The Mana Wahine shirt gets it name from the 100+ women who linked arms to protect kūpuna (native Hawaiian elders) from being arrested at the current protests on the sacred Mauna Kea. 33 kūpuna were arrested before the women decided that they would not allow anymore of our elders, who are 60 years old and into to their 80s, to be arrested. The women stood unarmed and chanted in the face of armed law enforcement officers dressed in riot gear. These women represent the real definition of girl power!
Mana is power and Wahine is woman.
-History & Cultural importance:
Maunakea represents so many things to Native Hawaiians. It is seen as the root of our people and the origin of creation. Maunakea is where Papahanaumoku (Mother Earth) meets Wākea (Sky Father). While many kanaka (Hawaiians) today practice the religions of the colonizers, Maunakea is the equivalent of Bethlehem for Christians, Temple Mount in Judaism, etc. Many Hawaiian gods and goddesses reside on or play an important role atop or on the slopes of Maunakea. Not only do our gods reside there, many high ranking chiefs and priests have been buried on the slopes.
Maunakea is ceded land, which means it is held in a trust with the state for Native Hawaiian use. There is over 50 years of history between Maunakea and telescopes being built on her summit. Every telescope has been “the last.” When a group of multinational, private companies, along with several American universities, want to build a Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the summit of Maunakea.... Enough is enough. This is a 1.4 billion dollar project. There are currently 13 telescopes atop Maunakea, 8 of which are decommissioned.
Over 1,000 kia’i (protectors) have been blocking the only road leading to the summit for over a month. The kia’i include people aged newborn to 80+ years old, many of which are living permanently at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu (the name of the camp). The number of kia’i on the mauna (mountain) swell to 2000+ on the weekends. The kia’i have a camp setup at the base of Maunakea Access Road, where they are all living in a full functioning community.
The TMT project is not environmentally friendly. TMT spokespeople have stated that “if” a spill was to occur, the lava rock’s natural ability to filter water would stop the mountain’s water table from being contaminated. However, this damages the rock itself, as well as native plants and animals. Many of which are exclusive to Maunakea herself. Previous spills have included hazardous materials such as mercury and sewage.
TMT is not economically friendly. It has cost taxpayers over 4 million dollars in just over 1 month, and construction hasn’t even begun yet.
The project is also, surprise, NOT culturally or socially friendly. It threatens to desecrate archaeological sites which are as close as just 225 feet away from the planned site of the TMT. It threatens native birds, insects, and plants that are endemic to Maunakea. This means they are found nowhere else in the world, and nowhere else in Hawaii. When they’re gone, they’re gone. It threatens the extremely delicate ecosystem on and near the summit. It’s threatens the purity of Maunakea’s water shed which could provide water to the entire island for hundreds of years.
At the end of the day, the TMT is just the match that lit the fire. The TMT protest stems from over one hundred years of oppression. Native Hawaiians were forbidden to speak Hawaiian, forbidden to dance hula, forbidden to share their culture with the next generation. Hawaiian language and culture is dying. Native Hawaiians share a similar story with Native Americans. It is so hard for Americans to believe that something like this is still happening today in this country, but it is.
There is a rainbow at the end of this storm, and that is that this issue revived the Hawaiian nation. Today we stand strong and unified with every intention of stopping the TMT and then continuing to take our communities back for future generations.
If you feel inclined to learn more, some hashtags to follow on social media are:
#manawahine #kapualoha #aoletmt #protectMaunakea #wearemaunakea #maunakea #puuhonuapuuhuluhulu #kukiaimauna