A wonderful family member sent me an article on decolonizing science and after the author’s introduction was a huge reading list, spanning from books, to articles, to dissertations. A few in particular stuck out to me as I was compiling my resources for my Native Hawaiian #OwnVoices blogging event: a dissertation on the politics of astronomy in Hawaii by Joseph Salazar, two articles on #ProtectMaunaKea by Keolu Fox and Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada, and a selection of books. As I started diving into these articles and texts, I soon learned about the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), proposed to be built on Mauna Kea. Now you may be imagining that a telescope is relatively a small thing; however, the TMT would cost 1.4 million dollars, would be 18 stories, and have mirrors the size of a basketball court. Mauna Kea is considered to be one of the most sacred mountains in Hawaii, the center, the piko of the islands. This argument should be enough to stop the construction of the TMT; however, putting spirituality aside, there is a deeper issue of colonialism still present that allows the government and scientific foundations to take land and destroy resources in the name of research, science, and progress.
There is a rhetoric and narrative in United States culture about Indigenous Peoples and science that I was socialized to from an early age: they are in opposition or progress and the two cannot coexist. Indigenous cultures inherently clashes with science. They are seen as savages, undeveloped, and primitive. These ideas were literally everywhere when I was growing up – from Disney’s Pocahontas to elementary school US history to tourist perceptions of Hawaii. The article by Kuwada and Fox goes very much into depth on this issue, tackling the pervasive idea of anti-science. This is a socially constructed view that enables the government and scientific bodies to use science to take what they want in the name of science without crediting or caring about Indigenous Peoples. Western science did not discover everything in the modern world. We are often taught this in school. What colonization helped the West do was take knowledge and concepts from other countries and peoples and use them for themselves. When talking specifically about astronomy, Native Hawaiians have a vast knowledge about the stars and science of astronomy. In the Fox article, he points out that a Native Hawaiian helped Cook navigate the Pacific Ocean using the stars but never received recognition.
The #ProtectMaunaKea movement reminds me of the ongoing #NoDAPL movement by Standing Rock in solidarity with other Tribes and First Nations. Native Hawaiians traveled to North Dakota to support and show allyship earlier this year. While the reasoning by the government is different in both of these cases and the pipeline poses a serious threat to the health and safety of Indigenous Peoples, the strategy used to justify building both the pipeline and the TMT is relatively the same – using colonialism as a tool to other Indigenous Peoples as a group who collectively is against modernization, science, and progress. Both struggles are ongoing. The issues with Mauna Kea started back in the ’70s and have persisted to the present day. Many observatories have already been built on the mountain. The TMT was first started development in 2000 and Mauna Kea was selected as the building site in 2009. Lawsuits and protests have prevented the construction of the TMT as of today and alternate sites are being discussed. When talking about the construction of the TMT, we cannot forget the history and relationship of the US and Hawaii.
The main question for me is: what exactly is decolonizing science? I know this is a complex issues with no simple answers and sometimes it is hard for us to think in tangible terms for direct action. Decolonizing science starts to deconstruct the harmful systems of oppression that were built into the field. Decolonizing science changes how we talk and teach science and scientific discoveries. Decolonizing science gives historically marginalized people due credit for their contributions to science. It first starts with education, listening, and reading. Committing to learning about how Indigenous Peoples contribute to science. Committing to listening to the truths of Indigenous peoples and acknowledging their knowledge as valid and valuable. Committing to reading texts and books that challenge the western narrative of science and sharing these resources with other people. This is crucial because we need to realize how science is used to further the power of the west and how it is used to delegitimize Indigenous Peoples. I have included some resources below to help start the conversation. The first link it the original reading list I was sent. Below are articles, books, and a dissertation, all focused on Hawaii and/or the TMT from the original list. I know academic reading is not always our first choice, but I find it very valuable in the deconstruction of Western (White, male, cishet, able bodied, Christian) Supremacy.