Presentation #229.07 in the session Resources and Programs for Public Outreach.
Opposition to the construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope on Maunakea exposed deep divisions in Hawaiʻi regarding the value of astronomy on Maunakea and how astronomy should be conducted. One of the communityʻs criticisms is the lack of representation of Native Hawaiians and kamaʻāina (Hawaiʻi-born residents, regardless of race or ethnicity) within astronomy organizations. While the observatories are welcomed and appreciated by some sectors of the community for their economic contributions to the state and STEM educational outreach efforts, other community sectors still view astronomy organizations as outsiders despite the 50+ year presence of astronomy in Hawaiʻi.
The Kamaʻāina Connections Program (KCP) was founded by the Maunakea Observatories to empower Native Hawaiian and kamaʻāina astronomy employees to catalyze bridge-building with the local community and fostering a greater appreciation of Hawaiian and local culture in astronomy organizations. Kamaʻāina employees are well-suited because of their generational familial networks in Hawaiʻi and their knowledge of Hawaiian and local culture.
The program curriculum is designed to foster personal growth and leadership development through a Hawaiʻi-lens and is open to kamaʻāina employees at all levels within astronomy organizations. The program is in its second year and two cohorts of eight employees across seven astronomy organizations have participated. Several new and exciting bridge-building initiatives have come about aided by skills gained in KCP.
The desired long-term outcomes of KCP include deeper reciprocal relationships with the local community and a stronger representation of Native Hawaiians and kamaʻāina in the astronomy workforce in Hawaiʻi.