Kamehameha Schools, OHA provide support to Mauna Kea protesters
The opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope who are demonstrating on Mauna Kea are getting logistical support from some major Hawaii institutions.
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The opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope who are demonstrating on Mauna Kea are getting logistical support from some major Hawaii institutions, including Kamehameha Schools and the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
The University of Hawaii has also authorized federally funded trips by staff to the demonstrations against the TMT, and has authorized class options that will allow student protesters to remain on the mountain after classes begin on Aug. 26.
At times 3,000 or more opponents of the $1.4 billion TMT project have gathered at the intersection of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway and the Mauna Kea Access Road, and the access road has been closed since July 15. Police arrested 38 people — most of them elderly Hawaiian protest leaders — for blocking the access road on July 17, and the project has been at a standstill.
The protesters consider the TMT project to be a desecration of a mountain that many Hawaiians consider to be sacred, and have said they will not allow the project to be built. But TMT supporters note that project sponsors spent a decade navigating the state and county permitting processes and fending off legal challenges to the project, and say TMT now has the legal right to proceed.
Kamehameha Schools last week acknowledged it has provided help for the demonstrators camped at the base of the access road, and that assistance is being coordinated through Kanaeokana, a network of Hawaiian schools that includes Kamehameha.
“This includes providing a large tent as well as support of Kanaeokana’s efforts to provide accurate documentation of events through live streams, photos and videos,” according to a written statement from KS spokeswoman Elizabeth Ahana.
“KS has provided kokua in ways that foster education on this important issue across the globe while also addressing the health and well-being of the people on Mauankea who are making their voices heard,” Ahana said in her statement. Ahana did not provide any additional information about the cost of the KS assistance.
Kamehameha Schools is a multibillion-dollar private charitable educational trust endowed with more than 375,000 acres of Hawaii land by the will of Hawaiian princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. It operates K-12 school campuses on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island as well as 30 preschool sites statewide.
As for OHA, last month the OHA board of trustees unanimously approved a resolution authorizing OHA staff to advocate for the protesters and to do “assessment and provision of health, safety and legal needs” for the activists.
A source familiar with those activities said OHA has been supporting the work of lawyers who will represent the protesters who were arrested last month, but OHA did not respond Thursday or Friday to requests for more detailed information about what sort of assistance it is providing.
OHA Trustee Carmen Hulu Lindsey was among the demonstrators who were arrested on July 17, and OHA Chairwoman Colette Machado has visited the site of the protests at least twice.
OHA sued the state and the university in 2017 over alleged mismanagement of Mauna Kea, citing a state audit in 1998 and three follow-up audits that found problems with UH management of the natural and cultural resources on the mountain.
UH-Hilo applied for the conservation district use permit for TMT, and the university is now offering class options this fall that will allow student protesters to remain on Mauna Kea at the site of the anti-TMT demonstrations.
Most of the remote classes for student demonstrators are being offered through UH-Manoa, and the subjects include Hawaiian religion, mythology, culture and language.
UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl also said about 30 UH officials and students have gone to the protests — including the visit by UH President David Lassner on July 28 — but the university did not pay for 26 of those visits. Information was not available on the source of funding for the remaining four.
Among those from the UH system who traveled to the protest site was Kapiolani Community College Chancellor Louise Pagotto — who paid her own way —
and eight members of the KCC Native Hawaiian Council on Monday. Their travel was paid for with Title III federal funds that are earmarked for Native Hawaiian student success, Meisenzahl said a written statement.
Another three employees from UH-West Oahu including two from the Native Hawaiian Council and a social worker also attended using Title III grant funding. Another person from Windward Community College also made the trip on Title III funds, but “as this was a federal grant, no one was engaged in political activity or protest,” Meisenzahl said in his statement.
“Campus leaders and staff went to Mauna Kea for the purpose of understanding what is going on so we will be able to support our students and faculty during what we expect will be a very difficult semester ahead,” Meisenzahl wrote.
Also attending from UH were members of the Hawaii Papa o Ke Ao task force, which is made up of representatives from each of the university campuses. That task force is intended to develop and implement ways to make UH a leader in indigenous education, and the group will make recommendations to Lassner, Meisenzahl said.