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A sacred site — close to home

Quick quiz: Which do you think happened first? (A): Columbus discovered America — in 1492 — or (B) the Polynesians discovered what are now known as the Hawaiian Islands, our 50th state.

OK, I wasn’t likely to pose the question unless the answer was (B). And yes, that’s the case.

Plaque

Plaque

Out for a training run recently in Hawaii Kai, about four miles from home, I turned on to a short dead-end street called Makahuena Place. I knew what I would find — a plaque denoting the site of Pahua Heiau, an agricultural temple, “built circa 1400.” I wanted to get photos for this blog.

The other photo shows the sacred area behind the plaque, with a KAPU (keep out) sign.  In the Hawaiian language, it requests respect for the site that “is sacred to the Hawaiian people.”

KAPU (keep out)

KAPU (keep out)

And that brought to mind the ongoing controversy over proposals to build a 30-meter telescope atop Mauna Kea, the 13,796-foot high summit on the Big Island of Hawaii. Some native Hawaiians have vigorously opposed the project, on grounds that the site is “sacred.”

I’ve tended to dismiss that argument, making (in my mind) the case that the ancient Hawaiians were explorers and should understand and respect today’s probes into the universe to see “what’s out there.”

But, somehow, these photos have led me to back off. Hmmm. Perhaps I’m hoping astronomers will find some other site — the mountains of Chile perhaps?

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