Koko and I were both moving a little slow this morning, and so the sun was rising just as we walked out the door. I was still yawning and sleepy, but as soon as I reached the end of the driveway and saw Waialeale, I was startled into wakefulness.
There’s something about seeing her in all her full, unclouded, dawn-drenched glory that stimulates my senses, opens my heart and puts a lift in my step, and that got us walking briskly down the road, where we were kissed by mist and treated to a joyful chorus of singing birds.
It’s easy for me to consider Waialeale sacred — entitled to reverence and respect. For starters, it’s the primary source of water on this island, without which there would be no life.
The sacredness inherent in land and nature always made more sense to me than the Catholicism I was raised with. I just couldn’t understand why God would choose to live in a small tabernacle on an altar in a church, tended by celibate men, when there was that whole great big beautiful world outside.
But Western minds have a very difficult time, for some reason, grasping the concept of sacred land. Most likely, it’s because if they did, they might have to stop and think for a minute, or at least come up with some sort of rationalization, before they proceeded to recklessly exploit and destroy it.
You know, like blow the tops off mountains in West Virginia so they can get at the coal. Construct yet another observatory atop Mauna Kea so they can look more closely at the stars that have steadily dwindled in brilliancy, due in large part to the light and air pollution caused by burning coal and other fossil fuels. Or expand a ski resort, replete with fake snow produced from recycled sewer water, on Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks so folks can be entertained.
Never mind that the three 12,000-foot peaks are sacred to 13 tribes:
For the Navajo, the Peaks are the sacred mountain of the west, Doko’oo’sliid, “Shining On Top,” a key boundary marker and a place where medicine men collect herbs for healing ceremonies. To the Hopi, the Peaks are Nuvatukaovi, “The Place of Snow on the Very Top,” home for half of the year to the ancestral kachina spirits who live among the clouds around the summit. When properly honored through song and ceremony, the kachinas bring gentle rains to thirsty corn plants. The peaks are one of the “sacred places where the Earth brushes up against the unseen world,” in the words of Yavapai-Apache Chairman Vincent Randall.
Native Americans and environmentalists have been fighting the U.S. Forest Service over this project for a decade, and on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their petition to stop it.
And so goes yet another sacred place, unless Congress, another Western institution, moves to save it.
It’s a culture clash we’ve seen play out repeatedly in America and Hawaii, where the military and developers of all stripes have ravaged Kahoolawe, Makua and many other places that have a sacred role in the indigenous culture.
These ongoing acts of desecration are an extremely effective form of colonial imperialism and cultural genocide, because when spiritual icons are destroyed or degraded, it serves to deeply undermine the very foundation of a spiritually-based culture.
As Klee Benally, a spokesman in one of the earlier unfavorable court decisions in the San Francisco Peaks dispute, noted:
”This decision in many ways is not only a disgrace, but it is something that violates the core of who we are," Benally said. "It just shows there is not a lot of recognition for Native rights. Here, as Native people, we're still being denied our civil rights," he said.
And that, really, is the crux of any sacred lands issue.
On another note, of far less consequence, there’s been quite a bit of back and forth in the comment section regarding deletions. I have an extremely liberal comment policy, and of the thousands of comments that have been left, very few have been deleted.
Not one was removed because it disagreed with my political views. Instead, they were deleted because I didn’t like the attitude or the tone or the personal attack.
Some people appreciate this blog and its comment section, and to those I say, mahalo. Others don’t like me and/or what I say, and seek only to denigrate and disrupt. I refer them to a sign seen in many an establishment: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”
And if you don’t like it, I suggest you take your business elsewhere. In fact, I’ll even provide you with a link to a blog where you’ll feel more at home.