“Nearly in the middle of this side of the island is the only village we had seen westward from Opooroah (Puʻuloa, Pearl Harbor.) In its neighbourhood the bases of the mountains retire further from the sea-shore, and a narrow valley, presenting a fertile cultivated aspect, seemed to separate, and wind some distance through, the hills.” (Vancouver, March 1793)
The ahupuaʻa of Makaha extends from the coastline to the Waiʻanae Range. Pukui noted Mākaha means “fierce;” Roger C. Green suggests it relates to “fierce or savage people” once inhabiting the valley.
Green refers to “…the ʻOlohe people, skilled wrestlers and bone-breakers, by various accounts (who) lived in Makaha, Makua and Keaʻau, where they often engaged in robbery of passing travelers.” (Cultural Surveys)
Waiʻanae Ahupuaʻa within the Waiʻanae District was its Royal Center in the late-1600s to the 1700s. The ahupuaʻa had numerous important heiau and the largest population of the district at European contact.
The Waianae Coast received its name from the mullet that was once farmed here. Wai means water, and ʻanae means large mullet (perhaps from mullet in the muliwai, or brackish-water pools, that were once common in the backshore on many Waiʻanae beaches.) These fish were once produced in large amounts.
Ahupuaʻa served as a means of managing people and taking care of the people who support them, as well as an easy form of collection of tributes by the chiefs.
A typical ahupuaʻa (what we generally refer to as watersheds, today) was a long strip of land, narrow at its mountain summit top and becoming wider as it ran down a valley into the sea to the outer edge of the reef. If there was no reef then the sea boundary would be about one and a half miles from the shore.
Palena (place boundaries) demarcated the boundaries between ahupuaʻa; this lessened conflict and was a means of settling disputes of future aliʻi who would be in control of the bounded lands; protected the commoners from the chiefs; and brought (for the most part) peace and prosperity. (Beamer, Duarte)
“The shore here forms a small sandy bay. On its southern side, between the two high rocky precipices, in a grove of cocoanut and other trees, is situated the village…”
“… in the center of the bay, about a mile to the north of the village, is a high rock, remarkable for its projecting from a sandy beach. At a distance it appears to be detached from the land.” (Vancouver, March 1793)
That ‘rock’ noted by Vancouver is Mauna Lahilahi (thin mountain – referred to by some as the ‘world’s smallest mountain’) is the palena, or boundary marker between the Makaha and Waianae ahupuaʻa (the hill itself is within the ahupuaʻa of Makaha.)
“The few inhabitants who visited us from the village, earnestly intreated our anchoring, and told us, that if we would stay until the morning, their chief would be on board with a number of hogs, and a great quantity of vegetables; but that he could not visit us then because the day was (kapu.)”
“The face of the country did not however promise an abundant supply; the situation was exposed, and the extent of anchorage was not only very limited, but bad; under these circumstances, having, by eleven at night, got clear of the shores, I deemed it most prudent to make the best of our way, with a light S.E. breeze towards Attowai (Kauai.)” (Vancouver, March 1793)
The village Vancouver saw was Kamaile, “with the beach and fishery in front and the well watered taro lands just behind.” A fresh water spring, Kekoʻo, gave life to this land and allowed for the existence of one of the largest populations on the Waiʻanae Coast. (Cultural Surveys)
Mauna Lahilahi inspired at least two songs. One, by Kaʻiulani, “I Mauna Lahilahi ko Wehi,” was probably inspired by a royal visit to the Holt estate in those golden days of Makaha Ranch. From about 1887 to 1899, the Holt Ranch raised horses, cattle, pigs, goats and peacocks.
It opens by offering Kaʻiulani a lei of “pua mamane melemele”: “Here at Mauna Lahilahi is your adornment; it is made of the golden blossoms of the mamane tree.”
The second verse shifts its focus from flower to princess and from beauty to status: “You are anointed with coconut water whose fragrance is wafted by the gentle Kaiaulu breeze.”
Verse three brings flower and natural action together in the drenching of the māmane in the Naulu rain: “The Naulu comes this way to soak the māmane blossom.” (deSilva)
“I Mauna Lahilahi ko Wehi”
A later song, “Maunalahilahi” by Mary Robbins speaks of the love for Maunalahilahi and appreciation to its later owner, Jack Waterhouse.
“Affection for Maunalahilahi; Lingers in my heart; You are a treasure to us; As you approach my presence; It is as if we are in the presence of royalty ; Where many gather often; … This is my praise of Jack; You are a beloved person to all of us.”
Jack Waterhouse had his house at the foot of Mauna Lahilahi (on the Makaha side of the hill.)