Environmental Law Program

ELP and Ka Huli Ao’s Maoli Thursday: Mauna Kea and the Health Impacts of the Proposed Thirty Meter Telescope

photo(11)On Thursday, October 3, 2013, ELP and Ka Huli Ao sponsored a joint Maoli Thursday lunch panel entitled “Aloha ‘Āina, Aloha Kanaka: Protecting Sacred Sites for the Well-Being of Native Hawaiian Communities.” The panel was based upon the current litigation surrounding Mauna Kea, Kānaka Maoli’s most sacred of sites, and the proposed development of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). The panel featured Kealoha Pisciotta, a Native Hawaiian practitioner of traditional and customary cultural and religious practices on Mauna Kea, Dr. Maile Tauali‘i, a Kanaka Maoli epidemiologist, and law Professor Linda Krieger.

Kealoha Pisciotta has traveled around the world to advocate for the greater protection of sacred sites and for the betterment of the conditions of all indigenous peoples globally. She is also the President of the Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, a petitioner in the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) contested case. Kealoha shared that “backwards thinking” is bringing what is traditional to the forefront, “sacred landscape” teaches us how to be in the world in a pono (righteous) ways and is our about our revered behavior for a place, and that the “sacredness” of Mauna Kea is codified in its name and in its traditional land use. She shared a touching story about a kūpuna (elder) sitting on her porch in her rocking chair, sharing the news with ‘ohana (family) about yet another Hawaiian who ua hala, who had simply died of a broken heart. Kealoha shared that many Hawaiians died of this kind of broken heart, but today, we just have fancy names for this, such as diabetes, heart attack, or stroke. Hawaiians have always identified their negative health impacts with the way their lands have been systematically destroyed and their culture has been systematically supressed.

Dr. Tauali‘i shared a study where a majority of high school students expressed that “when the land is destroyed, I am injured.” And with no coincidence, Native Hawaiian youth have the highest percentage of suicide rates, attempted and completed. This kind of data demonstrates that these issues are a result of cultural trauma and with threats such as the TMT, this trauma is current. Dr. Maile Tauali‘i, is a Kanaka Maoli epidemiologist whose work focuses on research and the use of public health data to inform policy decisions. She is also a professor at the University of Hawai‘i — the first Native Hawaiian professor in the Office of Public Health Studies, the Director of the Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health Masters in Public Health program, and she is the Director of the Native Hawaiian Epidemiology Center whose goal is to improve the health status and well-being of Native Hawaiians.

The third panelist, Professor Linda Krieger, presented on how to legally frame the theory about the public health and welfare effects on Kanaka Maoli due to the systematic destruction of cultural and sacred places. She touched upon the need to develop a peer review literature validating the theory of cultural trauma and the need to build a robust pool of data from legal-medical, community based, and practitioner partnerships. Professor Krieger is a law professor and the director of the Ulu Lehua Program. Professor Krieger teaches a variety of legal courses and while at the Stanford School of Law, she taught the course of evidence. Moderator and ELP RA, Shae Kamaka‘ala (‘14), wrote her second-year seminar paper on these issues under the supervision of Professor Krieger.

This Maoli Thursday luncheon panel was a great movement towards to strengthening ties amongst various professionals within the different fields of study and the community.

Mahalo to our panelists, Ka Huli Ao, the Enviromental Law Program, and to ELP RA Shae Kamaka‘ala (’14) and Sharde Freitas (’14) who made this joint Maoli Thursday panel possible.

Pictured (left to right): Panelists Professor Linda Krieger, Dr. Maile Tauali‘i, Kealoha Pisciotta, and moderator and ELP RA, Shae Kamaka‘ala (’14).