It isn’t just the largest telescope in the world on top of the Earth’s tallest mountain — that false dichotomy between the scientific versus the sacred.

NOTE: pick the correct link

“It’s the remnants of our culture,” a young Native Hawaiian was quoted in the news yesterday. Sobs diluted her rage.

It isn’t just greedy corporate profiteers — and their enabling state governor — feeding the state university’s coffers and pretending it’s for a “higher purpose” than the essential, sustaining sacred. “It’s the remnants of our culture.”

“The mountain is their victory lap,” said elder and cultural practitioner, ‘Iokepa Hanalei ‘Imaikalani. This telescope is a brazen icon to their domination — Mauna Kea, the largest mountain in the world when measured from the sea floor.

“It’s exactly what they did to the Native Americans when they cut those huge heads into the granite of their treasured, sacred mountain in the Black Hills — Paha Sapa. What they call Mt. Rushmore. If that’s not a victory lap…”

After these crowning demonstrations of raw power — of disrespect, disregard, theft and pointless bravado — what remains?

I suspect this may be a singular redeemable moment in time when Americans-at-large might empathize with and understand the utter impotence of these indigenous peoples.

TMT Mauna Kea Access Road gate.
The Mauna Kea Access Road is currently closed to most. The standoff over the construction of the TMT is an opportunity to understand what it really means to indigenous peoples. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Because it isn’t just the American president’s words — and the thousands of our fellow-citizens chanting with deranged grins, “Send her back!”

And it isn’t just the spineless U.S. representatives and senators fearing for their own exalted position while the edifice their job is built upon crumbles.

It’s reliving this horror with a Holocaust-referencing “Never Again” button tucked safely inside my dresser drawer. It’s a memory of inaction in the face of the final “victory lap…”

It’s the rest of us — feeding babies, paying rent, buying groceries, marching off to our 9 to 5, watching the news – and feeling utterly powerless. The rest of us fearing that democracy — and any voice we once imagined that we had has been utterly drained of meaning and purpose.

“After the tidal wave of impotence, what remains?”

Slogans, posters, marches, and moving bodies into the path of bulldozers on a mountain or into the path of a president who feeds bigots, no longer effects change. And worse, we keep moving the end-zone of the final “victory lap” — excusing, accepting, until we no longer recognize, “The remnants of our culture.”

After the tidal wave of impotence, what remains? Only this. The gut-deep memory of what we value, collectively and individually. And the raw (sometimes hopeless) courage in the face of a seemingly intractable avalanche of oppression. Nothing less will do.

And so, my fellow Americans — join with compassion and common-cause my husband’s Native Hawaiians, who, like you, can rather easily accept volcanos and hurricanes as the face of nature’s dominance. But who feel lost in a world where human beings and human life is expendable in the name of victory.

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About the Author

  • Inette Miller
    Inette Miller was a national and international journalist for 16 years — a war correspondent for Time magazine in Vietnam and Cambodia. She is the author of "Grandmothers Whisper," which was awarded the Visionary Award for memoir. She is currently writing her Vietnam memoir, "Girls Don’t!" The website that she runs with her husband is