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.
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.
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.
Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics invites submissions for a new blog series on “Native Liberation and Abolition.” We invite contributions from Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, writers, activists, organizers, and artists who can offer insight on the historical and contemporary forms of Native liberation …