MAUNA KEA, HAWAII >> Mauna Kea turned partly into an outdoor classroom and concert venue Sunday as professors gave lectures and award-winning musicians played for Thirty Meter Telescope opponents whose numbers swelled by 600 to an estimated 2,000 people.
“I had to come to the mauna,” said musician Brother Noland, who traveled from Oahu on Sunday and treated the crowd to songs on a borrowed guitar. “The mauna kept calling me. When she call, I come.”
The music performances, along with lectures organized by Hawaiian studies faculty from the University of Hawaii at what was dubbed “Puuhuluhulu University,” made for a day on the mountain filled with entertainment and education — as well as continued resolve to prevent construction of the planned $1.4 billion telescope.
It’s been one week since Gov. David Ige said the time had come to begin construction, and each day the anti-TMT protests have grown. In addition to the 2,000 protesters on Mauna Kea, there were another 1,000 who marched through Waikiki, according to police estimates.
No arrests were made Sunday at Mauna Kea, and there were no attempts to move construction equipment up the mountain. The state’s Mauna Kea Media Team said, “Law enforcement planning and preparations continue with a complete focus on safety and security of everyone involved.”
The main threat to the group gathered nearly halfway up the 13,796-foot mountain Sunday appeared to be the chance of late-night thunderstorms.
Activities during the day included the lectures, which partly were geared to help participants better understand motivations for the resistance to building what would be the 14th telescope on Hawaii’s tallest mountain.
The concert was more of a kanikapila, or informal jam session, and along with Brother Noland included the Lim Family from Kohala, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole and Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom.
The presence of law enforcement was generally light and distant, as it has been for the last few days after 34 Hawaiian elders were arrested Wednesday and cited for obstructing a government operation by blocking Mauna Kea Access Road. The Wednesday arrests happened two days after Ige announced that the access road was closed so that construction materials and equipment could be sent to the summit.
The road remains closed, and the TMT opponents are entrenched in what they call a puuhonua, or sanctuary area, established next to the forested ancient cinder cone Puu Huluhulu.
One change the state Department of Land and Natural Resources made Sunday was moving mobile electronic road billboard signs that say “Slow down” and “Reduce speed” close to the intersection of the access road and Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as Saddle Road, where hundreds of people are gathered and cross the highway at frequent intervals determined by volunteer crossing guards.
“Drivers need to heed these signs because there is an increased number of pedestrian traffic (crossings) at the intersection,” Jason Redulla, chief of DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, said at a media briefing.
Weathering the storm
Redulla also relayed the weather forecast for possible thunderstorms. He said people won’t be protected under tents and that the only safe place would be inside their automobiles with windows up.
The National Weather Service forecast isolated thunderstorms for the summit after midnight.
The storm cut short the concert after a few hours of music but didn’t dampen the spirits of TMT opponents — who prefer to be called “protectors” of Mauna Kea — especially as musicians started playing around 4 p.m.
“This is connecting all of us,” musician Lorna Lim of the Lim Family said after singer Paula Fuga joined the group for a song.
Brother Noland, who grew up in Waimea, said he wrote many of his early songs with a view of Mauna Kea from his home. He said he came to show support and drop off food donations he picked up from KTA Super Stores and Punaluu Bake Shop in Hilo. He also said he was glad to be asked to be part of the kanikapila after arriving.
“It just reminds me of the ’70s and ’80s,” he said. “We’ve been standing long time. This is a culmination of what we’ve been standing for for many years.”
Earlier in the day the lectures covered topics including chants, songs, Hawaiian language basics and early-1800s Hawaiian diplomat Timoteo Haalilio.
Kaleikoa Kaeo, a UH Hawaiian studies professor on Maui who locked himself to a cattle guard Monday to deter TMT construction, gave an hourlong lecture on the true love of the land, or aloha aina oiaio, to roughly 150 people.
Kaeo discussed the Kumulipo, an ancient Hawaiian chant about the creation of living things, to show how ancestors were knowledgeable about science and how plants, animals and land including Mauna Kea are important and need to be protected.
“Everything around us is ancestral,” he said. “We descend from it.”
In an impromptu lesson atop Puu Huluhulu, Lanakila Mangauil, head of Hawaiian studies at Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School on Hawaii island, told an audience of a little over 100 people an ancient story about two lovers, Poliahu and Kukahauula, and their quest to be together despite a kapu, or prohibition, on traveling up Mauna Kea.
Mangauil said he lives his life in adherence to the story’s point about making only brief and nondisturbing visits up the mountain, and as such he’s devoted to protecting Mauna Kea from telescope construction.
“Securing and protecting the aina … Mauna Kea represents that,” he said. “The land is the chief. The people, we are the servants.”
Herman Kalani, a carpenter from Waimea, said Mangauil’s talk moved him.
“Chicken skin, tears, everything,” Kalani said. He also said the story taught him a lot and made him feel proud — proud to be Hawaiian and proud to be a part of what was Day 7 occupying the access road.