Report Open Access

Canadian Astronomy on Maunakea: On Respecting Indigenous Rights

Neilson, Hilding; Lawler, Samantha

Canadian astronomy has, for decades, benefited from access to observatories and participating in international consortia on one of the best astronomical sites in the world: Maunakea. However, Maunakea is part of the unceded territory of the Native Hawaiian peoples and has always been of special significance to Hawaiian culture. The use of the summit and its science reserve has created tensions in the past decade, particularly with the development of the Thirty Meter Telescope. A meaningful and respectful response from the International astronomy community is still lacking. It is expected that the LRP 2020 will continue to support Canadian astronomy on Maunakea so a better official statement on the position and involvement of CASCA should be prepared. In this paper we present recommendations, based on the United Nation Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, for the Canadian astronomical community to better support Indigenous rights on Maunakea and Hawaii  while providing clear guidelines for the astronomical community to participate in activities conducted on Indigenous land.  This framework is designed to motivate conversations with Indigenous communities regarding our place on Indigenous lands and our roles, and responsibilities toward the communities we are working with.  Furthermore, we propose this framework as a basis for engaging with communities around the world regarding consent for astronomical facilities. To this end, we propose six recommendations for CASCA:

  1. Guaranteed funding from facilities for education and training for Native Hawaiians in relation to astronomy that includes significant outreach and community funding, telescope time for Native Hawaiian learners, scholarships for Native Hawaiians interested in astronomy in Canada;
  2. Collaborate with institutions in Hawaii to develop training programs/courses for astronomers in Canada regarding  Hawaii, Native Hawaiian cultural traditions, history of colonization, and astronomy;
  3. Canada commits to maintaining a presence on Maunakea if and only if there is a clear and equitable agreement and consent for the Lease Renewal that benefits Native Hawaiians and clear, informed, and ongoing consent for the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer;
  4. Canadian Support for Indigenous/Native Hawaiian usage and Indigenous/Native Hawaiian rights to the mountain;
  5. That CASCA supports a process that requires clear Native Hawaiian consent for future projects, including the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer. 
  6. Commitment that Canadian engagement on Maunakea must be consistent with the spirit of the Calls to Actions of the Truth and Reconciliation commission and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

White paper identifier W008
Files (119.8 kB)
Name Size
W008 Neilson Maunakea Indigenous Rights.pdf
119.8 kB Download
All versions This version
Views 107107
Downloads 4444
Data volume 5.3 MB5.3 MB
Unique views 8484
Unique downloads 4040


Cite as