Decolonize Feminism: Why feminists should care about Mauna Kea

Are you watching Hawai‘i?

Thousands of Native Hawaiians (Kānaka ʻŌiwi) have answered the call from Hawai‘i Island to protect their ancestor and Hawai‘i’s most sacred mountain, Mauna Kea. Linking arms, our sisters are on the frontlines.

Image of Hawaiian women locking arms to protect their elders from arrest. Photo from twitter user aulii43.
Image of Hawaiian women locking arms to protect their elders from arrest. Photo from twitter user aulii43

We are AF3IRM Hawai‘i, a transnational feminist organization. We unite Native Hawaiian and immigrant women who dare to dream of a better world where we are never forced or need to ‘choose’ to commodify our most prized things of intimate and cultural value.

Many of us have spent our entire lives in Hawai‘i being told that we are not worth anything. We live in a state of permanent emergency in order to meet our basic needs. We suffer even physical violence because, as women, we are categorically devalued. We mourn because we have fallen so far from the protected, sacred, and independent status that our foremothers once enjoyed. We resolve to fight back because a community of care for land and people cannot wait for tomorrow. We are militant because we matter.

These common experiences and dreams move us to demand that the planned Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in Hawai‘i be built on another mountain.

Some of our members have already been pushed out of their homelands permanently so that those lands could serve foreign military and corporate interests that benefit a thin layer of local powerbrokers. The bitter pain of this forced separation is beyond words. We will not bear witness to a similar process in Hawai‘i carried out against our Native sisters and brothers. We cannot accept the treatment of Native Hawaiians by the state. Kānaka ʻŌiwi should never be criminalized or vilified for protecting their land.

Genocide is not just the gas chamber — it is also all the steps and actions that devalue a group of people to the point of disappearance. TMT is cultural genocide perpetrated in the name of science.

We at AF3IRM acknowledge that Mauna Kea is sacred to Kānaka ʻŌiwi. It is their ancestor. The peak of the mountain is considered the most sacred. It is also a burial site. Mauna Kea is integral to the sovereignty and survival of Kānaka ʻŌiwi who have been voicing their dissent against the construction of the TMT on Mauna Kea for many years.

We at AF3IRM also recognize that the underlying Euro-American male ideas about land and women behind the TMT have become dominant in society, and are now interlacing with all of our cultures. This has led to pervasive sexual and gendered violence against women in Hawai‘i, particularly Native women. Colonizers brought concepts here that became what we now know as rape culture. Women were valuable for sex. Land was valuable for sale. We reject this bankrupt mentality. This is not need, this is greed.

The struggle for the protection of Mauna Kea is truly a feminist issue because it is about the right to live and raise our families free from violence. We recognize that in order to do that, there needs to be mutuality and respect between us and the land. Kānaka understand that ʻāina (land) is integral to life. ʻĀina means “that which feeds.” Inherent in that is the recognition that land sustains life and in turn we have a responsibility to protect the land in order to protect life.

The loss of land placed women in the hands of men, at the mercy of men. This cycle remains unbroken. The desire to extract profit and pleasure from our bodies and land resulted in colonization. Prostitution became systemic. New laws, policies, religions, and customs forced women into the confines of the home and jobs that reflected our new, limited “nature.” This is why we say colonization is not only about conquest and theft of land, it is also about the control of womenʻs bodies.

Thus, AF3IRM condemns the deployment of militarized settler state violence against nonviolent protectors comprised mainly of Kānaka elders and women. This violence should shock and awe the public. We challenge the threatened and actual violence committed against our bodies and land that is not being acknowledged. Our own AF3IRM sisters are on the frontlines using their bodies and minds and risking arrest to protect Mauna Kea. We must recognize the centrality of women in the organizing and resistance against the violence of racism and misogyny.

As our Coordinator Yvonne Mahelona said, “This moment in history is powerful beyond imagination for our keiki (children), our ‘āina (land, environment), and our lāhui (people, nation), because while we resist desecration of Mauna a Wākea we are not only imagining but creating a new future at Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu. Ka wā mamua, ka wā mahope. (The future is found in the past.) We are living here and now beyond the confines of capitalism and colonialism, where people of all genders, all ages, all abilities are loved, included and able to lead.”

We declare the days of erasure and dispossession perpetrated against Kānaka Maoli by US settler colonialism are over. They began with the usurpation of power by white foreigners that culminated with the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. These colonial acts continue through the normalization of U.S. control and authority over Hawaiʻi. It continues through settler hegemony that perpetuates the existing colonial system. It continues through the collusion between the settler state with multinational corporations. The development of Mauna Kea therefore is rooted in the elimination of the Native in order to make way for corporate interests. Let our generation bring the dawn not twilight on Mauna Kea.

Kū Kia‘i Mauna!

Makibaka kababaihan! Makibaka Mauna Kea

[Originally published on Medium]