Man apologizes profusely after backlash from peeing on sacred Hawaiian mountain

Native Hawaiians believe the Big Island mountain of Mauna Kea to be sacred. So, there were heated reactions when a Hawaiian man posted a video on Instagram of himself urinating on the mountain, raising his middle finger, and walking away.

Travis Upright’s provocative video went viral until it was removed from his profile, having faced intense backlash.

Upright wrote on his Instagram post that, after hiking for 11 hours, he had to go to the bathroom. With the absence of portable toilets along the mountain trails, there can’t be any shortage of hikers who need to urinate somewhere. But filming yourself doing it and then flipping the bird? And posting it online? Well, that was seen as more than poor judgment.

“As many were doing. I (thought) it looked cool with the clouds underneath me and so I had a video taken,” wrote Upright. “And the last minute flip off was just me being silly.”

Other Instagram users were not amused, hurling quite a bit of anger and abuse his way. Upright has tried to make amends, posting three video apologies, complete with written notes.

With a peak nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea is the second-highest island peak in the world, 2,200 feet lower than New Guinea’s enormous Puncak Jaya.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs describes the volcano on its website as a “deeply sacred place, regarded as a shrine for worship, as a home to the gods, and as the piko of Hawaiʻi Island.” Piko is Hawaiian for “the navel where life begins.”

Hawaii’s KITV4 ran a story of the Mauna Kea saga, including Upright’s apologies.

In one of his posts, Upright said:

“I’m so sorry to all of you. I was so arrogant and I just didn’t get it. I’m beginning to and I humbly ask for your forgiveness…I am so sorry that I hurt so many people. I want to understand what it means to hold life and the land so precious and sacred that I would protect it with my life. But not for me. But so I can teach it to the next generation after me. So that the pain ends with me. No more. I will do all I can to be more conscious everyday of the land and the people that have stewarded it. Not just here but everywhere.”


The world says it reveres a sincere, humble apology, but it is not always so. Upright’s abject apologies are being almost as badly received as the original offense. He seems to be in the land of the condemned, where there is no redemption, having committed an unforgivable offense.

One Instagram user posted, “Entitled, disrespectful colonizer posts a video of himself pissing on sacred Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) land. He’s only sorry because he got caught. Want forgiveness? Leave Hawai‘i.”

“In all of this, you continue to inflate yourself,” said another responder online.

“Just be quiet already. True humility isn’t loud like this,” wrote another unforgiving commenter.

The State Department of Land and Natural Resources said the video “certainly could be viewed as culturally disrespectful,” but allowed as how Upright had not violated any law and will not face any penalty.

“This is very disrespectful to ‘aina, land and to the cultural practices of Native Hawaiians here, myself included,” Hawaiian activist Alfonso Kekuku told KITV. “It was just the sense of entitlement and privilege, it almost says, ‘I don’t care about my choices and my actions here,’ and, ‘I’m going to do whatever I’m going to do. I’m going to do whatever I want.'”

Unlike so many others, though, Kekuku appreciated Upright’s apologies.

“I’m very grateful that he’s able to acknowledge his ignorance and that he was able to come forward to speak about how he messed up,” Kekuku said. “Many people that move here, tourists, current residents, should really educate themselves about cultural sensitivities.”


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