Nowhere on the island of Hawaiʻi do the palms grow taller than in the valleys of Waipiʻo, and nowhere is the foliage greener, for every month in the year they are refreshed with rains, and almost hourly cooled in the shadows of passing clouds. (Kalākaua)
Waipi‘o (“curved water”) is one of several coastal valleys on the north part of the Hāmākua side of the Island of Hawaiʻi. A black sand beach, three-quarters of a mile long, fronts the valley, the longest on the Big Island.
For two hundred years or more, Waipiʻo Valley was the Royal Center to many of the rulers on the Island of Hawaiʻi, including Pili lineage rulers – the ancestors of Kamehameha – and continued to play an important role as one of many royal residences until the era of Kamehameha. (UH DURP)
Royal Centers were where the aliʻi resided; aliʻi often moved between several residences throughout the year. The Royal Centers were selected for their abundance of resources and recreation opportunities, with good surfing and canoe-landing sites being favored.
The Hawaiian court was mobile within the districts or kingdom the aliʻi controlled. A paramount’s attendants might consist of as many as 700 to 1000-followers made of kahuna and political advisors (including geologists, architects, seers, messengers, executioner, etc.); servants which included craftsmen, guards, stewards; relatives and numerous hangers-on (friends, lovers, etc.).
Although thinly populated now, Waipiʻo was for many generations in the past a place of great political and social importance, and the tabus of its great temple were the most sacred in all Hawaiʻi. It was the residence of the kings of that island, and was the scene of royal pageants, priestly power and knightly adventure, as well as of many sanguinary battles. (Kalākaua)
Waipiʻo valley was first occupied as a royal residence by Kahaimoelea, near the middle or close of the thirteenth century, and so continued until after the death of Līloa, about the end of the fifteenth century. (Kalākaua)
Līloa, the son of Kiha and father of ʻUmi, had become the peaceful sovereign of Hawaiʻi; Kahakuma, the ancestor of some of the most distinguished families of the islands, held gentle and intelligent sway in Kauaʻi; Kawao still ruled in Maui, and Piliwale in Oʻahu. (Kalākaua)
The reign of Kiha was long and peaceful. He was endowed not only with marked abilities as a ruler, but with unusual physical strength and skill in the use of arms. In addition to these natural advantages and accomplishments, which gave him the respect and fear of his subjects. (Kalākaua)
The reign of his son Līloa was as peaceful as that of Kiha, his distinguished father (Līloa ruled about the same time that Columbus crossed the Atlantic.) He did not lack ability, either as a civil or military leader.
Līloa’s wife, Pinea, was the younger sister of his mother from a line of chiefs on O‘ahu. They had a son, Hākau. From another wife, Haua, a Maui chiefess, he had a daughter, Kapukini. Both of these marriages established ties between high-ranking families outside the Kingdom of Hawai‘i Island. (MalamaWaipio)
Līloa was much given to touring through the districts of his kingdom, by which means he acquainted himself with the needs of his people and was able to repress the arbitrary encroachments of the chiefs on the rights of the land-holders under their authority. In this way he gained popularity with the common people. (Malo)
The story of another of Līloa’s sons, ʻUmi, suggests that while Līloa was on a journey across Hāmākua he met a beautiful woman, Akahiakuleana (Akahi.) They spend the night together and conceive a child. Līloa told Akahi that if she has a son, to name him ʻUmi.
Līloa left his malo (loincloth), his niho-palaoa (whale-tooth necklace) and laʻau palau (club) to be given to the child as proof of ancestry. ʻUmi later united with Līloa and ultimately ruled the Island of Hawaiʻi (he moved the Royal Center from Waipiʻo to Kailua (Kona.))
At Waipiʻo, Pakaʻalana was the name of Līloa’s heiau. It is not known by whom the Pakaʻalana heiau was built, but it existed before Kiha’s time and so did the sacred pavement leading to the enclosure where the chief’s Royal Center – called Haunokamaahala – stood, though its name has come down to our days as Paepae-a-Liloa. (Fornander)
“It was a large enclosure, less extensive, however, than that at Honaunau….In the midst of the enclosure, under a wide-spreading pandanus, was a small house, called Ke Hale o Riroa (The House of Līloa), from the circumstance of its containing the bones of a king of that name…..”
