Cheers erupted Friday evening at Bachman Hall as its doors are locked for the weekend, but this time the kia‘i (protectors) are on the outside of that door.
After 117 days of occupying the longest sit-in in the history of the University of Hawai‘i, students and faculty packed their belongings and made the final exit from Bachman Hall. All of the scattered futons, bookshelves, fridges, tables, and clothes draped across the stairwell rail since August – gone.
Hawaiian Studies major Kaulana Stanley, who is one of the several occupiers to join the sit-in since day one, took a deep breath to reflect on his time spent at Bachman.
“I’m leaving this space with a heavy heart, but I’m proud to leave this place with my head high, while trying to understand what we, the kia‘i, have done here,” Stanley said. “It is not just an impact to us, it is an impact to the community.”
The construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea, sparked outrage throughout the community. In retaliation, the kia‘i on Maunakea have camped near access road to stop the construction since it was slated to begin in July. In solidarity, the kia‘i at UH Mānoa demonstrated a sit-in, which has a historic reputation as a peaceful protest.
Within the four months, Bachman occupiers have met with the Board of Regents once and UH President David Lassner three times to persuade them to retract their support of TMT. But UH administration did not pull away from the project, thus creating frustration early on during the sit-in.
“When we met with them (BOR), we were really just shocked by their lack of empathy, and they didn’t believe that the TMT is a real issue that the Hawaiians are facing, and it forced us to take a step back and strategize,” Hawaiian Studies graduate Tiele-Lauren Doudt said.
Though some of the kia‘i said that they have a complicated relationship with the UH administration, but they said they are happy to have built some sort of relationship. Before leaving, Vice President for Administration Jan Gouveia tearfully embraced one of the kia‘i.
Lassner was unavailable for comment before the article was published, however he performed the last ‘Aha (ceremony) with the kia‘i Friday morning.
The Bachman occupiers performed 300 protocol ceremonies this semester to honor the kia‘i on Maunakea.
At the 12 p.m. ‘Aha, over 50 students and faculty performed at the John Henry Wise Field in front of the ahu, which was built in 2015 relating to the same issue of Maunakea, to honor the kia‘i currently protesting on the 13,000-foot mountain.
Surrounding the ahu are a barricade of ke‘a, which are the bamboo infrastructures surrounding the ahu. The names on the ke‘a are all 38 of the kupuna (elders) arrested over the summer when the TMT issue began.
Toward the end of the ceremony, the kia‘i enclosed the ke‘a to the ahu, noting that they are taking time to reassess their strategies moving forward.
‘Aha was not the only protocol, it was also the lock-in. Since October, the UH administration initiated a lock-in due to expressed safety and weather concerns from the kia‘i. Every Friday evening, the doors would be locked until Monday morning.
But on the last day of the sit-in some of the kia‘i said they will never forget this experience. As they watched the doors shut they embraced one another, thus, forgetting about the last kia‘i who was locked in by accident today but later only released in second from the Department of Public Safety.
When asked if he would to this again, graduate student Jonathan Fisk said “in a heartbeat.”
I feel tired and nostalgic,” Fisk said. “Especially as we’ve been moving stuff out this place looks more like how it started. It’s this weird way to where it’s turning to what it was but we’re returning to how it was but we’re in a very good place now.”
"I’m a little sad because tomorrow morning, I’m not going to wake up next to my ohana.”
READ MORE ON THE BACHMAN HALL SIT-IN