A man has apologized on social media after a video of himself urinating on a sacred mountain in Hawaii sparked online backlash.
In a now-deleted viral video, Travis Todd Upright posted a crude video of himself urinating at the peak of Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the Hawaiian Chain at 13,795 feet. He also held up his middle finger to the camera before walking off-screen.
In an Instagram post, he explained that he needed to go to the bathroom after an 11-hour hike.
“I [thought] it looked cool with the clouds underneath me and so I had a video taken,” Upright wrote. “And the last minute flip off was just me being silly. I say that not to minimize anything but to explain where my mind was at the time.”
Upright faced an intense backlash as many viewers felt his actions were disrespectful. The criticism prompted him to share three apology posts, including two videos, on his Instagram account.
“I can feel the weight and the gravity of people’s anger. I desecrated what you guys consider a holy temple. I see that and I understand you,” Upright says in an apology video posted last week. “I wasn’t thinking at all. I wasn’t flipping anyone off. I wasn’t saying ‘f*ck you’ to the land. I wasn’t intentionally or maliciously disrespecting the land there. I see its beauty. I feel it. However, what I didn’t know was how my actions were going to affect so many, and that’s something I have to sit with.”
However, the lengthy apology did not sit well with many users who continued to criticize him for not appearing to be sincere.
“‘aPoLogY’ more like a ‘validation,’” one user wrote.
“Three minutes in and zero apology. Just self righteous preaching and a lot of ‘we’ talk. Go home already,” another user commented.
“Your lifestyle is fake and your behavior on Maunakea showed it. All you ‘naturalist’ ‘holistic healers’ ‘peaceful’ children of God come here with your mantras and your meditation and your sound bowls and you disrespect native people and native places everyday. So desperate for a culture, you steal it from every native around you. You reek of privilege and entitlement and that’s what your video shows us all. You are not apologetic, and it’s not our job to teach you how to be. Go make your amends to the sacred space you desecrated,” another person wrote.
In Upright’s latest apology video that was posted on Nov. 18, he continues to apologize for his “arrogance” and “vanity.” He also apologizes for being defensive in the previous video as people criticized him.
Upright explains that through this backlash, he is on the journey to understanding what it means to hold something sacred. He also says he hopes to pass on what he has learned to others.
“I’m so sorry… to all of you,” he captioned his post. “I was so arrogant and I just didn’t get it. I’m beginning to and I humbly ask for your forgiveness for my entitlement and for me not knowing what it means to hold something so sacred that you would die for it.”
“I wasn’t raised with that belief and now I know and am starting to feel what it means to hold something sacred. I was raised to believe the world is yours for the taking. Traditional white upbringing,” he added. “It was so unconscious within me that it took this to bring it to the surface. And 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.”
Some viewers continued to attack Upright, arguing that his apology rant seemed to be missing the point.
“These words are continued self-pity and self-aggrandizement. It is all about what you experienced (past & present) and what you feel. That is STILL not an apology. YOU have NOT even touched the surface. An Indigenous therapist or kūpuna might be able to get you started on the right track but you are FAR off the mark at this point,” one user said.
“There seems to be a huge disconnect here (and it is not by the people who are enraged by your blatantly disgusting actions),” another user wrote. “In all of this, you continue to inflate yourself. The more you post, the more you seem to miss the point. You say you’re apologetic and humble but you continue to elevate your own voice. You say you’re working toward healing yet declaring to others that ‘they are hurting.’ You say you’re listening but you keep talking. True humility isn’t loud like this.”
Mauna Kea is described by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a “deeply sacred place” that is “regarded as a shrine for worship, as a home to the gods, and as the piko of Hawaiʻi Island.”
Although the video could be seen as “culturally disrespectful,” the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said that Upright broke no laws and will not be facing any consequences.
Native Hawaiian activist Alfonso Kekuku noted that Upright’s actions were “very disrespectful to the cultural practices of Native Hawaiians.” However, she also appreciated the man’s apology.
“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 told KITV. “Many people that move here, tourists, current residents, should really educate themselves about cultural sensitivities.”