I am a #kanakascientist. I am Hawaiian and a scientist. I am a scientist — not by choice, but by nature. My ancestors were pure scientists — they observed their environment and were proficient in astronomy, physical oceanography, marine biology, aquaculture, agriculture, architecture, evolutionary biology, and so much more. I follow in their footsteps. I observe, I question, I experiment and I innovate — to better understand and explain the place that I am from, to develop deeper connections to that place, to decode the why behind practices that malama that place, to protect the resiliency of that wahi, and to help steward that wahi into the future for all the mo‘opuna that follow.
I watch with a heavy heart as my hoa aloha ‘aina are met with force and fear as they stand strong to fiercely protect the health and sustainability of our ‘aina, our identity, our practices, and our ways of knowing.
The momona of our ‘aina was perpetuated for centuries by very conscientious management practices of our kupuna built on the foundation of deep physical observations and understanding of the environment and how it affected all life.
It completely blows my mind that the wisdom of our kupuna and the aloha of our people can be so easily disregarded by our government today — packaging shady operating protocol under the guise of “in the name of science”. To ignore the repercussions and exponential downstream environmental, social, political, economic and cultural impacts is shameful and irresponsible.
The conflict on Mauna Kea is NOT about Hawaiians VS. Science. Science is not separate from our culture and our identity, but rather science is a strength of our indigenous culture. Being Native Hawaiian informs the way I practice science — how I respond, think, believe, feel, act, and learn.
Being a kanaka scientist is why I do not support the construction of the Thirty Meter not support the practice and process of how this telescope will be constructed and managed, nor do I support the mechanism of force and lack of relationships TMT has fostered with the place, people and akua.
As a kanaka scientist my practice is rooted in relationships and connection: pilina to place, pilina within and across organisms, pilina with kanaka, pilina with akua. People, place, practice and values are all intrinsically interwoven in the practice of indigenous science.
“Native science goes beyond objective measurement honoring the primacy of direct experience, interconnectedness, relationship, holism, quality and values, and they are specific to tribe, context and cultural tradition.” — (Greg Cajete, a Tewa author and Native American studies professor).
I chose a career in scientific research because Hawaii’s future requires skilled local and indigenous individuals that can bring contemporary science and technology to bear on problems such as coastal resource management, fresh water management, and alternative energy that reflect the values of our lahui.
I approach my research career with feet firmly planted in the ‘aina, eyes looking to the past, a spirit guided by my kupuna, a heart full of aloha, hands willing to hana and a mind ‘imi i ke kumu. I weave stories with science to explain the world around me from micro to macro scales — advancing our understanding of how we fit into and influence our place.
It is my kuleana to share these stories with my community and the world. E lawe i ke a‘o a malama a e ‘oi mau ka na‘au‘ao — apply what you know for good.
The crowd of faces standing united on the mauna, standing ku are not faces of strangers. They are the faces of my people. They are the faces of my friends, my family, my students and my kumu. They are the faces of the people who have shaped my thinking as a kanaka and as a scientist.
They are the faces of the people who have raised me, who have supported me, who have taught me, who have blown my mind, who have cared for me, who have lifted me. They are the faces of individuals who have made me the woman I am today.
As I look at all their faces I am overwhelmed with such pride to be Kanaka ‘Oiwi. I am humbled to know such fierce, amazing and inspiring kanaka, scholars and leaders of our future, who are deeply committed to creating a thriving lahui, giving back to support the restoration and long-term sustainability of our ‘aina and our culture, and actively demonstrating how to auamo the deep kuleana left to us by our kupuna.
To all of you who stand on the mauna amongst our kupuna — I aloha you, I mahalo you, I send my spirit to you to stand by your side to hold your hand, to give you strength, to hold you up and to kako‘o you. #Kukiaimauna #aoletmt #tmtshutdown #wearemaunakea #alohaaina
Kiana Frank, Ph.D., is a Hawaiian scientist and ‘aina microbiologist who lives on Oahu.
Source: The Garden Island