An open letter to President Obama and the members of the IUCN Congress

On September 1-10, 2016, the IUCN World Conservation Congress is gathering in Hawai`i because “the ecosystems that underpin our economies, well-being and survival are collapsing. Species are becoming extinct at unprecedented rates. Our climate is in crisis.”

The time for action is now. IUCN has called for change in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate conference in which “almost 200 nations agreed on ambitious goals for sustainable development and achieving climate neutrality. These agreements represent an historic opportunity to improve the lives of billions of people around the globe and put nature at the heart of our decisions. It’s time to move these agreements into action.”

Yet, Hawai`i—the country hosting this historic gathering—has been subjected to tremendous and consistent environmental attack. Most recently abuses include:

1. Desecration of Sacred Mauna Kea. The State of Hawai`i has supported the construction of telescope after telescope on the sacred slopes of Mauna Kea. These actions are undertaken over the objection of the first peoples of the land, Nā Kānaka Maoli, and are in clear violation of our Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. Most recently the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope has threatened our sacred Mauna. Our kīa`i have been dutifully protecting Mauna Kea for over a year as courts deliberate the legality of the construction of this $1.4 billion project.

2. The Trans Pacific Partnership. The TPP trade agreement empowers corporations over nations and peoples, endangering indigenous lands in Hawai`i and across the globe.

3. The United States Military & RIMPAC. Live fire training on our lands, sea, and air has destroyed and poisoned hundreds of thousands of acres of Hawai`i’s limited lands, polluted Hawai`i’s formerly pristine seas, and contaminated Hawai`i’s winds with depleted uranium which poisons residents and visitors alike. RIMPAC, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise. Held biennially in Hawai`i, it turns the Kanaka Maoli homeland into a playground for global military powers, selling weapons of destruction and training nations in the oppression of others.

4. The proposed Department of Interior (DOI) Rule to create a Native Hawaiian Tribe. In 2014 the DOI held a set of hearings throughout the islands asking Hawai’i’s communities if they would like the DOI to propagate a Rule that would facilitate the creation of a federally recognized Native Hawaiian tribe.  Over ninety-five percent of the in-person testimony at these hearings were opposed to the creation of a Rule (with many advocating for complete Independence for Hawai’i). These testimonies were discounted when the DOI chose to consider anonymous and duplicate written testimony on par with in-person opposition. This practice resulted in flawed numbers which suggest that 70% of our people support the unethical process initiated by the DOI. Moving forward in this flawed process will circumvent critically important discussions about independence and self-determination currently taking place among Kanaka Maoli communities in Hawai`i and on Moku Honu.

5. Building of the North Dakota Access Pipeline. Our concern for the environment extends globally. An unprecedented unification of First Nations people has taken place in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux who are protecting their waters from the Dakota Access Pipeline which (if built) will transport 570,000 barrels of crude oil over 1,172 miles daily. This unity echoes throughout Indian country in struggles for Sacred Oak Flats, Moahdak D’ag, and countless others. It exemplifies what First Nations people undertake to protect our environment when, more often than not, the safety of our land, water, and air is threatened by local and federal authorities. We stand with our brothers and sisters who are uniting all indigenous people to protect our water and future generations against corporations and the short-sighted fixation on fossil fuels.

We the undersigned firmly oppose the continued destruction of Hawai`i and all First Nations lands at the hands of governments, corporations, and militaries which prioritize money over the health and well-being of people and the environment. We call on President Obama and the IUCN World Conservation Congress to take clear and immediate action to stop these abuses.

Kanaka Maoli Individuals, Organizations and Supporters

‘Aha Aloha ‘Āina New York City
‘Aha Aloha ‘Āina O’ahu
Anne Keala Kelly, Filmmaker & Journalist
Ben Manuel
Bianca Isaki, Ph.D., Esq.
Candice Fujikane, PhD, English Professor, University of Hawaiʻi
Cheryl Burghardt
Christina Bacchilega
Claud Sutcliffe, PhD
David Maile
Healani Sonoda-Pale, Protest Naʻi Aupuni
Hui Kū Like Kākou
Iraq Veterans Against the War NYC
Isaac Harp, Destination Restoration
Jeanette Soon-Ludes, PhD, ‘Aha Aloha ‘Āina Washington DC
KĀHEA - The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance
Ka Lāhui Hawai`i Political Action Committee
Kalamaoka’āina Niheu, MD, ‘Ohana Koa Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific
Kau’i Trainer
Kealoha Pisciotta, President of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou and member of Kai Palaoa
Nā Koa Ikaika O Ka Lahui Hawai`i
Nodutdol for Korean Community Development NYC
Laurel Turbin Mei-Singh
Melissa Moniz, President of Kai ‘Ula Pono’i Texas HCC
Patricia A Gozemba, SAFE Co-Chair
Stephanie Mushrush, MSW member of Washoe Tribe of NV and CA
R. D. Conner & Rachel L. “Momi” Kailianu-Conner
Shalee Kekawa, ‘Aha Aloha ‘Āina SoCal
Tuti Baker
Will Caron