The earliest archaeological evidence of Polynesian settlement of O'ahu is fine charcoal sediment found in a pool in the plains of Honouliuli circa 1000 CE, with Hawaiian settlement appearing around 400 years later. At first glance, many European explorers and first-time visitors under appreciated the ahupua'a of Honouliuli, regarding it as a seemingly desolate expanse of dryland. However, this was home to an estimated 3,423 native inhabitants per the census performed in 1836.
Supporting this sizable population was possible due to a highly sustainable agricultural system of crops such as 'uala (sweet potato), kalo (taro), and 'ulu (breadfruit), two of which were introduced to Hawai'i during Hawaiian settlement. In addition to these staple land crops, a plentiful supply of saltwater harvests such as pipi, i'a, and 'opae were harvested in the nearby fishponds. Each of these resources, gathered from mauka (toward the mountain) to makai (toward the ocean), are mentioned in traditional mo'olelo passed through generations of Hawaiian descendants as told in the stories below.
DeMello, J. (n.d.). Kalo.
Please note that the mo'olelo (stories of place, deities, and past people) of the wahi pana (legendary places) shared here were researched by students in consultation with cultural practitioners, their families, and research documents. There are multiple versions of mo'olelo and numerous accounts, and this website does not provide a comprehensive overview. Rather, students selected mo'olelo of interest and the ones featured on this site are based on their interpretations and how they have come to understand select stories for honoring Honouliuli.
Visit the Story Map page to view 32 different examples of wahi pana in Honouliuli in which Uncle Shad Kane narrates the mo'olelo attached to 19 of those sacred places.
The mo'olelo and history of land use (plantation era) described in this exhibit (including the slideshow on the Home page) come from the following four sources. Click on each one for more information and to access the full reports. Below, there is also the PDF version of the Honouliuli Ahupua'a map found in the slideshow.
Favorite sister of Pele, she traveled across the plain of Honouliuli, naming things she saw as she went, including pāpa'i (crabs), limu, mahamoe and 'ōkupe (both bivalves), pipi (pearl oyster), ma'o (yellow hibiscus). At Keahumoa, she tested the aloha (kindness and compassion) of lei-makers through a chant which included the phrase “he kauwā ke kanaka i ke aloha” (man is a slave to love or compassion). The lei-makers understood her meaning, agreeing with her, and offered her one of the leis they had made. In return, Hi'iaka blessed the lei-makers and their loved ones. Later, she made lei herself out of lehua blossoms at Kūalaka'i.
Wright, & Mast. (n.d.). The Lei Maker (Originally Photographed 1936).
Kūalaka'i is the name of an ancient village where a supernatural 'ulu (breadfruit) tree was planted by Ka'uluakāha'i (a deified navigator). He would leave gifts at the tree for his son Nāmakaokapāo'o. This was also where Hi'iakaikapoliopele wove her own lei from lehua blossoms, and where she saw her reflection in a stream, which she then named Hoakalei (reflection of a lei).
Tunsch, T. (2012). Lehua - Panoramio.
Wikimedia Commons. Photograph, Hawaii.
Keahumoa is a fertile plain where numerous native crops were planted by Ka'ōpele, a man with supernatural abilities who was credited with planting fields on other Hawaiian islands as well. The māla 'uala (sweet potato fields) called Nāmakaokapāo'o are located here, named for a young warrior who defeated Amau, the King of O'ahu at the time. In the king’s place, Nāmakaokapāo'o set his mother Pōka'i to rule over O'ahu instead. Keahumoa is also where Hi'iakaikapoliopele tested the aloha of the lei-makers through a chant asking them for a lei made of yellow hibiscus.
Mast. (n.d.). [Photograph]. Online Archive of California.
