HILO » Offering a lei of gratitude and aloha, kumu Mapuana de Silva and Halau Mohala ‘Ilima paid a visit to Mauna Kea early Thursday afternoon.
The halau offered a chant and placed a gift of a lei on a stone altar along Daniel K. Inouye Highway, just across from Mauna Kea Access Road. They danced and gave thanks to the mountain as well as its caretakers.
Wind blew as they danced, creating ripples in a Hawaiian flag someone planted nearby, while clouds parted, revealing a little bit of blue sky. Their lei was one of numerous heaped upon the altar.
Then, traveling up toward the Visitor Information Center, at an elevation of about 9,000 feet, de Silva, with her dancers lined up behind her, announced her arrival, asked for permission to enter in chant and was welcomed by Jeffery Horie and others who have been holding vigil at the site to stop the proposed $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope.
They exchanged honihoni, a show of aloha.
Halau Mohala ‘Ilima is one of 28 groups competing at the 52nd Merrie Monarch Festival, with the group kahiko on Friday night and group auana competition on Saturday night. The halau is one of the longest-running competitors, having participated at the festival more than 35 years.
"There’s not enough words to express my aloha for everyone, just everybody’s support," said Horie. "It’s just heartwarming."
Horie said a stream of supporters have been visiting them at Mauna Kea, including several kumu hula from throughout the isles as well as students from charter schools, including Kanu o ka ‘Aina of Waimea.
Showing solidarity, the dancers of Halau Mohala ‘Ilima and students from Kanu o ka ‘Aina earlier exchanged gifts of hula and chant, and stood together in pule, or prayer.
More than a dozen people, old and young, have been holding vigil, some of them in shifts and others 24 hours a day, near the visitor center for the last two weeks.
The protesters, who have set up camp with tents, chairs, a statue of Ku and Hawaiian flags, greet passers-by and explain their opposition to the telescope.
Billy Freitas, who has been holding vigil since Sunday, said it’s heartening to see younger generations take part.
"As far as the mauna, because it’s the highest point, in Hawaiian thinking, the highest point is what gives life to the lowest point," said Freitas. "It’s a sustainable life cycle."