Hawaiian Enough?

As the TMT contested case drags on we continue to watch. Thanks to the efforts of the staff of Nā Leo TV the entire proceedings are streamed live. Several of the latest witnesses for the University are Hawaiian supporters of the telescope project, it is these voices that I am most interested in hearing.

Retired Judge Riki May Amano
Retired Judge Riki May Amano presides over the TMT contested case hearing
It is when the questioning begins that things get ugly. Question after question challenges the integrity of the witness. The questions challenge their personal values as if to say “You are not Hawaiian.” Over and over the questions were repeated, each successive question designed to attack the cultural identity of the witness…

“Where did you grow up?”
“How old were you when you learned that?”
“Who taught you that?”
“When was the last time you were on Mauna Kea?”
“When did you last worship on Mauna Kea?”
“Where did your family worship?”
“Do you pray to Poliʻahu?”
“Who are the parents of Poliʻahu?”

It is not only the questions, but the tone with which they are asked. The attitude used to express the “correct” answers if those of the witness did not satisfy the cross examiner. The attitude of the questioners was repeatedly dismissive, as if no answer was good enough. Clearly in their minds anyone who would support building the telescope was simply not Hawaiian.

These questions have nothing to do with the telescope, or why it should or should not be built. These questions sought to attack the witness in the most personal way possible. Each agressive question challenges the witness to prove that they are Hawaiian. Or at least Hawaiian enough to satisfy the questioner.

To those of us watching it was a disgusting display, painful to listen to.

Keep in mind that these men, Richard Ha, Wally Ishibashi, Chad Kalepa Bayaban, are community leaders. They have devoted a good deal of their lives to helping their communities, they exemplify community service. These are men who have taken up the hard work of dealing with the political system, serving on advisory boards, of finding resources for disadvantaged students, of teaching the old values to the next generation. These are men who grew up Hawaiian on this island, who love it, and work to make it better.

As Hawaiian I recognize that I am a descendant of some of the best naked eye astronomers the world has ever known. It is culturally consistent to advocate for Hawaiian participation in a field of science that continues to enable that tradition and a field of work we ought to lead. – Chad Kalepa Bayaban direct testimony in the TMT contested case

The construction of telescopes on Maunakea has not diminished my ability to practice my culture, my worship, to pay my respects to our ancestral spirit. – Wallace Ishibashi direct testimony in the TMT contested case

The issue displayed here goes to the core of many protests. Those who protest against TMT are quick to wrap the mantle of the oppressed victim about their cause. They neglect and dismiss those in their own community that disagree with them. To admit otherwise is to admit their cause is not as clear cut as they would have you believe.

In this issue the population of the islands is overwhelmingly in support of the project, even within the Native Hawaiian community support and opposition is an even split. While there are those who are dead set against the project, there are most certainly those fully committed to supporting it. But the supporters have repeatedly found themselves attacked as not Hawiian enough.

I and many others have repeatedly found this personal attack against supporters to be reprehensible, a violation of the principles of public discourse that I can not allow to pass without comment.

I would like to keep some respect for those who are arguing their cause, even if on the other side of this issue. This sort of attack makes it very hard to do so. Opponents of the telescope ask us to respect their views, they promise Kapu Aloha, but all too often they refuse to respect anyone who would support the project.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

One thought on “Hawaiian Enough?”

  1. The 8 examples of questions you list all should be dismissed by the Court, as irrelevant to the case. I cannot fathom a series of insulting questions being permitted. I believe ( like you) that this personal attacking and insulting should be prohibited.

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