“We tried, but could not gain admittance to the pahu tabu, or sacred enclosure. We also endeavored to obtain a sight of the bones of Riroa, but the man who had charge of the house told us we must offer a hog before we could be admitted”. (Ellis 1826)
Līloa carried a long stone on his shoulder and placed it at the side door of his house. He called this stone “The Sacred Slab of Līloa,” (Ka paepae kapu o Līloa). No one, not even a chief was allowed to stand or walk on this stone. Only two people were allowed to step on “The Sacred Slab of Līloa:” Līloa, the ruler, and Chief Laea-nui-kau-manamana. (Williams)
“The expression ‘Ka Paepae Kapu a Liloa’ as at present used, whether in speaking or writing, refers to the reigning sovereign as to the sacredness of trust imposed upon and reposed to him, and as to the dignity and honour of the position where no intruders are supposed to trespass. It also refers to the pavement and the way that leads up to royalty, and as to the footstool of sovereignty and power.” (Bacchilega)
Although the glory of the old capital departed with its abandonment as the royal residence, the tabus of its great temple of Pakaʻalana continued to command supreme respect until as late as 1791, when the heiau was destroyed, with all its sacred symbols and royal associations, by the confederated forces of Maui and Kauai in their war with Kamehameha I. (Kalakaua)
“There are many references to this famous place (Pakaʻalana) … the tabus of its (Waipi‘o) great heiau were the most sacred on Hawaiʻi, and remained so until the destruction of the heiau and the spoliation of all the royal associations in the valley of Waipi‘o by Kāʻeokūlani, king of Kauaʻi, and confederate of Kahekili, king of Maui, in the war upon Kamehameha I, in 1791 …” (Stokes)
King Kalākaua moved the slab (Ka Paepae Kapu a Liloa) to Honolulu. It sits silently and often unnoticed, outside the Archives Building on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace. The stone holds the historical and cultural significance of a Royal Center in Waipiʻo associated with Līloa; he was “sacred in the eyes of his people for his many good qualities.” (Bacchilega)
An ancient chant, later put to music, notes: Aia i Waipiʻo Pākaʻalana e; Paepae kapu ʻia o Līloa e (There at Waipiʻo is Pākaʻalana; And the sacred platform of Līloa.)
The March 10, 1899 issue of the Hawaiian Gazette noted that Līloa (1500s,) Lonoikamakahiki (late-1500s) and Alapaʻi (1700s) are among the reburied at Mauna ʻAla.
The image shows the Hawaiʻi Archives Building; to the right is Paepae Kapu O Līloa (interestingly situated in front of a plaque to Captain James Cook.) Nearby are Nā Kālai Pōhaku a ʻUmi. In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
At the time of Captain Cook’s arrival (1778,) the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four kingdoms: (1) the island of Hawaiʻi under the rule of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who also had possession of the Hāna district of east Maui; (2) Maui (except the Hāna district,) Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, ruled by Kahekili; (3) Oʻahu, under the rule of Kahahana; and (4) Kauaʻi and Niʻihau, Kamakahelei was ruler.
Kahahana was high-born and royally-connected. His father was Elani, one of the highest nobles in the ʻEwa district on Oʻahu, a descendant of the ancient chiefs of Līhuʻe. While still a child, Kahahana was sent to Maui to live in the court of his relative, Kahekili. (Fornander)
Then Oʻahu chiefs selected Kahahana to be their leader (this was the second king to be elected to succeed to the throne of Oʻahu, the first being Māʻilikūkahi, who was his ancestor.)
Kahahana left Maui and ruled Oʻahu. When war broke out between Kalaniʻōpuʻu of Hawaiʻi Island and Kahekili in 1779, Kahahana had come to the aid of Kahekili.
Later, things soured.
“At that time Kahekili was plotting for the downfall of Kahahana and the seizure of Oʻahu and Molokaʻi, and the queen of Kauaʻi was disposed to assist him in these enterprises.” (Kalākaua)
In the beginning of 1783, King Kahekili from Maui sought to add Oʻahu under his control. Kahekili invaded Oʻahu and Kahahana, landing at Waikīkī and dividing his forces in three columns (Kahekili’s forces marched from Waikīkī by Pūowaina (Punchbowl,) Pauoa and Kapena to battle Kahahana and his warriors.)
