We support the Kai’i/Defenders of Mauna Kea in their opposition to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Mauna Kea in Hawai’i is a central genealogical kupuna (ancestor) for Kānaka Maoli, as well as a critical ecological and spiritual site. We reject the false opposition between science and religion invoked by some proponents of the TMT. When TMT supporters argue that Mauna Kea’s height and location will enable breakthroughs in astronomy, they obfuscate the fact that Mauna Kea is already a locus of cosmic and ecological knowledge production for Kānaka Maoli.
We join our colleagues in American Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi to voice our support of the students, faculty and staff of the University of Hawai’i who are mobilizing to protect the sanctity of Mauna Kea. We make this statement not only in support of our community members who are now on the frontlines resisting police and construction vehicles, but because our institution was built on and in conjunction with the ongoing colonization of Hawai’i and Kānaka Maoli people. From the Haystack Prayer Meeting in 1806, and the ensuing missionary movement, to the building of the taxonomic collections of the Williams Lyceum beginning in 1835, Williams College has been entangled with the occupation of Hawai’i. In the light of this history, our silence at this moment would amount to our complicity in the suppression of Kānaka Maoli expression, ways of being and civil rights.
Affirming the peaceful principles of Kapu Aloha as practiced by the Kia’i, we denounce the use of physical force, chemical agents, intimidation and other forms of coercion or violence against all who are demonstrating on behalf of Mauna Kea. We call upon President Lassiter and the Board of Regents of the University of Hawai’i to respect the Kia’i by working with the TMT International Observatory to find alternate sites for the TMT and future projects.
Cassandra Cleghorn, Chair of the American Studies Program and Senior Lecturer in English and American Studies
Eli Nelson, Assistant Professor, American Studies Program
Kailani Polzak, Assistant Professor, Art Department
Anthony Y. Kim, Visiting Assistant Professor, American Studies Program
Mark Reinhardt, Professor, Political Science and American Studies
Christine DeLucia, Assistant Professor, History Department
Dorothy Wang, Professor, American Studies Program
Lisa Conathan, Head of Special Collections, Williams Libraries