Time To Discard Mauna Kea Myths

It appears that the gap is growing between those, like me, who yearn to know more about the Universe and those Hawaiians or part-Hawaiians who stick with the old-age myths of a snow goddess, Sky Father and Earth Mother at Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island.

The mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote that “there are two totally different orders of mythology. There is the mythology that relates you to your nature and to the natural world, of which you’re a part. And there is the mythology that is strictly sociological, linking you to a particular society.”

The telescope peering out to answer my question of what was there before the Big Bang is both my natural world and sociological quest.

The protectors of Mauna Kea have chosen the past as their way finder in this age of amazing technology and downgrading of myths.

I don’t believe in a snow goddess, a Sky Father or an Earth Mother. I also don’t believe it was appropriate to blight a beautiful mountain top with an array of telescopes that glint in the sunlight and disturb any effort to feel overcome as you stand at the top.

But we did, and one more will neither help nor harm. This one, the TMT, will actually be tucked in a fold on Mauna Kea, not at its tippy-top.

On the downside for me is not any desecration but whether all that money for the TMT is worth it. By the time it is built and installed, our orbiting telescopes and all-seeing space vehicles are likely to tell us much more than one large glass mirror on Mauna Kea.

And aside from that issue is the one of how the protest and the handling of it all by Gov. David Ige has damaged our ability to move ahead with comity and compromise. We let protestors block public roads. That’s a very bad precedent. We let them tell the majority when we can or cannot build something of human benefit. Ige let state authority and democracy slide into second place. How do we ever recover it now? One small way is to vote for OHA trustees favoring getting on with building the TMT. Those would seem to be be Akina, Hao, Smith and Alapa.

And letting myth run our personal decision-making process is somewhat like continuing to believe thunder and lightning bolts are Thor’s hammer throwing from Olympus. Or Neptune ruling the sea.

Poli’ahu does not live on Mauna Kea. The mauna was not a child of Sky Father and Earth Mother. It was a magma upwelling about 0.8 million years ago in the ocean. Those are the physical facts that cannot be disputed.

All those telescopes atop the mauna are something of a blight. That’s also a fact that cannot be disputed.

We should be moving on from there and not be distracted by whether or not Poli’ahu descended the mountain to sit on the rocky cliffs along the Hamakua Coast, where she seduced Aiwohikupua, a young chief from Kauai.



Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

5 replies on “Time To Discard Mauna Kea Myths”

  1. The biggest tragedy of the illegal Mauna Kea obstruction is that so many part-Hawaiians who have never seen the Mauna and never thought twice about it before have been convinced that Hawaiian identity and acceptance now requires them to submit to dogma and oppose TMT without question, and to look down on anyone who doesn’t.

  2. This is the most sensible view of the TMT issue I’ve read to date. Thanks!

  3. I suppose gaining knowledge for knowledge’s sake can be a good thing, but to me it’s a luxury. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I know of zero knowledge gained, from looking up at the heavens, that has really benefited humanity in any concrete way. If it was as up to me, the money and brain power would be put to better use. But putting that argument aside, apparently there are telescopes up there now that are going to be removed at some point, due to obsolescence. Why can’t these be removed now, and replaced by TMT, in the SAME spot? Seems to be a win-win—the scientists get their shiny new toy, and there’s no additional desecration to the Mauna.

  4. Mauna Kea Access Road is on DHHL Lands. Native Hawaiians will continue to block access on their own lands until TMT realizes their telescope will not be built upon Mauna Kea. As someone not of these lands, but who arrived to the beautiful shores of Hawaii 45 years ago, I defer to the Native Hawaiian’s born of these lands. It is a settler mentality that dictates what Native Hawaiians should do or what to believe. The Mauna Kea Northern Plateau should remain unmolested, as they wish. Fact – The TMT site would not be tucked away, but would be a huge blemish on the northwest, Waimea side of Mauna Kea.

    In Ireland, where I have descended from, the Irish, too, have fought for the sovereignty of their island from British rule for over seven hundred years. And they will continue to, like the Native Hawaiians will, undoubtedly, continue to do.

    I do agree, there will be more technologically advanced telescopes located in space in the future that will answer the many questions of our vast universe.

    1. I don’t follow your logic. DHHL is not objecting to the use of the access road and the Mauna does not belong solely to Native Hawaiians — and certainly not to one subset of Native Hawaiians who oppose TMT. Defer all you want, but please do so with a more open mind. Your use of “they” and “the Native Hawaiians” as if there is a single Hawaiian viewpoint and monolithic representative entity betrays a malihini apologist mindset. The situation in Ireland is also much more complex than you seem to understand, but there’s no point in delving into that one here.

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