Kahahana’s army was routed, and he and his wife fled to the mountains. For nearly two years or more they wandered over the mountains, secretly aided, fed and clothed by his supporters, who commiserated the misfortunes of their former king.
Weary of a life in hiding, Kahahana sent his wife, Kekuapoʻiʻula, to negotiate with Kekuamanohā (her brother, and chief under Kahekili) for their safety. Kekuamanohā sent messengers to Kahekili at Waikīkī informing him of the fact.
Kahekili immediately ordered the death of Kahahana, and he sent a double canoe down to ʻEwa to bring the corpse to Waikiki. This order was faithfully executed by Kekuamanohā. Kahahana and Alapaʻi were killed in Waikele.
Some of the remaining Oʻahu chiefs sought revenge and devised a wide-spread conspiracy against Kahekili and the Maui chiefs. The conspiracy was led by Elani, father of Kahahana and included a number of Oʻahu chiefs.
At the time, Kahekili and his chiefs were quartered in various areas around the island. Kahekili was in Kailua, while others were in Kāneʻohe and Heʻeia, and the remainder in ʻEwa and Waialua.
The plan was to kill the Maui chiefs on the same night in the different districts.
The conspiracy and revolt against Kahekili on Oʻahu was called Waipio Kimopo, (the “Waipiʻo Assassination” – named such, having originated in Waipiʻo, ʻEwa.)
However, before they could carry out their plan, Kalanikūpule found out their intentions and informed his father, Kahekili. Messengers were sent to warn the other chiefs, who overcame the conspirators and killed them. (Apparently the messenger to warn the chiefs in Waialua was too late and the Maui chiefs there were killed.)
It was found to be the best policy for a newly conquered people to give prompt and zealous allegiance to Kahekili, lest his piercing eyes should detect a want of aloha in his newly acquired subjects. For such delinquency he had given the people of a whole town to midnight slaughter. (Newell)
Gathering his forces together, Kahekili overran the districts of Kona and ʻEwa, and a war of extermination ensued. Men, women and children were killed without discrimination and without mercy. This event was called Kapoluku – “the night of slaughter.” (Newell)
The streams of Makaho and Niuhelewai in Kona (Oʻahu,) and that of Hōʻaeʻae in ʻEwa, were said to have been literally choked with the corpses of the slain. The Oʻahu aristocracy had almost been entirely killed off.
Kalaikoa, one of the Maui chiefs, scraped and cleaned the bones of the slain and built a house for himself entirely from the skeletons of the slaughtered situated at Lapakea in Moanalua. The skulls of Elani and other slain Oʻahu chiefs adorned the doorways of the house. The house was called “Kauwalua.”
(Lots of information from Fornander and Bishop Museum.)
© 2014 Hoʻokuleana LLC
Today, you don’t necessarily use the words ʻEwa and Kalo in the same sentence – we tend to think of the ʻEwa district as dry and hot, not as a wetland taro production region. Some early written descriptions of the place also note the dry ʻEwa Plains.
In 1793, Captain George Vancouver described this area as desolate and barren: “From the commencement of the high land to the westward of Opooroah (Puʻuloa – Pearl Harbor) was … one barren rocky waste, nearly destitute of verdure, cultivation or inhabitants, with little variation all to the west point of the island. …”
In 1839, Missionary EO Hall described the area between Pearl Harbor and Kalaeloa as follows: “Passing all the villages (after leaving the Pearl River) at one or two of which we stopped, we crossed the barren desolate plain”. (Robicheaux)
However, not only was ʻEwa productive, its taro was memorable.
Ua ʻai i ke kāī-koi o ‘Ewa.
He has eaten the kāī-koi taro of ‘Ewa.
Kāī is O‘ahu‘s best eating taro; one who has eaten it will always like it. Said of a youth or maiden of ‘Ewa, who, like the Kāī taro, is not easily forgotten. (ʻŌlelo Noʻeau, 2770, Pukui)
The island of Oʻahu is divided into 6 moku (districts), consisting of: ‘Ewa, Kona, Koʻolauloa, Koʻolaupoko, Waialua and Waiʻanae. These moku were further divided into 86 ahupua‘a (land divisions within a moku.)
