Aloha Aina Mauna Kea
Courtesy Marie Alohalani Brown
The International Indian Treaty Council has issued a statement calling for international support to stop the desecration of Native Hawaiians’ sacred Mauna Kea Mountain.

Treaty Council Calls for US and International Support for Mauna Kea

Gale Courey Toensing

The International Indian Treaty Council has issued a statement calling for international support to stop the desecration of Native Hawaiians’ sacred Mauna Kea Mountain. The statement also calls on the United States to abide by its international obligation to protect human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ sacred sites.

The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) is a 41-year-old non-governmental organization of Indigenous Peoples from North, Central and South America, the Caribbean and the Pacific working for the sovereignty and self-determination of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, treaties, traditional cultures and sacred lands. The organization was born out of the turbulent days of the American Indian Movement and was the first to gain General Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

In its statement issued April 13, the IITC stands with the Kanaka Maoli—the Indigenous People of Hawaii—in their commitment to block the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), an 18-story high industrial complex telescope, which would be the largest in the world, on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. The mountain, a dormant volcano, is 13,796 feet above sea level. Thirteen other telescopes currently are located there. Native Hawaiians believe that Mauna Kea is the most sacred place on all of the islands.

The TMT is a project by the Thirty Meter International Observatory (TIO), Goodfellow Bros, the University of Hawai‘i (UH), the Office of Mauna Kea Management and the Hawai‘i State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). The University of California, California Institute of Technology, National Astronomical Observatories of China and Japan and other international institutions are also providing funding for the project, IITC said.

Protesters at Mauna Kea are getting support from as far away as Japan.

The Native Hawaiian opponents of the project, who call themselves the protectors and defenders of the sacred site, have rallied against the telescope project since March 30. On April 2, DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement and county police officers arrested 31 defenders, including elders, who were protesting the development. The defenders have set up an encampment at the site and vow to block equipment sent to begin the construction.

Pu’uhonua “Bumpy” Kanahele, Head of State of the Nation of Hawaii and an IITC board member participated in the protests on April 7 and 8. The Nation of Hawaii is the oldest Hawaiian independence organization. It advocates a republican government.

“After I reached the top of the summit at 13,769 feet, I could feel the pain and destruction done to Mauna Kea and realized how much damage had been done to her all this time,” Kanahele said. “The University of Hawaii, State of Hawaii and the scientific community need to stop the desecration of Mauna Kea, NOW!”

In its statement, the IITC said it joins the Nation of Hawaii in calling the desecration of Mauna Kea a violation of international law. “The United States has illegally occupied Hawaii since 1893 and annexed it as a state in 1959 in violation of its 1826 Peace and Friendship Treaty with the Hawaiian Kingdom. The U.S. continues to claim jurisdiction over the Hawaiian Islands, but has failed to uphold its international obligations to respect the human rights of the Hawaiian People which include preventing the desecration of sacred sites and areas,” the council said.

The IITC noted that after voting against the endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September 2007, the U.S. reversed its position and expressed support for the Declaration on December 16, 2010. “The U.S. qualified its support for certain provisions of the Declaration at that time, but has expressed no qualifications of its commitment to uphold the rights affirmed in Article 12, which states ‘Indigenous Peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs  and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites,’” the council said.

Protest in Honolulu drew hundreds to the lawn of Iolani Palace for a day of music and protesting, not just for Mauna Kea, but the many issues Native Hawaiians are facing in their homeland. Those gathered here listened to music and guest speakers. (Cliff Matias)

Furthermore, two international treaty monitoring bodies to which the U.S. is legally accountable also called on the U.S. to take stronger measures to protect Indigenous Peoples’ sacred areas, the council said. The United Nation Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in its March 28, 2014, report regarding the U.S., expressed its concern “about the insufficient measures being taken to protect the sacred areas of Indigenous Peoples against desecration, contamination and destruction as a result of urbanization, extractive industries, industrial development, tourism and toxic contamination.” The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the treaty monitoring body for the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, in its August 29, 2014, report called for the U.S. to “[a]dopt concrete measures to effectively protect the sacred sites of Indigenous Peoples.”

Despite this commitment, the U.S. government has failed to halt the desecration of Mauna Kea, the council said. Other countries that are involved in the project through financing or direct engagement must also be held accountable to uphold their international human rights commitments, the council said.

The IITC is asking the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Freedom of Religion or Belief, and Cultural Rights as well as the CERD Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures to call upon the U.S. and other governments to rescind their support for the TMT based on their international human rights obligations. IITC also asks the 14th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which meets April 20 through May 1 in New York, to address the urgent Mauna Kea situation in its report and recommendations, which will be submitted to the UN Economic and Social Council.

Kanahele said he commits the support of the Nation of Hawaii, but the only long term solution to this and others cases of sacred sites desecration is to restore Hawaii’s national sovereignty and implement the full rights of self-­‐determination and governance for the Hawaiian People.

“The Nation of Hawaii stands in full support of the frontline action to stop the cultural genocide of Mauna Kea. But in my opinion, the only solution that will stop the construction of the TMT and ongoing desecration of Mauna Kea is to form a Provisional Government of National Unity (PGNU) immediately, a Hawaiian government with all the powers of an independent state,” Kanahele said. Under Public Law 103-150—the “Apology Law”—the Hawaiian government could call upon the President of the United States to reopen the Peace Treaty with the U.S. that continues to be violated, he said.

Thomas Hill posted this image to Joshua Lanakila Mangauil's Facebook page to show some support for Mauna Kea from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska (Facebook)

IITC urged people to send statements of support for the protection of Mauna Kea and objections to the TMT to:

U.S. State Department

Hon. Keith Harper, Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations Human Rights Council c/o Leslie Marks, [email protected]

Deputy Director and Senior Advisor Lynn Sicade, DRL/MLGA (Office of Multilateral and Global Affairs, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor), [email protected]

Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby, [email protected]

Government of Hawaii

Governor, State of Hawaii, the Honorable David Y. Ige, Phone: (808) 586-­‐0034

Lieutenant Governor, the Honorable Shan S. Tsutsui, Phone: (808) 586-­‐0255, [email protected]

Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Robert Lindsey, Chairperson, [email protected]

U.S. Congressional Delegation for Hawaii

U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono

U.S. Senator Brian Shatz

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, [email protected]

Congressman Mark Takai

For more information on the current situation in Hawaii, contact Pu’uhonua “Bumpy” Kanahele (808) 551-­‐5056, email: [email protected] or Brandon Makaawaawa (808) 221-­‐6906, [email protected].

RELATED: Telescope Opposition Gains Momentum With Rallies, Walk-Out and International Support

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