September 19, 2019
We, the Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Community (IPKC) and the Asian Pacific Islander Knowledge Community (APIKC) stand in firm support of the kiaʻi (protectors) of Mauna Kea. We have witnessed with admiration, pride, and aloha as our relations, the kiaʻi of Mauna Kea, have mobilized—to defend from harm—one of the most sacred places in Hawaiian cosmology, Mauna Kea. The mountain, a majestic location at the heart of Hawai‘i island, is revered as the birthplace of the Hawaiian people. In contrast, this site is perceived by scientists as the ideal future home for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Project.
This post attends to two critical tasks: 1) Offer an Indigenous critique on this issue and how the colonization of place intersects with the field of student affairs, broadly, and connects to the professional competency area of social justice and inclusion, specifically and 2) share ways you—individually or as a representative of your institution—can support kiaʻi (protectors) of Mauna Kea and Native Hawaiian students.
Hold Institutions Accountable
Indigenous movements are taking place worldwide, and like many social and political movements, we know that there is a direct and tangible impact on our students and their communities. But this issue is one in which our field of higher education is especially implicated. Firstly, the TMT project is mainly held by two U.S. institutions of higher education and astronomical research departments in India, China and Japan. It is also supported by a long list of higher education institutions in the United States.
We extend an invitation to all of our colleagues in higher education institutions across the continent, to actively engage with and hold their institutions accountable, particularly those at the following institutions which are listed as partners of the TMT project (source: https://www.tmt.org/page/partners):
If you see your institution on this list, we ask that you join us in calling, writing letters, and working alongside Indigenous students, faculty, and staff to call attention to the harm that TMT will cause upon the land and its peoples -- both the communities in Hawai’i and the greater diaspora.
Supporting Indigenous Students, Faculty, and Staff
Aside from their ongoing direct action and peaceful protest of the TMT, the protectors have established Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu, an actual place of Hawaiian learning. This collaborative effort of scholars, activists, lawyers, and researchers offers daily classes and workshops on Hawaiian history, politics, science, and ethics - one of the finest examples of experiential learning grounded in indigenous epistemology available. Our colleagues at the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) have stepped in to support these efforts, finding ways for students to gain credit for their time on the mauna. In this and many other ways, we emphasize another way that Student Affairs can be involved with Mauna Kea. As institutions prepare for the academic year, we want to emphasize how important this and other indigenous movements are for the well-being of indigenous populations. Many of you are in a position to support Indigenous students, faculty, and staff who are grappling with the ongoing confrontation on Mauna Kea:
The protectors of Mauna Kea have centered their movement on the notion of kapu aloha, that is, to be informed by compassion, empathy, kindness, and love. Guided by their example, let us take advantage of the opportunity this movement provides us. Let us acknowledge the indigenous land upon which our communities reside, specifically to acknowledge that all institutions of higher education rests upon indigenous lands (Lipe, 2018). Let us think carefully and critically about the ways we may be perpetuating violence upon these communities; and resolve to transform our institutions into spaces that support decolonization, self-determination, and liberation of all indigenous communities.
Here are additional other ways to learn and support:
The struggle to protect Mauna Kea will be ongoing. While this post may not be exhaustive of all available knowledge, we hope that this post has provided helpful information for you to learn the ways in which you can support Indigenous communities.
The Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Community and the Asian Pacific Islander Knowledge Community
Lipe, K. (2018). Toward equity and equality: Transforming universities into indigenous places of learning. In Minthron, R. S. & Shotton, H. J. (Eds) Reclaiming Indigenous Research in Higher Education (pp. 162-177). Rutgers Press: New Brunswick, NJ.
Opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NASPA. If you agree or disagree with the content of this post, we encourage you to dialogue in the comment section below. NASPA reserves the right to remove any blog that is inaccurate or offensive.