Hawaiian people are outraged as their governor cuts off their access for prayers near the summit of Mauna Kea during construction of a 30-meter telescope.
A temple’s kahuna (Hawaiian for wise man) has stated that it violates traditional Hawaiian’s religion and has taken the matter to court.
The world’s largest telescope is to be built on what the natives proclaim is their sacred land. The access has been restricted for the road leading towards summit during the construction period.
The $1.4 billion telescope is being built upon the 13,796-foot volcano, which is central to traditional Hawaiian religion.
Until 1993 the Hale Telescope on Mount Palomar was the largest telescope in the world and it is 5.1 meters across. Reflecting telescopes are measured by the size of their mirrors.
A protest was started on June 24 by the plaintiff group, which tried to prevent the construction workers to get to the site area.
The verdict given by the co-defendant Mauna Kea Management Board said that they will be allowed to access the road at 1 p.m., only 10 worshippers at a time will be allowed up there and they will be accompanied by a ranger.
The group sued the state and its Department of Land and Natural Resources on July 6.
Frank Kamealoha Anuumealani Nobriga being the Kahuna of The Temple of Lono, sued as in authority figure.
When his group had started the protest on June 24, they had built two small stone shrines, using lava rocks, and had used that to prevent workers from getting across.
“Protesters were literally prying rocks and boulders out of the sides of the slopes and rolling them onto the road,” University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said.
The partners in building this non-profit telescope are India, China, Canada, Japan and the Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory Corporation, which was formed by the University of California and the California Institute of Technology.
University of Hawaii and the Management Board have ordered for the summit road to be closed to all except authorized personnel.
The protestors argue that they should be granted the same access the astronomers, water trucks and others are getting.
“Accommodations have and continue to be made for those wishing to engage in traditional and customary practices in accordance to an agreement made with the protestor leadership and based on available resources,” The university and the Management Board replied in a statement.
They went to add that they are still in discussions with the protests leader in order to create a settlement that would be best for the cultural practitioners.
Until further notice the worshippers were asked to take the other route, which is the Humuula trail.
The visitor information center at Mauna Kea, is at 9,000 feet elevation, has been closed down after the protester’s weeklong encampment.
Attorney General Doug Chin said during an interview that the area is a forest reserve and a hunting area this it is not recommended for people to camp their overnight and especially not for long periods of time. This situation, he said, has caused a threat to natural resources and public safety.
The protestors were very organized, with plans for a long stay, as they came with blankets, backpacks, even bathrooms and of course the protesting signs.
Emergency rules have been placed for the next 120 days.
In Hawaiian religion, the peaks of the island of Hawaii are sacred, and Mauna Kea (which means “white mountain” in Hawaiian, is the most sacred, in their religion only high ranking religious officials are allowed to ascend to the tops.
The Kahuna is actively seeking a restraining order and injunction giving his group access. Lanny Alan Sinkin, of Hilo, is representing him.