As protests versus the Thirty Meter Telescope on the big Island stretch into a fourth week, us look in ~ the history of the summit and why that is taken into consideration sacred to the indigenous Hawaiian community.

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Photo: David Croxford

We pored through historic references, oral histories, testimonies and also archaeological reports to assist give girlfriend a better understanding of the profound reverence given to the wahi kapu (sacred place) the Maunakea. A shield volcano climbing 13,796 feet, it’s among the most prominent landforms in Hawai‘i, yet the sacredness of the mauna in Hawaiian society goes far deeper 보다 its physical features.

First, a note around the name. We use Maunakea together a solitary word as said by the UH Hilo school of Hawaiian Language. If Mauna Kea way “white mountain” and works as a description, Maunakea is provided by UH, the Office the Maunakea Management and also the Hawai‘i plank on geographical Names. Read on for more about the meaning of the single-word name.


In Hawaiian legacies of creation, the planet Mother, Papahānaumoku, and the sky Father, Wākea, created the Islands, with Hawai‘i Island being the first. “Mauna Kea is thought about to be kupuna, the first born, and also is held in high esteem. In indigenous traditions, Mauna Kea is established as ‘Ka Mauna a Wākea’ (The hill of Wākea—traditional god and father that Hawai‘i—whose name is additionally written together Kea),” explained Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele in a 1999 oral background study by Kumu Pono Associates. Since Maunakea was the first-born son of Papa and Wākea, it’s taken into consideration the piko (navel, or facility of a beginning or ending) the Hawai‘i Island. The referral of Ka Mauna a Wākea is likewise seen in mele hānau (birth chants), like this one for Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) as written in the publication The Echo of our Song: Chants and also Poems of the Hawaiians:

O hānau ka mauna a Kea,‘Ōpu‘u a‘e ka mauna a Kea.‘O Wākea ke kāne, ‘o Papa,‘o Walinu‘u ka wahine,Hānau Ho ‘ohoku the wahine,Hānau Hāloa that ali‘i,Hānau ka mauna, he keiki mauna na Kea …

Born the Kea to be the mountain,The hill of Kea budded forth.Wākea to be the husband, PapaWalinu‘u to be the wife.Born was Ho‘ohoku, a daughter,Born to be Hāloa, a chief,Born was the mountain, a mountain-son the Kea …

Lake Waiau

The water that Waiau is associated with the god Kāne, and also it’s been documented that the water is used in recurring practices by indigenous healers. That water is accumulated and supplied for ceremonies and for healing. In 1881, Queen Emma went to Waiau and also swam across its waters “on a trip of spiritual and also physical well-being.” Interviews have additionally been conducted with citizens who reported the it to be a exercise to take it a child’s piko (or umbilical cord) come Waiau.


In the uppermost zones of Maunakea, one pu‘u, or cinder cone, has actually been shown to save burials—Pu‘u Mākanaka, which literally method “hill crowded through people.” four other pu‘u are likewise considered most likely to save on computer burials. Oral histories passed under through family members have likewise shared that there room burials ~ above the slopes that Maunakea. Alexander Kanani‘alika Lancaster in the 1999 oral background report through Kumu Pono Associates mentions the he went up the mountain “for ceremonial. They walk up there bless the totality mountain for all our ancestors who’s hidden up there… the old folks always said, ‘Our household is increase there.’”

Piko deposition likewise occurs in the kind of a interment on Maunakea, and it’s end up being a exercise for some people to scatter the cremated stays of love ones ~ above the mountain.


The map native the final environmental impact statement in 2010 which shows historical properties, shown by triangles, and also sites the manmade remains, significant with red circles. Source: 2010 final environmental impact statement because that TMT

Gods and goddesses

Within the Maunakea scientific research Reserve (roughly 11,215 acre centered around the summit), there room “263 historic properties, consisting of 141 old shrines,” follow to the 2010 last Environmental affect Statement for the TMT Telescopes. If the intended objectives of each historic property is unclear, the Mauna Kea scientific research Reserve archaeological Inventory Survey speculates that they can be regarded gods and goddesses top top the mountain. “It now seems most likely that the an easy shrines to be built and used by small family teams as initially thought, but that the larger, more complicated structures were built and also maintained by a priesthood. … First, ~ above the assumption that each upright stands for a different god, the larger number of uprights on these sites points to a bigger pantheon of god (major and minor gods) that probably most Hawaiians would not have actually known.” The AIS report likewise suggests that several of the historical sites mentioned could be concerned “astronomical phenomena” and uses the over photo that the shrines facing out in the direction of Haleakalā ~ above Maui together a concept that needs to be investigated further.

Place names on Maunakea, like the many pu‘u, are also named after these gods and goddesses. Westervelt, in his publication Hawaiian Legends of Volcanoes, mentions the Poli‘ahu was one of four snow goddesses. Līlīnoe was her younger sister and also Waiau is also mentioned in legends together a goddess. The summit area is also called Kūkahau‘ula and is referenced together being the name for the husband the Līlīnoe.

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A calculation of whereby the thirty meter telescope (bottom left) will be located in compare with present telescopes. The brand-new telescope is planned for the slope instead of the summit, whereby it will not be together visible. Courtesy: TMT

The summit of Kūkahau‘ula

Early accounts from the mid-19th century by william Ellis, James Jarves and James Macrae say the their Hawaiian guides would not go near Maunakea’s summit due to “superstitious dread of the mountain spirits or gods.” The Maunakea scientific research Reserve’s AIS supports references to the height of the mauna as being kapu and only available to the highest possible chiefs or clergymans by noting the lack of proof of human activity at the summit in relationship to reduced elevations.

In the 1999 Kumu Pono Associates’ oral history and consultation study, Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele stated: “Mauna Kea was always kupuna to us … and there was no wanting to go to top. Girlfriend know, just that they were there … was simply satisfying to us. And so the was kind of a hallowed place that you understand it is there, and you don’t have to go there. You don’t should bother it. … and it was always reassuring since it was the foundation of our island. … If you want to reach mana, that is wherein you go.”