The State’s Kuleana: Deconstructing the Permitting Process for the Thirty-Meter Telescope and Finding Restoration Through Systemic Validation of Native Hawaiian Rights


To many Native Hawaiians, Maunakea is a sacred place, central to their creation. To the astronomy community, it represents modern astronomy’s greatest opportunity for scientific advancement. The steady construction of observatories on Maunakea since the 1960s, and the resultant destruction of the mountain’s natural and spiritual landscape unfortunately mirrors the historic pattern of subjugation of Native Hawaiians throughout Hawai'i to satisfy the interests of outsiders. The Thirty Meter Telescope was approved to be the fourteenth and largest observatory on Maunakea. But in July 2015, after years of protesting, Maunakea protectors stepped in and blocked construction from beginning.

This Comment explores the controversy over the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea, Hawai'i, and discusses the ways that the legal system was weaponized to ignore and deny Indigenous Hawaiian rights throughout the telescope’s permitting process. Given this history, it then outlines a path for the state of Hawai'i to take toward restorative justice on Maunakea for both Native Hawaiians and the larger Hawai'i community

About the Author

J.D., Critical Race Studies, Public Interest Law and Policy, UCLA School of Law, Class of 2021; B.A., Tufts University.