EXCLUSIVE: Mauna Kea protest benefactor

Published: Apr. 17, 2015 at 10:30 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 18, 2015 at 11:34 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Native Hawaiian protesters on Mauna Kea have found a surprise benefactor in one of Hawaii's wealthiest women.

Hawaii News Now has learned that Abigail Kawananakoa, an heiress to the Campbell Estate fortune and a descendant of Hawaiian royalty, has given $25,000 to the cause. Sources said that Kawananakoa will likely provide additional funding if the situation escalates.

"We recognize her stewardship as very alii-like and we aloha her for that and hope that others can look to her and see the value of our efforts," said Kamahana Kealoha, facilitator with the Sacred Mauna Kea Hui.

The money will go towards food and water for protesters, many of who have been on the mountain for more than 20 days. 

It also will go towards bail. Previously, police have arrested 31 people for blocking access to the $1.4 billion project. Some expect more to come.

"We are in no way nurturing these arrests. They should not be arresting us for protecting the mountain at all," Kealoha said.

"We are being forced to put our bodies in the way of protecting our mountain and protecting it from being desecrated."

The 89-year-old Kawananakoa is a well known philanthropist who traces her ancestry to Queen Emma and King David Kalakaua. She is the great grand-daughter of James Campbell and received about $250 million when the Campbell Estate dissolved in 2007.

She was critical of the way the University of Hawaii has managed Mauna Kea.

"The University of Hawaii has been derelict in its management of Mauna Kea … The numerous deficiencies demand a professional independent review," she said.

The UH, which leases the land to the telescopes developer TMT Observatory Corp. of Pasadena, said it's working closely with the parties to head off a confrontation.

"This situation is extremely important to the University of Hawaii and UH leadership is working with all of the stakeholders to find the best path forth," said U.H. spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.

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