(BIVN) – One of the prominent kupuna making a stand against the Thirty Meter Telescope project reminded the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on Thursday that as the dispute over Mauna Kea continues, the mountain remains closed to the public.
Dr. Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, one of the the elders arrested on July 17, 2019 as police tried unsuccessfully to clear the road for TMT construction crews, has been one of the spokespersons for the kiaʻi fighting the observatory project. She is also the executive director of the Lālākea Foundationan, an educator and cultural practitioner.
Wong-Wilson thanked the Office of Hawaiian Affairs for its assistance, especially the Trustees who came to Puʻuhuluhulu (Carmen Hulu Lindsey was among the kūpuna arrested on the Mauna Kea Access Road on the same day as Wong-Wilson).
She then focused on the issue of access to the mountain, testifying:
The last thing I want to remind you of is the Governor has still closed the Mauna to the public. The public are Native Hawaiians, hunters, cultural practitioners and the occasional tourist who tries to go up there. That Mauna has not been closed by us.
We are sitting on the road only for one reason, and that’s what unites us. We sit on that road to stop TMT trucks from going up and causing further desecration of our Mauna. But we’re not there to shut the public out, and we certainly have not received the access that we deserve as practitioners, as public, as Native Hawaiians.
We are allowed one vehicle a day, while 30 to 40 vehicles with astronomers, astronomer technicians, all their support, all of their contractors, go up daily to work on the existing telescopes. They have not been impeded with their access. All law enforcement goes up. We wave at the National Guard, who resides up at Hale Pohaku. We wave at the sheriffs, at the Attorney General’s officers, at our DOCARE officers – who we’ve become very friendly with; we’ve lived with them for, now, 69 days, and we love them, even though they’re guarding the cattle guard, not us. But I’m telling you that this is still an issue.
Our people, our hunters, still have no access to their traditional practices, their ability to feed their family off of the land, and we have to sit and negotiate who gets to go up to bury their piko, to spread their ashes, to do their pule – because we’re only allowed one car a day. That’s still a problem.
We’ve asked the governor why he doesn’t open the mountain and he says – well, he just doesn’t quite know. He thought we were blocking the road. We had to tell him we weren’t. And he seemed very confused about that.
I let you know that, because if there’s anything of the many things that can be done by the OHA Board, one of them is to make sure that that mountain is open and that our people have complete access as we should have.
“Mahalo,” Wong-Wilson told the Trustees, who were scheduled to make an official site visit to Puʻuhuluhulu and the base of the Mauna Kea access Road later that day. “I’ll see you on the Mauna,” she said.