Kiaʻi Ke Kahaukani:

Student Organizing at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

ʻIhilani Lasconia

Welina Mānoa

Welina Mānoa i ka lehu aloha

Aloha ua Tuahine

Mai luahine a i Waikīkī

Kiaʻi ke Kahaukani

Kani nō nā leo

Eō kamaʻāina

ʻĀina alohe ē

Mānoa ē

- Welina Mānoa, na Keawe Lopes


The ʻoli (chant) Welina Mānoa was composed by kumu (teacher) Keawe Lopes to honor Mānoa and the many elements that are unique to this place. The fourth line of the ʻoli says “Kiaʻi ke Kahaukani” which means protected by Kahaukani. Kahaukani is the name for the strong swirling wind that can be felt throughout this ahupuaʻa (section of land). It is from this ʻoli and the elements that guard this place that gave inspiration for students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa to develop who stand strongly for the protection of Maunakea to form a student group that was named in honor of one of the elements that have protected this wahi (place) for generations.[1]

Brief History

Image above: Kiaʻi ke Kahaukani on the first day of class (Copyright: @kiaikekahaukani IG)

Although there is no specific date attached to the establishment of this hui, the making of Kiaʻi Ke Kahaukani can be traced back to the fall of 2013. At the time Ka Leo, (the University’s newspaper) hosted an art festival and encouraged students to submit artwork to be featured on their mural space. Native Hawaiian artist and then UH student Hailey Ka‘iliehu submitted a proposal for a mural design. Hailey’s mural displayed the words: “UH cannot be a place of Hawaiian learning while leading the desecration of Mauna a Wākea”. The mural was in response to the University’s approval of the Thirty Meter Telescope to be built on Maunakea. Hailey’s mural was selected out of numerous proposals to be painted for the Ka Leo Arts Fest and was approved beforehand by coordinators of the project. [2] On the weekend of October 19th, 2013 community members came together under the direction of Hailey to create this mural for the Ka Leo Arts fest that was set to be on the 24th. Upon returning to campus the following Monday Ka‘iliehu and others noticed that Ka Leo had blacked out Hailey’s words and wrote “#KaLeoArtFest” on top of her mural. This silencing of native voices sparked campus and community outrage and inspired students, such as Hailey Ka‘iliehu, No’eau Peralto, and ‘Ilima Long to come together and collectively advocate for the protection of Maunakea and hold the University accountable to their actions.

In November of 2018, the Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court announced their decision that the TMT may move forward with construction. This decision was made under the guise of the Degradation Principle. Under this postulate, because the ecological environment of Maunakea can no longer return to its original state due to the irreversible harm already caused, the development of the TMT would only add an incremental amount of damage. [3] This decision further catalyzed the need for Kiaʻi Ke Kahaukani to mobilize and educate students, faculty, and staff on the importance of protecting Maunakea. On November 2nd 2018 Kia‘i Ke Kahaukani disrupted UH system president David Lassner’s University reorganization proposal presentation with a silent demonstration. Roughly twenty students flooded the auditorium where the presentation was given and held signs stating how many people were already arrested due to the construction of this project as well as other messages in protest of the TMT.

From these catalytic events, Native Hawaiian students and allies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa have organized as Kia‘i Ke Kahaukani. The hope and intention of this hui is to educate the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and the broader community about the importance of Maunakea, why it should be protected, and the University’s role in ensuing colonial violence on Maunakea and Native Hawaiians through their administration in the construction of the Thirty-Meter-Telescope.

Methods of Organizing

Image above: Kiaʻi at Campus Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (Copyright: @kiaikekahaukani IG)

Over the course of several years Kiaʻi Ke Kahaukani has organized multiple events for students, faculty, and staff to engage in the conversation surrounding the protection of Maunakea. In order to engage with a wide audience, Popular Education [4] has been instrumental in the curation of these events. One of the most successful practices implemented by Kiaʻi Ke Kahaukani was their use of art and imagery to promote their message. One of the ways that this was executed was by hosting screenprinting events at the University where participants could choose a design to be screenprinted on an item of their choice. Some of the sayings included “Mauna Over Money”, “See You on the Mauna'', and “ʻAʻole TMT”. These same designs were taken to Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu and used as an educational tool for kiaʻi and visitors alike.

