Ka’iu Kimura at Imiloa

Imiloa, the astronomy center of Hawaii, was a remarkable place filled with Hawaiian history and the science of astronomy. As I walked into the center, I noticed a large circular mosaic on the floor of the entryway. Professor Pugh then began to tell us about the mosaic and how it’s a symbol that stands for the bringing of the science community and the native community together. This statement struck my interest and made me wonder what type of museum I was entering. As I pushed onward through the exhibit, I came to a theater room where our class watched a short video of the kumolipo, which is the coming of life. I am a science major; therefore, I am aware of how life came and evolved on planet Earth. I thought this presentation was interesting how it was told from a Hawaiians perspective. We then continued to the astronomy section, which was an interactive area. Then I ventured to the voyage section, which displayed how the Hawaiians worked as a community to carry out these voyages. I immediately tried to think of the connection between astronomy and voyages and I thought of how the Hawaiian natives would use the stars to navigate their way through the pacific waters.

As a class, we then gathered in a room to hear the words of Ka’iu Kimura. She talked about her work of revitalizing the Hawaiian language through preschools. The goal of this work is to return the native language to the mouths of the babies. The reason for this work; as she mentioned, is because language structures identity. As I have studied, the identity of Hawaiians was lost when the Hawaiian language was banned from schools. Many Hawaiian children were seeking opportunity and schools led them there and the language of instruction was in English. The overall goal of this movement is to bring the Hawaiian language back to all of society on the islands. Ka’iu Kimura mentions that she didn’t expect this movement to grow rapidly; however, the movement has grown and she has optimism that the Hawaiian language will be restored. I think this is a powerful and incredible profession that she partakes in because language is such an important part of who we are and her generation clearly lost this.

Ka’iu Kimura tells us that the center was originally going to be a Hawaiian language center; however, the plan changed. There has been controversy between the Local Hawaiians and the science community about astronomy on the volcano, Mauna Kea. This volcano is the best location to view the stars, with clear skies and warm weather, scientists couldn’t resist. There are now 11 observatories on Mauna Kea and the natives dislike their presence. The summit of Mauna Kea is the piko to the natives and this means the center, which resembles their lifeline to Hawaiian identity. This volcano is sacred to the Hawaiians and they do not want outsiders tampering with it.

The battle between the science community and the Hawaiians due to the request for expansion on the volcano has caused community engagement around the island and forced the University of Hawaii to engage with the community as well. Also, scientists are using native lands and aren’t giving back to the community. For instance, the University of Hawaii only gives back 20 cents a year to the Hawaiian community.

After hearing Ka’iu Kimura talk about this issue, I learned that the center was indeed developed to bring science and Hawaiian culture together. The center is a place where these two groups and outsiders can share the specialness on Mauna Kea. This is a place to inspire young people and where people can come together, interact and develop more questions, inquiry and education. This place is not a research institution but a place for community.

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    Ka’iu Kimura at Imiloa

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