The practices of life-giving land protection of the Wet’suwet’en reminds me that blockades are like beaver dams. One can stand beside the pile of sticks blocking the flow of the river, and complain about inconveniences, or one can sit beside the pond and witness the beavers’ life-giving brilliance – deep pools that don’t freeze for their fish relatives, making wetlands full of moose, deer and elk food and cooling spots, places to hide calves and muck to keep the flies away, open spaces in the canopy so sunlight increases creating warm and shallow aquatic habitat around the edges of the pond for amphibians and insects, plunge pools on the downstream side of dams for juvenile fish, gravel for spawning, home and food for birds. Blockades are both a negation destruction and an affirmation of life.
In Hawaiʻi Governor Ige’s declaration of a “state of emergency,” or media coverage referring to the protection of Mauna Kea as a “moment” of Hawaiian activism, there emerges an implicit adherence to the view of this conflict as an “event.” In this schema of the “event,” we find that agents and causes are organized along clean binaries: sacred and profane, extractive capital and flat rejections of it, settler state logics and its alternatives like Indigenous-anarchism. But what if we see the mass movement to protect Mauna Kea not as an “event” of state violence or a moment of emergency, and instead focus on relations implicit in quotidian practice? In this article, I argue for seeing Mauna Kea not as an event, but as a structural dynamic confronting us in the guise of an event. I also show how this alternative reading of Mauna Kea, and attention to the “everday,” has ramifications for how we might theorize Kanaka ʻŌiwi struggle.
When kiaʻi Holt Takamine declared a state of emergency for the Lāhui—the nation of Hawaiʻi—she enacted a refusal to accept the US occupation of Hawaiʻi and the US settler state’s calculated attacks on Hawaiian forms of life. To call a state of emergency for the Hawaiian nation is to reverse the postcolonial metaphors of resistance and protest in favor of Hawaiian modes of governance that pre-date and work against the grain of a prolonged belligerent military occupation and settler state violence.
Hawaiians are asserting our commitment to protecting our forms of life. In turn, we are asserting that the legitimacy for refuge from the seemingly never-ending mutations of settler state violence comes from its own positive ontology—Ea—rather than from a position against or in opposition to the state. Ea is the breath and breadth of Hawaiian sovereignty. It did not emerge as a reaction to US occupation but rather thrives, flourishes, and creates in spite of coordinated attacks against Hawaiian forms of life.
On the eve of July 17th, 2019, Governor David Ige signed and released an emergency proclamation statement. The purpose of an emergency proclamation is “to provide relief for disaster damages, losses, and suffering, and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people.” This, however, is not taking place.
The state governor issued this administrative rule to enact and exercise an extraordinary usage of police powers, at the same time, suspending current state laws and regulations. The obfuscation of this proclamatory act to adjourn current state legal regulations undoubtedly authorizes the expansion of police powers and unethically creates a policy of violence against the bodies of Kanaka Maoli protectors who are upholding, with true integrity and nonviolence, the defense of Mauna Kea. In addition, the governor’s abuse of power in issuing an emergency proclamation is unethical, disgraceful, and itself a form of aggression. Ige, in his own words from 2018, returns “to the old ways of machine politics and backroom deals, allowing special interests to outweigh the public interest and personal gain to be placed before the collective good.”
In fact, Ige’s proclamation is a “protection” for a special interest: The Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC. There is no protection for the welfare of people, both Kānaka Maoli and allies who reside in these islands. There is no relief, nor protection, from damages and losses when an obscene edifice is built on the backs of the lands, waters and native species.
Recent events at Mauna Kea, Hawaii reveal that while state authorities enact top-down executive decisions to impose settler law over populations through State of Emergency declarations, nations, practices and people are rising. Hierarchical techniques of the state reinforce colonial power. In our current climate, emergency decisions abound, from policing a border wall, to removing “protestors” from Mauna Kea to creeping pressures to declare climate emergencies. Responding to these pressures, we are seeking to curate and cultivate a conversation in a mini-forum on the Abolition blog about the affective, geopolitical, biopolitical, spatial and temporal dimensions of State of Emergency declarations and current theories and enactments of emergence. In this dialogue/mini-forum, we are calling potential contributors (i.e. writers, artists, poets, storytellers) to incite a conversation and to imagine these relations otherwise. Specifically, we encourage contributing authors to reflect on apparent tensions and relationships between states of emergency and embodied practices, narratives and stories of emergence with a focus on aloha ʻāina futures stemming from radical action at Mauna Kea.
Without a single cloud floating in the Mauna Kea sky, kia‘i (protectors) assembled on the morning of July 17, 2019 at Mauna Kea Access Road to stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). The resolve to protect Mauna Kea from TMT was as clear as the skies above–no telescope was necessary to see this. In response, the State of Hawaii deployed police, equipped with riot batons, tear gas, guns and a Long Range Acoustic Device, to open the access road for construction crews to ascend to TMT’s build site at the northern plateau. It was the largest police operation in Hawai‘i in recent memory with officers from multiple jurisdictions across the islands. This execution of force coincided with Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige’s Proclamation to declare a State of Emergency and, in doing so, declare those safeguarding the Mauna as a threat to the state. But kia‘i were prepared, stood their ground and continued to defend this sacred mountain.
We think it’s time to take up an abolitionist approach to the university. We can’t do it without you. But you’re anxious, as are we, when faced with the uncertainty of what that might entail. We’ve got that in common. Maybe you rather like universities and believe in their value. Or maybe you simply need to have a job, and yours happens to be there. Maybe you’ve been a prison abolitionist since long before everyone was calling themselves one, and you’re concerned about the drift of the signifier “abolitionist” from a specific set of collective struggles to an individual mode of self-branding. Or maybe you saw what the Right did (and continues to do) with calls for the abolition of whiteness from the journal Race Traitor in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And so maybe you’re concerned that bringing the word abolition into too intimate a proximity with the university might offer ammunition to Republicans eager to continue their assaults on higher education and to Democrats eager to distance themselves from the Left.
One day this past July, I received a message on my Facebook blog from someone named Vanessa. She’d found me on Twitter discussing environmental racism, and said she connected well to writers. I got a rush of anticipation reading her message, in which she asked about writing, but also to spread word of what was happening on the Tsawout (pronounced say-w-out) Reservation, where developers were deforesting land to build an RV park without permission. This introduction and following interview tell the story of how the Saanich/Wsanec are being displaced on their homeland in coastal British Columbia, Canada.