Controversy erupts over telescope on sacred ground

A groundbreaking and Hawaiian blessing ceremony, for one of the world’s largest telescopes, was interrupted by protestors at the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

“The webcast host for the event says a group of people blocked a caravan of buses carrying attendees to the mountain’s summit. The webcast later showed protesters yelling amid attempts to start the blessing,” said.

Protestors claim the land to be a sacred and native Hawaiian place.

Keala Kelly shared in her web page the importance that Mauna Kea has for the Hawaiian people.

“Mauna Kea is the piko, umbilical cord or center of existence for Hawaiians,” she said.

According to an article written by Kelly in the IC Magazine, “Mauna Kea is sacred to the Hawaiian people, who maintain a deep connection and spiritual tradition there that goes back millennia.”

Kamahana Kealoha, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner, mentioned in the same article that the astronomy industry is trying to build a monstrous building in “a place that has been violated in many ways culturally, environmentally and spiritually.”

Amina Khan, reporter for the Los Angeles Times, mentioned in a recent article the importance that Mauna Kea has for the astronomical research, “[It] is an ideal location for giant telescopes,” she wrote.

She also mentioned the events that took place in 2001 and the anger of the Hawaiian people with the construction of the California Extremely Large Telescope, a similar situation to what is occurring today with the Thirty-Meter Telescope construction.

David Brisben, biblical studies professor, said, from a historical point of view that it is similar to the Mesopotamians, who date from the beginning of the ancient near east it has been common for people to have sacred places.

“For the Hebrews the temple mountain was a sacred place,” Brisben said.

Heydi Cucul, a freshmen from Guatemala, shared her insights of this situation and compared it to the Mayan tribes that still reside in her country. She said that the Mayans still have their ceremonies in mountains believed by them to be sacred and alive.

“Once, a person died in one of those mountains, and the Mayan people were saying that he was killed by the gods,” she said.

When asked about the protests from the Hawaiian people against the construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope, Brisben considered this construction disrespectful and a violation to Hawaiian beliefs. He said that science should not be used to violate the identity of this people.

Cucul said that if this situation happened in Guatemala there is no doubt that the indigenous people from places like Alta Perapaz, Guatemala, will be protesting because those places are “something sacred” for them.

She sympathized and shared a similar situation that happened in an indigenous community in Guatemala. Their government was attempting to destroy three sacred hills, where their ancestors are buried and are used for rituals, and the possible destruction of a fourth one.

She agreed that the land should be preserved.