Building a cultural center above the clouds


I support the good work the Office of Mauna Kea Management has done over the years. However, whichever entity takes over, the University of Hawaii or a new managing authority, it’s time to think beyond Hale Pohaku’s footprint.

More people are visiting Mauna Kea since the Saddle Road upgrade, but UH doesn’t control enough land to separate the visitor issues from the more difficult mission of the Maunakea Shared Services.

The people who work at Maunakea Shared Services do a good job with the resources available to them. But they are expected to fulfill their mission on an insufficient 20-acre land which also has to accommodate increasing numbers of visitors. It’s a systemic problem that can only be solved when people recognize it.

We need land where we can build a “cultural center above the clouds”. This would separate the cultural needs of the mission from the support services and also help solve a huge security problem.

Not, however, if we try to squeeze a cultural center onto too small a property. This is not the way to solve a problem for the next 50 years or more.

The State Department of Lands and Natural Resources controls an area adjacent to and west of Hale Pohaku that we have identified as the site of a major cultural center above the clouds.

The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, part of the University of Hawaii-Hilo.
The Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hawaii, part of the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The author proposes a separate cultural center. Screenshot/2022

It would be a pipeline for the University of Hawaii Hilo Hawaiian Language School, where its graduates can work, conduct research, create, and sell their crafts and other products to visitors. We would no longer need to purchase non-Hawaiian items out of state to resell.

The tourist information station already generates $1 million in sales every year without trying. Imagine if we tried.

We could orient the cultural center so that it faces west towards the beautiful sunsets. People have to stop at the 9,000 foot level anyway to acclimatize to the altitude.

“An important facility”

The Imiloa Astronomy Center already knows how to create a cultural centre, so we wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. This major new facility would be Imiloa Mauka and the one in Hilo, Imiloa Makai.

We need a place of pride where our culture work continues and will not be forgotten. My grandmother was purely Hawaiian, but two generations later I’m one-fourth Hawaiian and no one would flag me as likely to be Hawaiian. What will happen to the 1/64th Hawaiians?

As more and more of our young people speak Hawaiian, the pressure will mount. Young people need something to turn to, a place to be proud of, otherwise there will be constant conflict.

Hawaiians are known for their aloha and sustainability.

The problem stems from an inadequate accommodation of our Hawaiian culture. Observatories are like small western temples. Where is the Hawaiian temple?

Will Hawaiians have a place in the discussion when we soon fly into space? Not if we don’t have our own site above the clouds, like observatories do.

Hawaiians are known for their aloha and sustainability, and that’s the moral authority that a cultural center above the clouds would represent. These are the values ​​that our world needs most and that we would share and teach there.

Show respect for our Hawaiian culture by building a Hawaiian-run cultural center above the clouds and everything else will fall into place.

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