Mauna Kea music festival raises funds for Hawaiian protesters

Two women and two men sing on a couch into a microphone
Students took the stage at the Motley Coffeehouse on Nov. 15 to sing and raise money for the protests at Mauna Kea in Hawaii. (Anna Horne • The Student Life)

Soft Hawaiian music filled Scripps College’s Motley Coffeehouse last Friday as passionate indigenous peer mentors performed some of their favorite songs to fundraise for the Mauna Kea movement.

Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in Hawaii and a cherished spot native Hawaiians are fighting for. Since July, protesters have settled atop Mauna Kea to block telescope construction crews. 

“People are trying to build a telescope on Mauna Kea, which is a sacred site for native Hawaiian people,” Indigenous Peer Mentor Program head mentor and event organizer Carolann Duro SC ’20 said. The Asian American Resource Center co-hosted the event with IPMP.

To show their solidarity with the protest, four IPMP members, three of whom are native Hawaiians — Kahale Naehu-Ramos PO ’21, Hope Matsumoto PZ ’21 and Dominique Aiu Taber HM ’21 — gave performances of Hawaiian songs.

Students raised more than $300 for the cause by selling handmade Spam musubi and stickers designed and produced by IPMP members, according to the event’s Facebook page. Three stickers were available for purchase: one of the mountain Mauna Kea, one to draw attention to missing or murdered indigenous women and one of salmon to represent the Alaskan Natives. 

Many of the student organizers felt personally connected to the cause, having been to Mauna Kea before and also understanding its significance to the Hawaiian people.

“I am Kanaka Maoli [Native Hawaiian] from Molokai, Hawaii. This Mauna stuff started happening this summer,” Naehu-Ramos said. “I got the chance to go there late summer with my family. I guess as a Kanaka away from home, this is a way to stand with my Lahui nation until I can come back.”

Duro elaborated on how native representation incentivized them to put on the festival. 

“A huge population of our student group is made up of native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, so a lot of them from back home have been raising awareness about Mauna Kea,” Duro said. 

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Beyond funding, Duro spoke to the essence of the protesting spirit on the Mauna that these student performers and IPMP members are strengthening.

“Native Hawaiians should be able to say what happens on their land,” Duro said. “[But] they don’t have sovereignty or recognition.”

For Taber, a Kanaka Maoli from the island of Kauai, the festival enabled him to indirectly address the injustice happening on the Mauna. 

“Any time I do get to support a cause I believe in, I will give it my all,” he said, acknowledging that activism has not always been a continual part of his life until now. “This event took precedence for me over my school work, because I believe it is a worthwhile cause to [raise awareness of and] to fundraise for those on the Mauna.”

Taber considered the people on Mauna Kea, withstanding harsh weather conditions and protesting for their history, culture and spirituality despite their physical limits. 

“There are a lot of folks who, in an ideal world, should not be up there [on Mauna Kea, protesting],” he said. “But they are fighting the good fight … This is my way of giving back and participating and being mindful of the things that are happening.”

Matsumoto, a performer and IPMP head mentor, described how the event was healing for her and allowed for cultural expression and bonding.

“[This event is] medicine, for me personally, [a space] to be able to just spend time with my friends and be able to make music and enjoy each other’s company,” she said.

Smiling, Matsumoto remarked how IPMP, indeed, accomplished their goal of creating a meaningful space.

“That is what we did tonight. I hope the audience was able to feel [the energy],” she said. “It was really a special night for us to be able to share a little bit of our culture.”

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