Astronomy must respect rights of Indigenous peoples

University of Toronto, Canada.

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As a partner of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Consortium and a member of Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nations, I am one of very few Indigenous faculty members in Canadian astronomy. In my view, Canada’s astronomy community has an ethical duty to listen to the Native Hawaiian protectors of the sacred Mauna Kea site, where the consortium now has a permit for construction. Our response will affect the future of astronomy and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Calls of Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Canada and the TMT consortium have a duty to respect the wishes of the protectors, along with Indigenous peoples’ rights, wherever we pursue astronomical discovery. The astronomy community should therefore halt construction, listen to the protectors and support those protesters who have been arrested.

If the consortium is not willing to step back, then Canada must remove itself from the project as part of its commitment to UNDRIP. Otherwise, we continue to support a culture that does not respect the right of self-determination and is not inclusive of Indigenous peoples.

Nature 572, 312 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02441-7

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