About four months have passed since the blockade of the Mauna Kea Access Road in protest of the Thirty Meter Telescope, and since then, the kia’i (protectors) of the mountain have not gone away. They remain day and night on the mountain under the harsh weather conditions that come with high elevation areas including plummeting temperatures at night. As winter looms nearer, the question remains as to how the kia’i are going to handle the increasingly brutal weather. But, rain or shine, the kia’i are not planning on going anywhere.
The makahiki season recently started, and much of the 'aha (ceremony) have become focused on Lono, the Hawaiian god of peace, fertility and rainfall, among many other things. Multiple hula dances at the 'aha are done at this time of year to pay respects to Lono, some of which emphasized the fertility which ensues from the coming of the rains during the approaching rainy season.
According to Kekuhi Kealiʻikanakaʻoleohaililani, the head speaker at the aha, the coming of the rains and the increasingly drastic weather is not something to be worried about. Instead, she claims that the change of weather should merely be seen as the way with which “the landscape rejuvenates itself with Lono elements,” which campers on the mountain must accept and be grateful for.
Kuali’i Kamara, one of the main kia’i, described what he believes to be the driving force of this movement.
“What’s happening behind the Maunakea movement is learning to treat the land, the world, our honua as family,” he said.
According to him, telescopes are not the types of technology that should be focused on at this time of indigenous empowerment and climate change.
“The technologies that we need are the old technologies that sustained our people for generations, for thousands of years. When we remember that, things change. The dynamics change, the way we treat our land changes, and we do things more holistically and more sustainably,” Kamara said.
When faced with the question of why this movement persists, one answer continually arises: aloha ‘aina. To many of the kia’i, the TMT is one aspect of the larger issue of unsustainable land use and being out of touch with the 'āina.
“This is more important than just this project,” Kamara said. “A lot of things that we’ve been looking for a billion light years away will still be there in a thousand years to look at, you know. The thing that we really need right now is to sustain the systems that sustain life. How do you do that? Through love, aloha 'āina.”