“Ka ulu koa i kai o Oneawa”
“The koa grove down at Oneawa”
The Island of O‘ahu has six Moku (districts:) Kona, Koʻolaupoko, Koʻolauloa, Waialua, Waiʻanae and ʻEwa. Each Moku is divided into ahupua‘a. For the Moku of Koʻolaupoko, these include (West to East) Kualoa, Hakipuʻu, Waikāne, Waiāhole, Kaʻalaea, Waiheʻe, Kahaluʻu, Heʻeia, Kāneʻohe, Kailua and Waimānalo.
Kailua Ahupua‘a is the largest ahupua‘a of the Moku of Koʻolaupoko and the largest valley on the windward side of O‘ahu. From the Koʻolau ridge line it extends down two descending ridge lines which provide the natural boundaries for the sides of the ahupua‘a.
Some ahupuaʻa were further subdivided into units (still part of the ahupuaʻa) called ʻili. Some of the smallest ahupuaʻa were not subdivided at all, while the larger ones sometimes contained as many as thirty or forty ʻili. Kailua had many, including the ‘ili of Oneawa.
Traditional Hawaiian land use in this area focused on irrigated taro farming, inland fishponds, and coastal and deep water fishing grounds. Kawainui Marsh is the largest body of fresh water in the archipelago and was utilized both for lo‘i and fresh water fishponds.
The sandy soil in Kailua supported peripheral crops such as coconut and banana. Fishing villages were presumably scattered along the shore. It is probable that the occupants of the shoreline ‘ili were socially tied to those of the ‘ili along the marsh or the ridge line in order to exchange the surplus of their respective efforts. (Dye)
The northern boundary of Kailua ahupua‘a, known traditionally as Pu‘u Pāpa‘a, or scorched hill, it was given the name of Oneawa Hills in the 1970s.
A stream runs through Oneawa ‘ili to the sea, providing a natural drainage for the Kawainui marsh. The Kawainui Canal was constructed in 1952 to provide flood control and stability for real estate development. (Dye)
In one related story of the area, the large inland pond of Kawainui is referred to in a legend concerning trees (that had the power to attract fish.) Haumea, a goddess traveling through the area, assisted the daughter of the ruler in childbirth.
In return she was given the tree named Ka-lau-o-ke-kähuli, which bears the exceedingly beautiful flowers Kanikawï and Kanikawä. Haumea eventually sets it down on Maui, where it takes root. When a man comes by and chops it down, a fierce storm arises and washes it to sea.
Months later, a branch washes up at Oneawa in Kailua. The fish follow, rendering Oneawa a place where schools of fish gather. “When this branch (that is, Mākālei) was taken inland of Kailua, the fish of Kawainui Pond followed it inland”.
In another story, Koʻolaupoko was one of the stops in the celebrated journey Pele’s younger sister Hi‘iakaikapolioPele (Hiʻiaka) made from Kïlauea Crater to Kaua‘i, to fetch Pele’s husband and dream lover Lohi‘au.
Hi‘iaka and her human companion Wahineʻōmaʻo (Green-woman) choose the windward route across O‘ahu. The travelers reach Koʻolaupoko apparently in the rainy season, for they complain bitterly of the weather.
Hi‘iaka and Wahineʻōmaʻo visit Kawainui Fishpond, where they catch sight of two beautiful women sitting on the banks of a stream. Hi‘iaka insists they are not real women, but mo‘o. She tested them with a chant and they disappeared, confirming they were moʻo.
From Kailua, Hiʻiaka and Wahine‘ōma‘o headed to Heʻeia. Somewhere en route, Hiʻiaka notices the “koa grove at sea,” a poetical reference to Oneawa’s numerous canoes in the saying “Ka ulu koa i kai o Oneawa, The koa grove down at Oneawa.” (Rose & Kelieger)
Oneawa was a famous fishery off the beach for awa (milkfish) and ʻōʻio (bonefish.) Awa are surface feeders that eat seaweed, while ʻōʻio are bottom feeders that forage in the sand, especially for crabs. (Clark)
Awa (milkfish) raised at Kawainui were considered so tame they were “easily caught.” Like ʻoʻopu, “The fish did not like persons with strong smelling skins (ili awa) and kept away from them. Otherwise they swam right up to a person in the water”.
The sea off Oneawa (Milkfish sand) – also the name of the ridge between Kāne’ohe and Kailua, as well as a land division – was “famous for the quality and quantities of the ʻōʻio, which are found in immense schools in the adjoining water; it was formerly a favorite residence of the Old Oahu chiefs”. (Rose & Kelieger)