Kanaka Maoli are a diverse people with a wide range of knowledge, beliefs, ideas, and opinions. But the main force behind the recent surge in support for the social media trend: #WeAreMaunaKea is our genealogy. This is the one thing we all have in common, the one thing that unites us as a people, the key to our collective identity.
The worldwide opposition to the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) has manifested itself as being grounded in Hawaiian spirituality. But it is important to recognize that our spirituality is an expression of our genealogy and an understanding of the universe based on thousands of years of indigenous knowledge.
Hawaiian spirituality is not New Age mysticism but rather continuing to use and transmit information passed down through generations with intense accuracy. This information tells us who we are, where we come from, how to sustain our natural resources and ourselves.
Our genealogy is the basis for the Aloha ‘Aina movement. We don’t love the land. We are connected to these islands through genealogy regardless of where we physically stand today. We intimately understand the responsibilities and privileges of our familial relationship to these islands. We are these islands and they are us. So #WeAreMaunaKea is not just a trending hashtag, or demonstration of support, it is an affirmation of our genealogy and our identity as Kanaka Hawai’i, Kanaka Maoli. Literally.
The Aloha ‘Aina movement is well over 100 years old. Yes, Aloha ‘Aina embraces Hawaiian spirituality but that does not mean that it is a rejection of science. Rather it is clearly a means of applying knowledge that has been tested through cultural practices over thousands of years and passed on through our genealogy.
Aloha ‘Aina is neither anti-development nor anti-technology. Rather it is a quest for balance, for pono. Our Kanaka Maoli genealogy is full of profound technological developments, including the lo’i agricultural field system that fed our native population and supported international trade, fisheries management and large-scale aquaculture, and voyaging canoes led by non-instrument navigation. Our people continue to use and improve upon these technologies today as well as incorporate new ones. Aloha ‘Aina is a call for government to uphold that balance.
#WeAreMaunaKea is the latest chapter in the Aloha ‘Aina narrative. It is about recognizing ourselves as “the now in a long, proud history.” In fact, #WeAreMaunaKea is not just about opposition to a telescope. It is about expressing our right to self-determination through genealogy. It is about connecting Kanaka Maoli across space and time, which ironically are some of of the same goals for the TMT.
The last 100 years (or more) have been a long, uphill battle for our people. But our genealogy reminds us that in spite of it all, we are still here, and, more importantly, we know who we are. From MMP, I share a song that we hope will inspire us all: "E Nana (i ke kumu)."
Recommended links for further reading and exploration: