SSMU Statement in Solidarity with Mauna Kea Protestors

SSMU Statement in Solidarity with Mauna Kea Protestors

To All McGill Students,

On July 10, 2019, the Governor of Hawaii announced the beginning of construction on the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT), slated to be built at the top of Mauna Kea, a sacred site for the Kanaka Maoli Indigenous Hawaiians. On July 15, a group of kūpuna (elders) formed a blockade in front of the access road leading up Mauna Kea. Seven other protestors chained themselves to cattle guards further up the road. Two days later, 33 of the kūpuna were arrested and taken into police custody. 

“‘This is all we have left, so we aren’t going to move,’ said veteran activist Walter Ritte, who was one of the kūpuna arrested. ‘They’re going to have to keep arresting us — and we’ll keep coming right back. The mountain represents us, all Hawaiians, so we’re not going to let them take our mountain. […] We aren’t going to leave her’.” (Original article)

Since the arrests, the peaceful protestors have only grown in numbers. On July 19, the Governor called a state of emergency, granting increased authority to local police and authorizing the involvement of the National Guard. Although the emergency proclamation has since been rescinded, its use in the first place is condemnable at a minimum. 

For many Kanaka, Mauna Kea symbolizes a sacred connection to their ancestors and serves as a necessary source of fresh water. According to Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, “It’s also the home of [their] deities who are embodied in the various water forms.” Moreover, as indicated by a 1993 Congressional apology, the lands on which the TMT is currently slated to be built were never consensually ceded to the US Government. 

The SSMU stands in unequivocal solidarity with the peaceful protestors at Mauna Kea, many of whom are Kanaka Maoli. We recognize their legitimate right to the land and wholeheartedly support their efforts to stop the construction of the TMT. Finally, we celebrate the protestors’ incredible successes; in early August, a permit was filed for an alternate TMT site in the Canary Islands, and the original construction start date was accordingly postponed by two years. This fight is not against scientific progress, but rather a prioritization of Western knowledge and efforts over the sovereign rights of Indigenous peoples. In this ongoing resistance, the victories achieved by the Mauna Kea protestors are incredibly inspiring.

Through its membership in the Association for Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), currently funding 15% of the $1.4B TMT, McGill University is complicit in its construction, and by extension in the proposed destruction of the sacred lands of Mauna Kea. The SSMU is dedicated to calling out and holding accountable those complicit in the perpetuation of colonial legacies and we therefore call on McGill to publicly support relocating the telescope away from Mauna Kea.

Signed,

Madeline Wilson / Vice-President (University Affairs)
Adam Gwiazda-Amsel / Vice-President (External Affairs)
Sanchi Bhalla / Vice-President (Internal Affairs)
Sam Haward / Vice-President (Finance)
Bryan Buraga / President
Billy Kawasaki  / Vice-President (Student Life)

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