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April 1, 2013
Protecting, Preserving and Enhancing Cultural Resources

Mauna Kea is many things to many people and has inspired such ancient sayings as, "Mauna Kea is the astonishing mountain that stands in the calm." It is likely, in fact, that the original settlers of these islands-skilled voyagers from the South Pacific-first made landfall over 1,500 years ago after sighting the great mountain rising above the distant horizon. In the ensuing centuries, Mauna Kea became a place rich with culturally significant sites that provide us with a window into the past.


We at the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM) feel a great sense of responsibility to protect, preserve and enhance the historic sites and cultural resources found within the University of Hawaii's managed lands on Mauna Kea. Of particular concern is the Science Reserve. Not only does the Science Reserve contain over 200 historic sites,

Upright shrine on Mauna Kea

including shrines, cairns, ahu, lithic and flake scatters, but it also includes the summit region, which is steeped in myths and legends, and has played an important role in the ancient and modern history of Hawaiii.


Guiding OMKM with the management of these historic sites and cultural landscape is Kahu Ku Mauna and the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved Cultural Resource Management Plan (CRMP). Kahu Ku Mauna is a Native Hawaiian advisory council that advises OMKM and the Mauna Kea Management Board on cultural matters related to Mauna Kea. The CRMP provides OMKM a strategic approach and tools to protect and preserve the cultural resources.


It is fitting that the current spokesperson for Kahu Ku Mauna is Chad Kalepa Babayan, Associate Director & Navigator in Residence at the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai'i, University of Hawai'i at Hilo. Kalepa, who has dedicated himself to the ancient art of navigation, says, "It is a rare privilege and opportunity to have access to Mauna Kea. We owe it to the mountain that we use it properly, protect its unique resources, and keep it clean and safe for everyone."

Makanaka looking North to East


Kahu Ku Mauna meets monthly to conduct its important work. OMKM Director Stephanie Nagata attends these meetings and presents the council members with information on events and activities potentially impacting the Science Reserve. "We discuss the issues and offer our opinions on everything from small to big," Kalepa explains. "We serve as advisors, but we know our voices are being heard. They are listening."


Future e-newsletters regarding cultural initiatives will feature the Mauna Kea Science Reserve Archaeological Inventory Survey, the Kepa Maly report, "Mauna Kea-The Famous Summit of the Land," and more insights from Kalepa on the role and responsibilities of Kahu Ku Mauna.





The Office of Mauna Kea Management is charged with day-to-day management of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve as prescribed in the Master Plan. The adoption of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve Master Plan by the University of Hawaii Board of Regents in June 2000 marked a critical milestone in the management of Mauna Kea.


Meetings and public hearings spanning a period of nearly two years went into the formulation of the Master Plan, which established management guidelines for the next 20 years. The Master Plan reflected the community's deeply rooted concerns over the use of Mauna Kea, including respect for Hawaiian cultural beliefs, protection of environmentally sensitive habitat, recreational use of the mountain, and astronomy research.  

It places the focus of responsibility with the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH). The UH-Hilo Chancellor established the Office of Mauna Kea Management and the Board of Regents established the Mauna Kea Management Board in the fall of 2000. The Mauna Kea Management Board in turn formed Kahu Ku Mauna, a council comprised of Hawaiian cultural resource persons to serve as advisors.

mauna kea OMKM Mission


To achieve harmony, balance and trust in the sustainable management and stewardship of Mauna Kea Science Reserve through community involvement and programs that protect, preserve and enhance the natural, cultural and recreational resources of Mauna Kea while providing a world-class center dedicated to education, research and astronomy.