, she who placed the stars in the heavens.

That's why doing astronomy on Mauna Kea is a fulfillment of the spiritual essence of this sacred place. Modern astronomy is the way modern man worships the stars. Ancient Polynesians used the stars for navigation. The first Hawaiians came to Hawai'i by using the stars to guide them. Mother (Ho'ohokukalani) gave them the stars for that very purpose, to guide them along their vast journey through the Pacific Ocean. In the future, it is mankind's destiny not only to use the stars for guidance here on Earth, but actually to journey among the stars themselves. And those explorers of the future will rely on knowledge obtained from the telescopes on Mauna Kea to navigate through the vast cosmos.

Some protestors will say: But what about the telescopes defiling Poliahu, Goddess of Ice and Snow, whose home is Mauna Kea? Well, I seem to recall seeing televised footage of many inches of snow on Mauna Kea every winter, including just two weeks ago when children were shown sledding there. Poliahu continues to bless the telescopes. Her snow-blessing falls equally upon Hawaiians, koko'ole [non-ethnic-Hawaiians], and scientists who use Mauna Kea for its greatest purpose, astronomy.

Some people think that a sacred place must have a fence put around it or a wall built to protect it. They think people should not trample on sacred ground. But in ancient times people USED their sacred places. They used whatever technology they had available to build heiau or shrines for worship, and they conducted ceremonies there. Today we should continue to do so. Our technology has improved, and our shrines are larger and made out of new materials.

But what about desecration of this sacred place -- desecration committed by digging into the ground and placing structures here? Let me point out that ancient Hawaiians did exactly that. Near the summit of Mauna Kea is an ancient adz quarry. The basalt rock found near the summit was the best available in the Pacific for making axe blades. That's why Hawaiians came here, to dig into the ground and harvest the rocks and take them away to be distributed throughout these islands for technological purposes, to allow trees to be chopped down and carved into canoes. The Hawaiians clearly did not consider it sacrilegious or desecration to dig into the ground at the summit of Mauna Kea for technological purposes, even though those purposes were unrelated to astronomy. So please do not be telling me that there's anything disrespectful to the gods or desecrating a sacred place to do construction work on Mauna Kea. In ancient times Hawaiians also built things here -- ahu -- small religious shrines for worship. Such shrines were built everywhere in Hawai'i. We are a living people. In modern times, we build modern shrines, to worship the stars.

Finally, let me digress by talking about another cultural issue unfortunately related to Mauna Kea. I regret the need to depart from my entirely positive comments about spirituality, and to make a few remarks that will be seen as hostile toward certain institutions seeking money and political power by holding Mauna Kea hostage to their demands.

Nobody makes a profit from the telescopes on Mauna Kea. It costs many millions of dollars to build, maintain, and operate them. What bothers the Office of Hawaiian Affairs about Mauna Kea astronomy is that OHA doesn't make any money from it. The governments and institutions that own telescopes on Mauna Kea do not pay any "rent" for using the land. Instead of paying money, they donate some extremely valuable hours of telescope time each month to the astronomers affiliated with the University of Hawai'i. Thus the UH astronomy program has become world famous because of the spectacular discoveries constantly being made here. I believe all Hawai'i's people -- with the exception of OHA and a few radical activists -- are very pleased with this arrangement. We are proud to know that our land is being used for research that benefits all mankind, and that a very special place is being used for the very special purpose for which it is uniquely suitable in all the world. We freely donate the use of our land without expectation of any money in return, because we practice aloha and ho'okipa [hospitality]. We are ha'aha'a [humble] in the presence of the cosmic mysteries, and ha'aheo [proud] that our land can serve such a noble purpose.

But along comes OHA and demands money. OHA says it is entitled to 20% of ceded land revenues, and those telescopes should be paying big bucks as lease rent. {note #1} My answer to that is: Bah, humbug! You're like the grinch who tried to steal Christmas, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

