“Absolutely never,” says OHA’s Maui Trustee Hulu Lindsey on TMT
Interview by Susan Halas, August 11, 2019
My position on building the TMT telescope on Maunakea is “absolutely never,” said Carmen Hulu Lindsey, 75, an elected board member to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) representing Maui. Asked if there was any wiggle room in that stance she was emphatic, “it’s non-negotiable.” She termed the mountain the ‘piko’ (navel) of the entire Hawaiian culture, adding, “that to most Hawaiians it is very sacred. On this there is no room for compromise. Even if it is not built on the island of Hawaii there are many problems with the 13 existing prior telescopes on Maunakea that have not been addressed. I think it’s time for TMT to move to another location and I expect to hold firm on that.”
Lindsey was one of many Hawaiian elders (kupuna) who visited the mountain recently and she was also one of the more than thirty who were arrested for their participation in efforts to protect the site from what they perceived as “desecration.” She said that the views she expressed, “my own opinion as an individual” and do not represent the position of OHA.
She went to the mountain on her own initiative. Once there she found herself very moved “sitting on mauna and talking to Aunty Pua Kanahele. I was overwhelmed by the unification I saw and felt. This is definitely not business as usual. The spiritual and the intangibles are important enough that they have to come first. An awakening is happening, a positive awakening, where we will go from here I don’t know, but I do know we have to take care of this issue first. ‘E’o’ – stand up for what you believe in.”
Lindsey also disagrees that the TMT went through the permitting process in a lawful manner: she stated that, “important facts put by Brian Kawika Cruz in the 2017 Cultural Impact Assessment (CIA) were left out, if they were included we would not be facing this subject today.”
She was also critical of Hawaii Governor David Ige. Referring to the other 13 existing telescopes on the summit, she noted that, “Ige has had plenty of notice to start decommissioning at least five of them, and has yet to start work on any.”
“Nothing!” she said, “Nothing at all.” If he really wanted TMT built, why didn’t he start on the decommissioning?”
Lindsey made it clear that she does not feel the governor’s sympathies lie with the Hawaiian people. “He’s already showed where he stands,” she said, noting in her opinion both the “money and the management come up short.” She reiterated what many before her have said that the $1 a year in lease rent from the DLNR to UH is far from a fair or equitable payment for use of the ceded lands which are supposed to be held in trust for the benefit of native Hawaiians.
“Our people will stand strong,” she said, indicating she sees little possibility of either a negotiated settlement or a change of heart.
Referring to the Unity Rally on Maui on August 10 which drew an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 participants, the largest political crowd seen on Maui in this century, she said: “Our people came out with one thing in mind, unifying and perpetuating our beliefs, and it’s not just our people. There are a lot of other people who feel the same way, who have the same values as we have. I don’t want to make a separation: they love like we love. It’s not just us. We embrace their support.”
“Maui is in the forefront,” she said referring to the TMT opposition. She attributed the solidarity, at least in part, to the resurgence in interest in things Hawaiian “from preschool through college. Teaching of the Hawaiian language has a perpetuating and multiplying effect.”
As to whether the political power that is implicit with the huge Maui turn out for the TMT issue can be transferred to other areas of Hawaiian concern, she thought “that discussion is premature. I’m not sure it transfers but we’ll have to see. This issue is ‘political’,” she acknowledged, “but it’s not ‘political’ in the traditional sense. Let’s take this one first.”
Though many have been critical of OHA as a body, saying it has not done enough to further the interests of the Hawaiian people it was set up to serve, Lindsey responded, “I was warned it was a tough position. Each member has their own ideas on how to serve our people, I respect my fellow board members, even if I don’t agree.”
OHA is a nine member board, each member is elected to a four year term. The job has no term limits. Lindsey was originally appointed to the seat by former Gov. Abercrombie and has subsequently been re-elected, “I’m going on my 8th year,” she said. A Pukalani resident, she travels to Oahu on a weekly basis to attend OHA meetings. The annual compensation for the position is $55,000 per year.
She said the official OHA mission is to improve the living conditions of Hawaiian people, and observed that substantial funds flow through the office. “My first priority is to be able to provide affordable homes for all our families.” She also mentioned a $150,000 grant targeted to improving the health of Hawaiians in the Hana district of East Maui.
Lindsey was not the only member of the OHA board to visit the mountain in the past month. Others who made the journey were Chair Colette Machado of Molokai and Dan Ahuna of Kauai, both of whom made personal visits the encampment.
The other members of the nine member board are Brendon Lee (At Large), Leina‘ala Ahu Isa (At Large), Robert K. Lindsey Jr. (Hawaii Island), John D. Waihee IV (At Large), Kalei Akaka (Ohau), Keli’i Akina (At Large).
“I went to the mountain knowingly,” she said, “I wanted to support the protectors.” She indicated that the huge turn-out for the recent Maui rally confirmed that there are thousands here who share this view.
Related: Near Close of TMT Contested Case, Witness Says EIS Process Was Flawed