Stone Altar Destroyed By Unsuspecting Worker At Hawaii’s Sacred Mauna Kea Mountain

HONOLULU (AP) — People protesting the construction of a giant telescope on a Hawaiian mountain they hold sacred are decrying the destruction of a stone altar they built near the construction site.

The altar known as an ahu (AH’-hoo) was built June 24, the day hundreds of protesters prevented construction crews from reaching the telescope site on Mauna Kea (mow-NAH’ kay-AH’).

“About a hundred people or so contributed to this ahu I would guess,” Lakea Trask, one of the protester leaders, said Tuesday in describing how stones were passed person-to-person to erect the 4-foot-high structure at an elevation of 11,000 feet.

“Basically, it’s a religious altar or shrine. It’s not just a stack of rocks. It’s the focus of the energies of our pule — our prayers — our spiritual connection to the land,” Trask said. “It’s like a hate crime to us.”

The group of people who have been camping regularly on the mountain to prevent crews from returning hadn’t checked on the ahu for a while, Trask said. Every second Sunday or so, some of them visit the altar to give offerings, usually water or bundles of leaves from the Hawaiian ti plant, he said.

On Sunday, “when they went up there to check on it, there was no ahu,” Trask said. “And in its place there was a bulldozer.”

A Mauna Kea Support Services employee removed the altar sometime before Aug. 25 to reach a pile of materials needed to grade the access road, said Dan Meisenzahl, a spokesman for the University of Hawaii, which is responsible for the mountain’s stewardship.

“Now, unfortunately, the nearest material pile was behind this particular ahu,” he said.

“If this particular employee had checked with his supervisor, this wouldn’t have happened,” Meisenzahl said of the altar’s removal. “This honestly is not how we —> Read More