OHA's antics remind me of third-world countries I have visited where government officials engage in outrageous extortion of people at all levels of society from wealthy businessmen to humble tourists. In Mexico, border guards and local policemen hold out their hands and demand "mordita." In the Middle East it's called "baksheesh." In Hawai'i, what OHA is doing is called "shibai" [a Japanese-pidgin word! meaning "fraud" or "con game"] because OHA is using religious and cultural claims in a totally false way, as mere pawns in a chess game to extort money and power from the State of Hawai'i and from the governments and institutions which own the telescopes. OHA doesn't care about the sacredness of Mauna Kea. OHA says "Give us enough money and we will dispose of all these cultural and religious issues for you." OHA is acting like the mafia kingpin in a big city neighborhood who extorts money from restaurant owners by selling them "protection" so the mafia goons won't make trouble. If the restaurants don't pay up, the goons go in and break someone's leg, or maybe set a fire. In the case of Mauna Kea, when nobody coughs up da kala, then OHA files a lawsuit against NASA and demands an EIS as a form of harassment, hoping to get a financial payoff. OHA's motives were made crystal clear in a newspaper article two years ago. On January 17, 2002 (coincidentally the 109th anniversary of the overthrow of the monarchy), the Honolulu Advertiser ran an article reporting that OHA Chairman Clayton Hee demanded $20 Million to make the problem go away, plus providing financing for including astronomy in the schools' science curriculum.

It is also interesting that the same people who used the EIS process to oppose military training at Makua, and to oppose the Army transformation and Stryker brigade, are now also using the EIS process to oppose astronomy on Mauna Kea. Some of these folks are sincere environmentalists, who want to turn Mauna Kea's newly discovered wekiu bug into Hawai'i's version of the snail darter and the spotted owl, to stop development dead in its tracks. Some of these folks are Hawaiian sovereignty activists -- anti-Americans who want to reduce and eventually eliminate America's presence in Hawai'i. The environmentalists and sovereignty activists would like to stop all further development on Mauna Kea, and eventually to remove all signs of civilization and restore Mauna Kea to a pristine condition under the control of ethnic Hawaiians. For such activists, the purpose of an EIS is to harrass, slow down, and destroy astronomy on Mauna Kea -- they have no real interest in establishing conditions or controls which would allow development to move forward while safeguarding the environment, ancient sites, and modern cultural practices. Thus their substantive testimony on environmental and cultural topics should be discounted in view of their primary motive of obstruction. On the other hand, genuine scientific evidence about environmental impacts, presented by scientific experts, should be welcomed. We must protect the environment, and the ancient shrines, even as we go forward to build modern shrines.

In closing, let me say again that I believe Hawaiian religious and cultural values are fulfilled by the presence of the telescopes on Mauna Kea, and that further development is entirely appropriate in view of those values. The Hawaiian activists will disagree with me. They will say I am being insensitive and rude to dare speak of Hawaiian cultural and religious values. I have only lived here for 12 years, so what could I possibly know? And I lack a drop of the magic blood, so I have no right to an opinion. But when it comes right down to it, I believe there should be no establishment of an official religion or of racial supremacy in Hawai'i. {note #2} The Hawaiian sovereignty movement has recently become more aggressive about using Hawaiian religious beliefs to assert a right to race-based political control, especially regarding land use policy. Ethnic Hawaiians, like everyone else, have a right to hold whatever religious beliefs they wish; but they do not have a right to impose those beliefs on others or to use religion as justification to assert race-based political power. {note #3}

Mahalo ia 'oukou i ko 'oukou ho'olohe mai ana ia'u. Aloha kakou. [Thank you for listening to me. Aloha among us all]


References for written testimony:

{note #1}: The ceded lands belong to all Hawai'i's people, as is clear in both the annexation and the statehood documents. The only basis for OHA's claim to 20% of ceded land revenues is a law passed in 1980 by the Legislature to provide funds for OHA -- a law which the Legislature can change or abolish whenever it wishes. The Arakaki2 lawsuit now underway seeks to abolish OHA (and ceded land revenue for OHA) as unconstitutional. For a thorough study of the ceded lands issue, see:
To track the progress of the Arakaki2 lawsuit, and to read some of the legal documents filed in that case, see:

{note #2}: For a set of basic principles in support of unity and equality, see:

{note #3}: How claims about Hawaiian religion are used to support political claims for racial supremacy in Hawai'i:


Translation of opening greeting/prayer:

Aloha among us all. My name is Ken Conklin.
I'm from He'eia, Ko'olaupoko, O'ahu

I'm going to pray

Let's pray together, if you wish

{rise, if you wish}

Our father, who art in heaven
And all the gods of these islands
Hallowed be thy multitude of names

Give us this evening
An understanding of what would be right for all Hawai'i's people

Give us aloha for one another

God is aloha

We all share aloha

{be seated}


(c) Copyright 2004 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved


MAUNA KEA -- How the telescope campus serves the spiritual essence of this sacred place; how OHA and the sovereignty activists try to extort money and destroy Mauna Kea astronomy