""There was a lovely, friendly atmosphere throughout, the sun shone and the dawn was greeted with loud cheers." This is the scene described at the renowned English known as Stonehenge, as people gathered by the thousands to celebrate the Summer Solstice, as is done at sacred sites worldwide.
The Solstice scene was very different on Mauna Kea, the world's tallest mountain, in Hawaiʻi.
At 4:45 am on June 20, as preparations were being made for the yearly ceremonies, and the honoring of a recently-deceased Maori star lore keeper, Hawaiʻi government officials appeared and decimated four indigenous structures with workers and machinery. One cultural practitioner was arrested, and the road was blocked to prevent Kanaka Maoli, native Hawaiians, from accessing the area.
The Hawaii State Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) - whose job is to put Kanaka Maoli in housing - appeared at approximately four A.M. to tear down Hale Kūhio, a cultural shelter that supported an ongoing vigil on Mauna Kea. DHHL Director William Aila was present, along with crews who pulled apart the structure, confiscating supplies and arresting indigenous language teacher Kahoʻokahi Kanuha, who was holding vigil at Hale Kuhio at the time. Meanwhile, further up the mountain, other crews smashed a traditional hale, or thatched house, and tore apart two ahu (indigenous stone altars) in the planned TMT area.
Hours later, in a surprise news conference, Governor David Ige, flanked and echoed by State Attorney General Claire Connors and Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case, announced that the Department of Land and Natural Resources had issued a Notice to Proceed for TMT, despite outstanding permits that have not yet been granted for the project.
"There is a hearing for TMT's stormwater runoff permit next week," noted a participant in one of several spontaneous protests that were called in response to the destruction yesterday. "Several other legal requirements have not yet been fulfilled. We donʻt know that they ever will be. And that is not even mentioning the constitutional problems, the human rights violations, and the genocide of an indigenous people that is involved in this."
TMT as Genocide. The behavior of the State of Hawaiʻi was described by many kiaʻi, or land protectors, as "shocking, but typical" of a government that they assert is illegitimate. Since Queen Liliʻuokalani was ousted from her throne in 1893 by a group of armed white sugar planters with US Marine backing, many assert that the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi remains the legal government of Hawaiʻi, under a military occupation that regularly inflicts largely-invisible brutality on that Kingdom's subjects. They say that deliberate and systematic destruction of an indigenous culture, evidenced by actions such as yesterday's Solstice raid, amounts to the crime of genocide. "It really does," says Laulani Teale, an activist and hoʻoponopono (indigenous peace process) practitioner. "You might not see the guns, but they are there. If you practice traditional Kanaka culture in a way they don't approve, you will see them really fast."
Many kanaka maoli have