KAILUA-KONA — Lawmakers and The Office of Maunakea Management said they were disturbed by a recent social media video that shows three individuals skiing and snowboarding on Puu Poliahu on Maunakea on University of Hawaii managed lands. Puu Poliahu is a volcanic cone that is not only the highest point on the mountain, but is also considered sacred to Native Hawaiians.
“First and foremost, this act was disrespectful to Native Hawaiians and to everyone who considers the mountain sacred,” said Stephanie Nagata, director of UH Hilo’s Office of Maunakea Management. “One of the first acts by Kahu Ku Mauna in 2001 shortly after its creation was to stop vehicular access traffic on the puu because it is a sacred site.”
Kahu Ku Mauna is the volunteer Native Hawaiian advisory board that advises the university on Hawaiian cultural matters on Maunakea.
Nagata says the skiers and snowboarders never applied for a required film permit and that permission would have never been granted for such activities. Beyond the cultural disrespect and because there was no snow on the mountain at the time of the incident, the individuals also defaced and scarred a geological formation and may have damaged Wekiu bug habitat, according to a press release issued by the university. Wekiu bugs, first discovered in 1979, can only be found on the summit.
Lawmakers on Wednesday scheduled a press conference to ask that disciplinary actions be taken.
The video has appeared online showing professional athletes skiing and snowboarding down the slopes of Mauna Kea.
“Many in Hawaii have found the actions irresponsible and disrespectful, and are looking to community leaders for action in response to the video,” a press release from the Senate said.
OMKM also urged everyone to treat the mountain with respect. The Maunakea Rangers provide daily oversight of UH managed lands to protect resources and public safety and do not allow visitors to hike off designated trails. The incident happened on the south side of the Puu Poliahu, hidden from the view of the rangers on duty. The university is currently without authority to issue fines or pursue civil remedies, but that is expected to change with the formulation of new administrative rules for public and commercial activities.
The university is asking the public to participate in developing these rules for the university’s management of Maunakea lands. A second round of public hearings is expected to be held this spring, after the university updated the first draft based on feedback received during the first round of public hearings in 2018.
The rules would provide the university with authority to directly address this incident.