In order to diversify the conversation and formally involve other members of the University, Kiaʻi Ke Kahaukani helped to orchestrate several talks and panels with esteemed kumu from Hawaiian Studies, Hawaiian Language, Ethnic Studies, Political Science, and the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. Each event highlighted a unique justification as to why the Thirty Meter Telescope should not be built. Another intention of these events was to legitimise the wide opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope by showcasing how multiple departments disagreed with the Universities decision to move forward with the project.

One of the prolonged actions of this hui was the implementation of ʻaha (ceremony). Throughout the fall semester of 2019 ʻaha was held on Wise Field which is directly in front of Bachman Hall where University administration carries out its daily operations. ʻAha was held three times a day (including weekends) and was conducted synchronously with the ʻaha that were occuring on the mauna. The intention of a holding ceremony was to sustain focus on the efforts to prevent the construction of the TMT on the mauna, maintain a physical space of opposition at the University, and connect kānaka on campus to cultural practices and ceremonies. Kanaka Maoli students and faculty were instrumental to facilitating ʻaha. Kaipulaumakaniolono Baker (MFA in Hawaiian Theatre), Ty Kāwika Tengan (professor in Ethnic Studies and Anthropology) , and Kahikina de Silva (professor in Hawaiian Studies and Hawaiian Language) facilitated a majority of the ʻaha held. With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic and the temporary disbandment of Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu ʻaha at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has been discontinued.

Members of Kiaʻi Ke Kahaukani have also testified at Board of Regents [5] and community meetings expressing their strong opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope. These testimonies have been given orally in front of regents and council members as well as submitted online to be reviewed by administration. These testimonies act as a means to hold administration accountable to the students they serve as well as provide formal documentation of opposition by University stakeholders. Testifying has also been coupled with hosting testimony writing workshops to show folks how to write sound testimony and how this skill can be applied to other propositions happening in their own community.


Kiaʻi Ke Kahaukani is but a continuation of the genealogy of Kanaka Maoli resistance at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Much of the mentorship and guidance of this hui has been from former student organizers, many of which were mentored by Haunani-Kay Trask and other pivotal leaders in the Hawaiian Renaissance. One of the unique features of this generation of organizing is Kiaʻi Ke Kahaukani’s collaboration with other organizations to connect different movements. In the fall of 2019 Kia’i Ke Kahaukani visited Kū Kiaʻi Kahuku’s [6] occupation on the North Shore of O‘ahu and demonstrated the vitality of screen printing to cohesive messaging. In June of 2020 Kia‘i Ke Kahaukani co-organized an art build with Af3irm Hawai‘i in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement. Although so much has changed in Hawai‘i and the world since Kia‘i Ke Kahaukani’s inception in 2013, their opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope and commitment to the liberation of all peoples remains unwavering.


[1] Baker, 2020

[2] Big Island News, 2013

[3] hoʻomanawanui, 2019

[4] Educational technique designed to raise the consciousness of its participants and allow them to become more aware of how an individual's personal experiences are connected to larger societal problems

[5] Governing board of the University of Hawaiʻi System.

[6] Community organization based out of North Shore Oʻahu that is for the prevention of the construction of wind turbines in Kahuku.

Critical Questions for the Reader

  1. How do institutions of higher education such as universities have an impact on the broader community?

  2. What advantages do student organizers have when advocating for change on campus?

  3. What is the importance of Popular Education in student organizing and community building?

  4. How do public institutions of education act as upholders of colonialism and imperialism?

Curated Resources

Curated list of resources

Other Student and Community Organizations in Opposition of the TMT

Other Student and Community Organizations in Opposition of the TMT