(c) Copyright 2002 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved
The following testimony was written by Ken Conklin and submitted to the State of Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources on behalf of himself and the Aloha For All organization.
From: Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. (on behalf of myself and Aloha for All)
Subject: Testimony regarding Mauna Kea NASA Project
Date: March 11, 2002
The following testimony is in support of maintaining and expanding the telescope campus on the summit of Mauna Kea. This testimony rests on a foundation of Native 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'ohokuikalani, Poliahu, and Haloa, as well as to government officials who must make decisions, and astronomers who use this sacred mountain.
The land of Hawai'i has been here for millions of years. Human beings have been here for less than 2000 years. The spirit of the land speaks constantly to all who have ears to hear, regardless of race and regardless whether someone has ancestors who lived here for a few hundred years. A famous 'olelo no'eau (proverb) says, "He ali'i ka 'aina, he kauwa ke kanaka." The land is chief, people are its servants. It is the responsibility of human beings to care for the land, as a servant cares for a chief, or as a child cares for a parent. E malama kakou i ka 'aina. Let's all care for the land.
Part of caring for the land is to give more priority to the spiritual essence of the land than to the political power of one's friends, relatives, or ethnic group; just as a servant owes greater loyalty to his master than to a faction of his fellow servants.
Part of caring for the land is to protect it from pollution. Part of caring for the land is to protect the spirit of the land as contained in cultural artifacts from previous generations who created those artifacts to memorialize their special relationship with a particular place. But caring for the land does not mean simply leaving it alone, or putting a fence around it, or giving control to just one group of people with a special agenda.
Caring for the land has an active spiritual aspect, which requires people to create new cultural artifacts to harness new technology in service to the timeless spiritual essence of a particular place. People can now use television to attend a church service even while physically at home. God will hear their prayers as clearly as the prayers of those who sit in the pews (and the minister will receive donations by mail just as well as donations laid directly into a collection plate!). The presence of a TV camera need not degrade or corrupt the church or its ceremonies; on the contrary, it can help fulfill their spiritual (and economic!) purposes.
Mauna Kea is a sacred place for Native Hawaiians. It is also a sacred place for all whose homeland is Hawai'i, and for all the world. Every place is sacred. But what makes Mauna Kea unique is its height above the earth -- its closeness to the sky. New technology makes it possible for mankind to fulfill the special sacredness of Mauna Kea, in a way that previous generations could only begin to dream of.
Some opponents of this project are using Hawaiian cultural legends for political purposes, to assert special rights to this area based on race. Some of those opponents are truly concerned to protect spiritual values. To them we say, please consider what your own mo'olelo (legends) tell you about mankind's relation to both the gods and the stars, and the special role of Mauna Kea in that relationship. Some opponents are simply abusing cultural claims as a vehicle for asserting political power and financial extortion. To them we have nothing to say, and we encourage the DLNR to discount their testimony in view of their motivations.
Mauna Kea is a sacred site for all the world. It is the tallest peak in the Pacific, closest to the heavens. That makes it especially valuable to astronomers. They come to Mauna Kea from throughout the world to use some of the most sophisticated telescopes ever created in order to study the stars. Thus we learn more about the origins of the universe, and of ourselves. We appreciate the beauty and majesty of creation. We stand in awe and reverence.
Mauna Kea was probably also a sacred site for the first people of Hawai'i. Since the arrival of the first people, there have been other waves of Polynesian immigration. Mauna Kea remains a sacred site for some of their modern descendants, and also for some people of other ethnicities who have immigrated here more recently. Of course all land on this planet is sacred to all humans, and all land in Hawai’i is sacred to all people who feel the special presence of the gods in these lands.
But Mauna Kea is special. Superficially its name means "white mountain" because its peak is so high that it is sometimes covered with snow. Some say the name Mauna Kea is a shortened form of Mauna-a-Wakea -- Wakea's mountain.
According to some Hawaiian creation stories, sky-father Wakea mated with earth-mother Papa, and one of their offspring was Ho'ohokuikalani -- she who placed the stars in the heavens. Later, Wakea mated with Ho'ohokuikalani. One of their offspring was Haloa, the first human being. Humans are descended from the gods sky-father, earth mother, and her who put the stars in the heavens. It is an act of worship to appreciate and study the heavens and the stars.
Just as ancient Polynesian navigators used the stars to find their way through the vast ocean, so future humans will navigate among the stars themselves through the vastness of space using knowledge we gain from telescopes on Mauna Kea. And in the meantime, while we remain earthbound, our spirituality is inspired by the beauty and majesty of the heavens as revealed to us through the telescopes on Mauna Kea.
Some say the presence of telescopes on Mauna Kea is a desecration of a sacred place. But we say it is a fulfillment of the very essence of this place. The presence of an ancient quarry and adz workshop near the summit shows that pre-contact Hawaiians did not hesitate to dig into the ground of this sacred place to gather materials, and to use the summit for technological purposes not even related to the sky or stars.
The land of Mauna Kea must not be polluted; all wastes must be removed. Ancient shrines on Mauna Kea should be preserved and respected. And the telescope campus should be expanded, as our modern shrine to the glory of Wakea, Papa, and Ho'ohokuikalani. Poliahu, goddess of snow and ice, continues to bless with her kinolau (body-forms) the summit of Mauna Kea and its artifacts, both ancient and modern. Poliahu's blessing is a metaphor for our future. Native and non-native, ancient and modern, unified in awe of the stars, learning more about our origins, blessed by snow and rain falling equally on all.
Mahalo i kou ‘oukou ho’olohe mai ana ia makou. Thank you for hearing us.
[ Signature ]
Testimony on behalf of myself and Aloha For All
Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.
(c) Copyright 2002 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved
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