Standing Above the Clouds

Standing Above the Clouds follows Native Hawaiian mother-daughter activists as they stand to protect their sacred mountain Mauna Kea from the building of the world’s largest telescope.

AIRED: May 10, 2021 | 0:14:46

O hnau ka mauna a kea Born of Kea was the mountain

Opuu ae ka mauna a Kea The mountain of Kea budded forth

Mauna Kea is the highest mountain in the world from the sea floor.

So the summit stands above the clouds.

Its base is anchored deep in the ocean.

So when we stand there, we know

that we are touching all things on the earth and we know that that is sacred.

So if you have a place like that,

that is your Mauna Kea,

and then I say what would you do

for that place if it were threatened?




Ku Kia'i Mauna

I am one of many of Mauna Kea Ohana.

That means family to Mauna Kea.

And I'm also a petitioner

in both contested case hearings that were held on this Island

for the protection and the love of the Mauna

to stop the development of a 30 meter telescope

an 18 story telescope on the Northern plateau of our sacred mountain.

The Mauna is a portal and it's like the closest we can get to

our, our Akua and our creator.

When we dance Hula, we dance about the Mauna

and our prayers and our chants.

I mean it just goes right up to them through that portal.

Mauna Kea is our watershed,

literally holds the water for this Island,

protects us from every single storm that comes our way.

All of our aquifers on this side of the Island is fed by this mountain.

The Mauna calls in the rain and the snow

and that pure water form trickles down into all of our waterways.

How could we not stand for this

I remember feeling that sadness

when I first had gone up there

I wasn't even aware that there was that many telescopes.

And then when you're finally up there and you see for yourself

and you can count them and it's more than two hands

it's, you know, it's, it's painful.

There's already 13 up on the summit,

but this time it was going to be the one too many.

The one too big.

The TMT will be a much larger and more extensive facility

than any observatory that's come before it.

The telescope calls for a structure that's 18 stories high,

twice the size of any other building allowed on the Island.

All of that on top of a structure built to support the dome

that is larger than a football field.

We went up

and you know, this is our first stand,

you know, and especially with this generation, this is our first time.

And so we had to really call upon the chance that they have taught us.

"This is not your place. This is our people, our Genesis, moku."

"This is where we come from."

"I know you guys would protect your land with everything that you have."

"So respect us. "

That was my life from then.

I mean, October 7th happened and

even though I kind of understood what it was they were standing for,

and I knew that it was not okay once my feet touched the Mauna,

on that day everything changed.

They thought they were building a telescope instead, they awoke a nation.

These are some pictures that I used in my testimony.

This was Tali.

She was nine,

2013 and she wrote, um, on the bottom. And I read them in my testimony.

I love Mauna Kea. Like I love my mama.

My position in the case is the emotional trauma

to our people that are suffering and that are going through this emotional stress.

After the first arrest, there was like weeks,

I would say months that I didn't want to leave the house.

I didn't want to be around people.

I was just kind of like on edge.

And then finally I started coming around again and then it happened again.

58 arrests on Mauna Kea in 2015.

Seven of those arrests were native Hawaiian women in a prayer circle,

mother and daughter, side-by-side, arrested for being in ceremony.

I am a native Hawaiian, a mother, a breakfast waitress.

I have no legal background and no experience in the legal system.

And I am standing here amongst some of the highest paid lawyers in all of Hawaii.

Why am I here?

Just standing with your family members,

your daughters, your mothers.

There's always an element of fear.

You know them at home.

You know what makes them cry, what makes them angry.

You know, how fragile they are as well as how strong they are.

And then you're on the front line with that.

As you are heading up a mountain with your children without being even voiced,

you are thinking, how am I going to stand.

At the same time, how am I going to protect my very continuance of myself.

which for us are our daughters, who we cherish beyond all things

and trust that we're going to be okay at the end of the day.

What we were doing. It's something that will be taught in,

you know, their history books one day

and for our children to be a part of it, it's, it's something that, that we should all be proud of.

This work is not easy.

It is hard and it is heart wrenching sometimes.

and sometimes I don't want to do it anymore because of the amount of emotion

and just some of the things that we see in this time.

It is so overwhelming.

They cannot be doing that to our grandparents

and my brothers and sisters.

You know we, we got to start training training our wahine warriors from the womb.

What's in it?

Which one?

I don't know...raisins or something? Alright.

I don't see her a lot during the day cause she's doing a thousand things

cause she's Pua Case.

But yeah it's like our little sanctuary in here.

a few like rest moments where we can just hide

from all the things going on outside here.

When you're having to make plans with your own

your own children on what happens if the police come

What are we going to do?

I found the first time I ever said to Kapulei

if we're separated, just get in the van and lock the door.

and, and just hide down and don't ever come out.

Or if your sister or I are arrested, just keep filming.

That's extremely difficult to even discuss.

Much less imagine having to do.

1600 days from the collective stance.

Our first stance from 2014 on.

Today, we made 1600 days holding the mauna in our hearts and in our hands.

We will be here.

Whether you come today, whether you come tomorrow, whether you come next week

or next year, whenever it is.

As long as our mauna is threatened with desecration

through the building of the 30 meter telescope, we will be here.

When I see my girls upholding their own standing in the line,

working with others, and calming them down and following in my footsteps

I'm extremely proud of them and I think would I leave them somewhere else

and face this by myself? I could never do that.

I mean, just for myself, I wouldn't be doing the things that I do today

had it not been for the Mauna.

The guardians of that mountain are women.

You know, when I look at the women in my life, I am in awe

by just how incredible they are when we're standing together.

There is the 40, the 400, the forty thousand, four hundred thousand women behind and around us.

Women of all colors, of all ages on this mountain that we love so deeply.