About the Mauna Kea Syllabus Project

What is the Mauna Kea Syllabus?

The Mauna Kea Syllabus contributes to the growing body of scholarship produced around the efforts of Kanaka Maoli to protect their sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea from continued occupation, colonization, and desecration. The most recent proposal of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) desires to build a $1.4 billion dollar observatory eighteen stories high. Mauna Kea is not only the piko (umbilical connection and center of Hawaiian worldview), it is also the tallest mountain in the world from its seafloor base to its highest peak. TMT intends to construct in a designated conservation zone ignoring numerous environmental concerns. Moreover, the sacred mauna is part of the national Hawaiian lands set aside for Kanaka Maoli after the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, exacerbating unresolved land and sovereignty claims. TMT continues a legacy of astronomy development plagued by mismanagement by Hawaiʻi state and county governments along with the University of Hawaiʻi. Despite outside forces willfully ignoring Kanaka Maoli and community members who have clearly voiced their lack of consent, the kiaʻi (protectors) of Mauna Kea will continue to educate and empower until all telescopes are removed from their sacred mountain.

Invocation and explanation of movement building through mele: “Oli Kukulu”

E na hoa ʻaina

E na hoa welo like

E na hoa pili

E na hoa aloha

Aloha ʻaina

We have structured the syllabus to follow the movement building based on this iconic mele (song chant) composed by Mauna Kea movement leader Pua Case. The mele is sung in a call and response format, building dialogue and reinforcing pilina (relationship) and honoring the relations and shared struggles and victories, learning from each other along the way. In this format, we begin at our piko (umbilical, center of Hawaiian worldview) with issues close to home, and we move out in ever widening circles of unity in our shared struggles.

E na hoa ʻaina -- Kanaka Maoli have a genealogical connection to Mauna Kea, and therefore stand at the center and call out to our relatives who also share this special relation to the mountain. We begin with terms and concepts that are grounded in our Kanaka Maoli epistemologies, our own ways of knowing and being. Our movement is founded on these concepts. Our history here and abroad through international relations inscribes a particular context of land struggles, cultural genocide, linguistic recovery.

E na hoa welo like -- Next we call out to our cousins of Oceania, those who share ancestry as well as inherited stories. We recognize and learn from our shared struggles of land dispossession, settler colonialism, intergenerational cultural trauma, language revival efforts.

E na hoa pili -- Then we reach wider to call out to our Indigenous relations, those who stand for their own mountains, waters, and life ways. Our syllabus project is inspired by the amazing work produced by the Standing Rock Syllabus, Black Lives Matter Syllabus, and Immigration Syllabus. So many hoa pili have come to visit and honor Mauna Kea and to pay their respects and bring hoʻokupu (offerings of treasured gifts and flags and songs) to our kupuna (elders). Our relations are strengthened through such gestures of goodwill and we stand in solidarity with these movements.

E na hoa aloha -- Finally we call out to all those who love this land: those who were born here, those who have moved here and made Hawaiʻi their home, and those who have come to visit and offer their best to Hawaiʻi. We recognize our environmentalist friends and activists and we honor your support.

E hu e! And we rise like a mighty wave!

For peoples who have had their language banned, and who have struggled to recover the mother tongue, it is critical that we use our own words to tell our own stories.

A Short History of the Mauna Kea Syllabus

The Mauna Kea Syllabus Project traces its genealogy to Puʻuhuluhulu University, the freedom school set up at the base of Mauna Kea Access Road at Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu in 2019, the brainchild of Presley Kealaʻanuhea Ah Mook Sang and other aloha ʻāina at Puʻuhuluhulu. Holding courses on Hawaiian Language, Indigenous law and politics, art and hana noʻeau, and beyond for any person who would come to the puʻuhonua, Puʻuhuluhulu University is an example of the utility of EA-ducation, a Kanaka ʻŌiwi-centered way of learning, teaching, and being that centers our ea (sovereignty). From the conversations and transformations at Puʻuhuluhulu University, the Mauna Kea Syllabus was born.

The Mauna Kea Syllabus as a formal project began in 2020 in partnership with Hawaiʻi Review; however, the many iterations of Kanaka ʻŌiwi building and curating our ʻike around the protection of Mauna Kea is far from new. 2019, the Mauna Kea & Aloha ʻĀina Syllabus by Dr. Noenoe Silva and Dr. Leilani Basham, whose efforts to curate Kanaka ʻŌiwi scholarship pertinent to the political concerns amidst the 2019 standoff and beyond set the precedence for developing this project, came into being (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IM5b4Rz9MLD7Rg6k0il7roXFUAz19KHP0Sc7IxaEOWQ/edit?usp=sharing).

In June 2020, organizers of the Mauna Kea Syllabus hosted an online panel “From Standing Rock to Mauna Kea: Digital Learning Exchanges” featuring Anne Spice and Jaskiran Dhillon, scholar-activists who participated in the creation and facilitation of the Standing Rock Syllabus Project, in conversation with Mauna Kea kiaʻi Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua and Uahikea Maile and moderated by Brandy Nālani McDougall. The panelists discussed the significance of digital media in their respective movements, and reflected on the possibilities of creating online pedagogy to educate a broader (local and international audience) on the issues impacting our Indigenous communities. Anne Spice and Jaskiran Dhillon shared their experiences curating and teaching the syllabus for the Standing Rock movement, and offered insights into the challenges and rewards of community education. This panel served as a jumping off point and genesis of the syllabus we see before us today.