‘Ewa was divided into 12-ahupua‘a, consisting of (from east to west): Hālawa, ‘Aiea, Kalauao, Waimalu, Waiau, Waimano, Mānana, Waiʻawa, Waipi‘o, Waikele, Hōʻaeʻae and Honouliuli.
‘Ewa was at one time the political center for O‘ahu chiefs. This was probably due to its abundant resources that supported the households of the chiefs, particularly the many fishponds around the lochs of Puʻuloa (“long hill,) better known today as Pearl Harbor. (Cultural Surveys) ʻEwa was the second most productive taro cultivation area on Oʻahu (just behind Waikīkī.) (Laimana)
The salient feature of ‘Ewa, and perhaps its most notable difference, is its spacious coastal plain, surrounding the deep bays (“lochs”) of Pearl Harbor, which are actually the drowned seaward valleys of ‘Ewa’s main streams, Waikele and Waipi‘o…The lowlands, bisected by ample streams, were ideal terrain for the cultivation of irrigated taro. (Handy, Cultural Surveys)
‘Ewa was known for a special and tasty variety of kalo (taro) called kāī which was native to the district. There were four documented varieties; the kāī ʻulaʻula (red kāī), kāī koi (kāī that pierces), kāī kea or kāī keʻokeʻo (white kāī), and kāī uliuli (dark kāī.) (Handy)
Handy says about ‘Ewa:
The lowlands, bisected by ample streams, were ideal terrain for the cultivation of irrigated taro. The hinterland consisted of deep valleys running far back into the Koʻolau range. Between the valleys were ridges, with steep sides, but a very gradual increase of altitude. The lower parts of the valley sides were excellent for the culture of yams and bananas. Farther inland grew the ‘awa for which the area was famous. The length or depth of the valleys and the gradual slope of the ridges made the inhabited lowlands much more distant from the wao, or upland jungle, than was the case on the windward coast. Yet the wao here was more extensive, giving greater opportunity to forage for wild foods in famine time. (Handy)
Earlier this century, a few fishermen and some of their families built shanties by the shore where they lived, fished and traded their catch for taro at ‘Ewa. Their drinking water was taken from nearby ponds, and it was so brackish that other people could not stand to drink it. (Maly)
An 1899 newspaper account says of the kāī koi, “That is the taro that visitors gnaw on and find it so good that they want to live until they die in ‘Ewa. The poi of kai koi is so delicious”. (Ka Loea Kalai ʻĀina 1899, Cultural Surveys) So famous was the kāī variety that ‘Ewa was sometimes affectionately called Kāī o ‘Ewa.
“I think it (wetlands) went all the way behind the Barbers Point beach area. … We’d go swim in the ponds back there, it was pretty deep, about two feet, and the birds were all around. … It seems like when there were storms out on the ocean, we’d see them come into the shore, but they’re not around anymore.”
“The wet land would get bigger when there was a lot of rain, and we had so much fun in there, but now the water has nearly all dried up. They even used to grow wet-land taro in the field behind the elementary school area when I was young. (Arline Wainaha Pu‘ulei Brede-Eaton, Maly Interview)
”… Bountiful taro fields covered the plain and countless coconut palms, with several huts in their shade beautified the country side. … The taro fields, the banana plantations, the plantations of sugar cane are immeasurable.” (A Botanist’s Visit to Oahu in 1831, Journal of Dr FJF Meyen, Maly)
“This district, unlike others of the island, is watered by copious and excellent springs that gush out at the foot of the mountains. From these run streams sufficient for working sugar-mills. In consequence of this supply, the district never suffers from drought, and the taro-patches are well supplied with water by the same means.” (Commander Charles Wilkes, 1840-1841, Maly)
“Rev. Artemas Bishop, in the summer of 1836, removed with his wife and two children from Kailua, Hawaii, to Ewa, Oahu. … Throughout the district of Ewa the common people were generally well fed. Owing to the decay of population, great breadths of taro marsh had fallen into disuse, and there was a surplus of soil and water for raising food.” (SE Bishop, The Friend, May 1901)
As in other areas, kalo loʻi converted to rice patties. “These days at ‘Ewa, the planting of rice is spreading among the Chinese and the Hawaiians, from Hālawa to Honouliuli and beyond. There will come a day when the mother food, taro, shall not be seen on the land.” (Ka Lahui Hawaii, May 3, 1877, Maly)
Of course, in our discussion of the ʻEwa Moku, we need to remember that it ran from Hālawa to Honouliuli and circled Pearl Harbor. Much of the watered wetland taro was produced off of streams from the Koʻolau; however, there is considerable mention of the wetland taro of Honouliuli (what we generally refer to today as ʻEwa.)
