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.
Since 2014, the settler state of Hawaiʻi arrested, detained, and punished over 300 Kānaka ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiians) and our allies for defending our ʻāina from desecration. From wind turbines at Kahuku and Kalaeloa to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna a Wākea, settler projects predicated upon the discourse of “the greater good” continue to violate our native lands and bodies. Indeed, as the police continue to show up in droves at these sites prepared to brutalize, arrest, and criminalize Kānaka ʻŌiwi and those who stand with us, so, too, do these projects built on our stolen land continue to constitute a particular kind of colonial violence.
When we consider a history of occupation and settler colonialism in Hawaiʻi that brings to the fore police and carceral violence, the mass deployment of settler state militias (whether the police or the military) on Mauna Kea and other sites of resistance in the Hawaiian Islands seems less and less surprising. It was, in fact, the same force that imprisoned Liliʻuokalani in ʻIolani Palace for a year, that bombed Kahoʻolawe and continue to bomb Pōhakuloa relentlessly, that have detained and cited Kānaka fighting for our ʻāina and our community. Such forces that enact violence against Indigenous peoples and our lands constitute the settler state through the continued projection of a futurity where the occupation of our lands and the policing of our bodies continues to be the norm. In this essay, I ask what it would mean to consider an “otherwise,” a future for Kānaka ʻŌiwi that is grounded in our resurgence and relations to ʻāina. In other words, I ask what might it mean to, following Kanaka ʻŌiwi scholar Maile Arvin, regeneratively refuse the settler futurity of the TMT and the carceral logics it demands.
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.
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.