Hearing Update 11/16
With the completion of the cross-examination of two recent expert witnesses, a new witness took the stand today to explain his personal cultural practices on Maunakea and support for the Thirty Meter Telescope.
Native Hawaiian Wallace “Wally” Ishibashi Jr. is a Senior Cultural Advisor for the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM) charged with managing approximately 12,000 acres of state-owned land on the mountain. During his testimony supporting the Thirty Meter Telescope, the Hawaii Island resident gave his reasons for determining that the astronomy facilities on Maunakea benefit the cultural practitioners from a logistical sense.
Before the construction of the Maunakea access road, many had to reach the mountain summit by walking or by horseback, Ishibashi said. “The construction of telescopes on Maunakea has not diminished my ability to practice my culture, to worship, or to pay respects to our ancestral spirit,” Ishibashi said. In fact, the telescopes have made it easier to continue our cultural practices at the summit area of Maunakea,” because of the access road to the summit, he explained.
“The telescopes on Maunakea represent mankind’s most advanced search for knowledge and understanding, as learning has been and will continue to be an important part of our cultural practices,” said Ishibashi, who also sits on the state Hawaiian Homes Commission. “In a way, the TMT is like a search for the aumakua or ancestral origins of the universe. How is this any different from us as native Hawaiians searching for own roots in things both natural and spiritual?”
“I mean no disrespect for anyone’s religious beliefs or cultural practices, but everyone has their own way of worshiping and everyone is free to have and practice their own religious beliefs so long as they don’t hurt anyone,” Ishibashi said. “Also, I don’t agree that we should oppose things like the TMT on Maunakea just because it’s a modern thing, as Hawaiians have always been a creative and adaptive people.”
“I am proud to support yet another tool that will only add to our search for knowledge, and I am proud that we, as Hawaiians, will have the opportunity to have this project built at the best place in the world — right here on Maunakea,” Ishibashi concluded his testimony today.
Ishibashi was cross-examined by several parties following his opening testimony. He is expected to re-take the stand when the hearings resume on Dec. 1. There will be a recess next week because of the busy Thanksgiving travel period.