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Sacred Sites: Balancing Scientific Progress and Native Hawaiian Sovereignty


October 27, 2020
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm


Webinar Only


This event is free and open to the public but you must register. Note: there is no in-person availability for this event.

  • Webinar information will be emailed one business day prior to the event. If you are unsure if you can access the webinar via the GoToMeeting platform, please go HERE to view system requirements prior to registering.
  • All times noted are EASTERN Time. The webinar will begin at 3:30PM Eastern, 2:30 PM Central, 1:30 PM Mountain, and 12:30 PM Pacific.
  • There is no CLE for this course. Questions?: contact events@eli.org

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An ELI Public Webinar

The Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) project proposes building an observatory on Mauna Kai, a dormant volcano on Hawai’i's Big Island that is also one of the most sacred sites to Native Hawaiians. Scientists prefer Mauna Kai as it is one of the only locations in the Western hemisphere suitable for such a telescope, which will enable scientists to observe astronomical objects not viewable from most other locations. The site was formally selected in 2009 and since then a series of legal challenges have come up, including challenges that went all the way to the Hawaiian Supreme Court. Additionally, protests have delayed construction of the TMT for over a decade.

Native Hawaiians have a long history of displacement and injustice propelled by the United States government and large corporations. This project is perceived as yet another instance of development without their explicit consent, and is seen by many as a desecration of Native Hawaiian culture. In late 2019, protests blocked construction materials from accessing the construction site for the TMT. While project developers plan to move forward with the Mauna Kai site, they have also applied for permits in alternative locations.

The TMT debate represents the ongoing issues of former Hawaiian sovereignty and self-determination, Indigenous rights, environmental justice, stewardship, and decision-making. Complicating legal factors include the Hawai’i State Constitution with its listed rights afforded to Native Hawaiians, and the lack of federal tribal recognition for Native Hawaiians, which limits the benefits and legal protections afforded to them. Join ELI and expert panelists as they explore the complicated history behind TMT longstanding challenges to preserving the culture of Native Hawaiians, the natural environment of the islands, sovereignty and tribal status issues, environmental justice, and more.

Cynthia R. Harris
, Director, Tribal Programs; Deputy Director, Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programming; and Staff Attorney, Environmental Law Institute, Moderator
Malia Akutagawa, Associate Professor of Law and Hawaiian Studies, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai’i (invited)
James Douglas Ing, Partner, Watanabe Ing LLC (invited)
Kapua Sproat, Counsel, Earthjustice (invited)

Any materials will be posted as they are received...

ELI members will have subsequent access to any materials/a recording of this session (usually posted w/in 48 hours). If you are not an ELI member but would like to have access to archived sessions like this one, go HERE to see the many benefits of membership and how to join.