Monday, December 30, 2019

In preparation for AAS 235: Reflections from CSMA Co-Chair

Updated with words and input from Dr. Brittany Kamai, 2020-01-03

The AAS Committee for the Status of Minorities in Astronomy is deeply committed to advocating for minoritized groups in our profession, as well as developing and educating allies within our community. As part of this mission, we feel it is imperative to acknowledge that astronomical facilities occupy Maunakea, a sacred site for Native Hawaiians that is also the most valued ground-based research location for many astronomers from around the world. It is important to recognize that the TMT construction and continued occupation of Maunakea is just one facet to the history of land use in Hawai’i, and thus should be viewed in the larger context of colonization.

We also wish to acknowledge the spectrum of viewpoints and complex relationships that Native Hawaiians have with the astronomy research community. Hawaiian peoples also have a long history of technological prowess and astronomical navigation. We strongly encourage all astronomers, particularly those who will be in Honolulu for the AAS meeting this January, to engage respectfully with Hawaiian culture by listening to the local dialogue and engaging in Hawaiian ways of thinking.

We strongly encourage AAS attendees to familiarize themselves with the Envision Maunakea report, which was distilled from a set of open listening sessions meant to engage the Maunakea community in productive dialogue.

On October 31, CSMA hosted a speaking session on the culture of Maunakea at the annual SACNAS meeting (Society for the Advancement of Chicanx/Hispanics and Native American Scientists), which also took place in Honolulu. As the largest gathering of Native American STEM researchers in the country, this meeting offered the opportunity to engage and support Native Hawaiian scientists in unprecedented ways. We list here a short summary of lessons learned from this event.
  • There is no monolith of thought from Native Hawaiians on the future of Maunakea. There are Hawaiians who believe the construction is directly inline with Hawaiian values whereas there are Hawaiians who believe that the construction will lead to desecration of a sacred place.
  • The Maunakea demonstrators are not anti-astronomy or anti-science.
  • “Pono science” is the Hawaiian way of holistically doing science including how one engages with communities, other disciplines and self. 
  • Demonstrators on Maunakea are not “protestors”. They are kia’i (protectors) of the land and environment. Not all Native Hawaiians are kia'i.
  • The kia’i will always stand to protect their Mauna against the building of TMT.
  • “Kapu Aloha,” a compassionate commitment to pono (truth) and reverent loving, is the guiding principle and code of conduct of the protectors. 
  • Learning the Hawaiian language is one of the best ways to engage with and understand Hawaiian culture and values. There are over a hundred professional astronomers engaged in Hawaiian language courses, and you can now learn Hawaiian on Duolingo. We encourage visitors to Hawai’i to check it out. 
  • Those looking to stand in solidarity need to understand that there is not one mind on this. Represent your views not what you perceive as all Native Hawaiians views.
  • When discussing this topic, understand that this is an emotionally-complex topic for everyone. Ensure that you engage in conversations with respect. If you are not in a place to engage in respectful conversation then step away. Choose words of compassion as you seek to understand where someone is coming from.

AAS 235 events related to indigenous culture and astronomy

  • ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center (Exhibit hall)
  • Workshop: Astronomy Communication and Science Engagement with Religious Publics (Saturday, Jan 4, 12:30 - 4 pm)
  • Special Session: Innovative Collaborations of Integrity with the Hawaiian Community
    (Sunday, Jan 5, 10 - 11:30 am) 
  • Plenary: He Lani Ko Luna, A Sky Above: In Losing the Sight of Land You Discover the Stars, Kala Baybayan Tanaka and Kālepa Baybayan (Polynesian Voyaging Society)
    (Sunday, Jan 5, 11:40 am - 12:30 pm) 
  • Public Event: Stargazing Party
    (Sunday, Jan 5, 7-10 pm, Ala Moana Beach Park) 
  • Special Session: The Many Facets of Hawai'i Astronomy
    (Monday, Jan 6, 2 - 3:30 pm) 
  • Plenary Lecture: Amy Kalili ('Ōiwi TV)
    (Monday, Jan 6, 3:40 - 4:30 pm) 
  • Public Talk: Physics of Pō, Larry Kimura (College of Hawaiian Language & Hawaiian Studies) and Doug Simons (Canada- France-Hawai'i Telescope)
    (Monday, Jan 6, 7 - 8:30 pm) 
  • Local Student Education Outreach Event
    (Tuesday, Jan 7, 11:30 am - 2 pm) 
  • Special Session: Astronomy and Culture - Best Practices for Systematic Transformation in an Increasingly Diverse and Interconnected Global Society
    (Tuesday, Jan 7, 2 - 3:30 pm) 
  • An Evening with the Maunakea Observatories
    (Tuesday, Jan 7, 7 - 9 pm) 

Additional Reading

Native Hawaiian voices on TMT:
Imua TMT

2019 SACNAS Guidelines on how to be a good guest in Hawai’i

Envision Maunakea Report

This collection of  resources was led by Dr. Brittany Kamai for the SACNAS 2019 conference attendees. Input was recieved from a spectrum of views of Native Hawaiians and astronomers. This is not a comprehensive list rather a starting point. We recieved permission to share this list here.

Astro2020 APC White paper: “A Hua He Inoa: Hawaiian Culture-Based Celestial Naming

Meyer, Manu (2001). “Our own liberation: Reflections on Hawaiian epistemology.” The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs. Volume 13, number 1, Spring 2001, pp. 124-148.

Meyer, M. A. (2014). “Holographic epistemology: Native common sense.” Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, 3435-3443.

Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai’i

The views and opinions expressed in this statement and links to related materials are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AAS or all individual CSMA members.