Known as the child born as a pig, Kamapua'a could take on several other body forms including a man, a fish (humuhumunukunukuapua'a), and even a few particular plants. Many mo'olelo describe the relationship between Kamapua'a and Pele as either one of lovers or one of constant conflict. Their interactions are natural, considering Pele is said to be the “land-eater,” consuming land with her lava flows and Kamapua'a is of the Lono force, which is associated with peace, fertility, and life. Mo'olelo refers to Kamapua'a as a conqueror of the island of O'ahu, eventually renouncing leadership onto his grandmother, Kamauluaniho (also known as Kamaunuaniho). In one mo'olelo, Kamapua'a pulled up a large patch of kalo (taro) for Kamauluaniho, then shared a meal of 'uala (sweet potato) with her at her house at Pu'uokapolei. During this time, Kamapua'a granted the priests of the Lono class dominion over “watered lands”, which were the 'ili (a division of land within an ahupua'a) with 'Wai (water) in the name, such as Waimānalo.
“Kamapu'a” by Solomon Enos. Used with permission by the artist.
Mā'ilikūkahi O Honouliuli
Before Waikīkī became the ideal location for O'ahu’s rulers, Honouliuli was the gathering place of the ali'i as well as a favored spot for recreational activities. One such ali'i (chief) was Mā'ilikūkahi, born at Kūkaniloko (the birthplace of royalty on O'ahu, located in Wahiawa), and praised for the laws he implemented during his rule. Under his peaceful rule, theft and rape were punishable by death. The kingdom was divided into distinct moku (land division containing multiple ahupua'a) to avoid land disputes. Commoners were allowed the right to leave their chief if treated poorly, and human sacrifices were outlawed. A few chiefs from Hawai'i island invaded O'ahu during his reign and were eventually conquered. The defeated warriors that lay in the gulch after the battle was finished is where the name Kīpapa gulch is derived from. The head of the enemy, Hiloalakapu, was cut off and brought to Honouliuli where it rested at the place called Po'ohilo, head of Hilo.
Ka'ahupāhau was once a young girl who loved to swim in the waters of Pu'uloa. Transformed into a shark by a shark god, she became an akua manō (shark deity/guardian shark). As a ruler on land might possess the highest rank, sharks were comparably the rulers of the ocean. After her transformation, she killed the Chiefess Pāpio for offending her keeper. Regretting killing Pāpio, Ka'ahupāhau declared that her and her sharks would protect humans.
“Kaʻahupāhau” by Solomon Enos. Used with permission by the artist.
Visit the website of Solomon Enos to view more of his artwork.
Hanakāhi is a place named for a man who made offerings to the gods and beseeched them for success in fishing. In return for his faithfulness, Kāne and Kanaloa built three fishponds for him in the west loch of Pu'uloa: Keanapua'a, Kepo'okala, and Kapākule. Kapākule was the last one they built, and was the best constructed, covering around four acres in size. Kāne and Kanaloa placed every kind of fish in it, and decreed that fish would only be allowed to swim into the fishpond, and never out of it. Only the whales would not enter it, due to their size.
Maryknoll Mission. (1920-1940). Man Fishing, Hawaii [Photograph]. Huntington Digital Library.
Pūhi o Laumeki
His mother Kaohai was a human, and his father was a kupua (demigod) named Kaihuopala'ai. Born as an eel, Pūhi o Laumeki was referred to as the eel child or fish child. He protected his family from sharks, barracuda, and marlin. He also kept the 'anae (mullet) in the waters around Honouliuli and guided the journey of the anae from Honouliuli up to Laiemalo'o (at Ko'olauloa) so that his aunt could have fresh fish to eat. An 'ili (division of land within an ahupua'a) and a loko i'a (fishpond), both famous for their 'anae, were named after his father.
Kaupe'a is the place of wandering spirits of the dead who are trying to find their way to another realm. Kaupe'a can be interpreted as “Southern Cross” or “Bat’s Perch”. The spirits eat pulelehua (moths) or nanana (spiders). Also referred to in mo'olelo as the plains of Honouliuli, it was known for its wiliwili trees and 'ōhai plants. During her travels across the islands, Hi'iakaikapoliopele remarked that “Kaupe'a is a land without people.” From these plains, Leiolono can be seen, which is the place where unclaimed spirits are lost to darkness. Kauila Clark, cultural practitioner, states that an azimuth (horizontal angle of a compass bearing) projected from Pu'u Kapolei to Mount Ka'ala forms the path of the Night Marchers.
Still today, there are numerous accounts by residents that detail their experiences with the spirits who frequent this place.
Say, R. (2008). Warriors Canopy Photograph