The image shows the ahupuaʻa within the Moku of ʻEwa over Google Earth. In addition, I have included other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
Waipi‘o (“curved water”) is one of several coastal valleys on the north part of the Hāmākua side of the Island of Hawaiʻi. A black sand beach three-quarters of a mile long fronts the valley, the longest on the Big Island.
The Waipiʻo Valley was once the Royal Center to many of the rulers on the Island of Hawaiʻi, including Pili lineage rulers – the ancestors of Kamehameha. Līloa and his son ʻUmi ruled from Waipiʻo. The Valley continued to play an important role as one of many royal residences until the era of Kamehameha. (UH DURP)
In the 1780s, warring factions were fighting for control. The island of Hawaiʻi was in internal struggle when one of the aliʻi nui, Kalaniʻōpuʻu, died. He passed his title to his son Kīwalaʻo and named his nephew, Kamehameha, keeper of the family war god, Kūkaʻilimoku.
Kīwalaʻo was later killed in battle, setting off a power struggle between Keōua, Keawemauhili and Kamehameha. The 1782 Battle of Mokuʻōhai gave Kamehameha control of the West and North sides of the island of Hawaiʻi.
It was off the coast of Waimanu, near Waipiʻo, that Kamehameha overpowered Kahekili, the Chief of Maui Nui and O’ahu, and his half-brother, Kāʻeokūlani of Kauaʻi (1791.)
This was the first naval battle in Hawaiian history – Kepuwahaulaula, – known as the Battle of the Red-Mouthed Guns (so named for the cannons and other western weapons;) from here, Kamehameha continued his conquest of the Islands.
Many significant sites on the Island of Hawaiʻi were located in Waipiʻo:
Honuaʻula Heiau – “… all the corpses of those slain in battle were offered up in the heiau of Honua‘ula in Waipi‘o … when ʻUmi-a-Līloa laid the victims on the altar in the heiau—the bodies of the fallen warriors and the chief, Hakau – the tongue of the god came down from heaven, without the body being seen. The tongue quivered downward to the altar, accompanied by thunder and lightning, and took away all the sacrifices.” (Kamakau)
Pakaʻalana Heiau – “The puʻuhonua of Pakaʻalana was 300-feet to the southwest of Honua‘ula Heiau …There are many references to this famous place…[Fornander notes:…the tabus of its [Waipi‘o] great heiau were the most sacred on Hawaii, and remained so until the destruction of the heiau and the spoliation of all the royal associations in the valley of Waipi‘o by Kāʻeokūlani, king of Kauai, and confederate of Kahekili, king of Maui, in the war upon Kamehameha I, in 1791 …” (Stokes)
Hokuwelowelo Heiau – “The heiau is a small pen near the edge of the sea cliff, overlooking the mouth of Waipi‘o valley….This heiau is said to have been “built by the gods” and was the place where the famous Kihapu was guarded until it was stolen by the thief-dog, Puapualenalena .” (Stokes)
Moaʻula Heiau – “The site is at the foot of the steep northwest cliff bounding Waipi‘o valley, 2,500 feet from the sea. According to local information, Moaʻula was built by Hākau but was not dedicated at the time of ‘Umi’s rebellion. After ʻUmi killed Hākau, he dedicated the heiau and used Hākau’s body for the first offering. (Stokes)
Fornander recounts that the great high chief ʻUmi “built large taro patches in Waipiʻo, and he tilled the soil in all places where he resided.” So it is readily apparent that the valley was intensively cultivated from long ago.
The valley floor was once the largest wetland kalo (taro) cultivation site on the Big Island and one of the largest in the Islands; but only a small portion of the land is still in production today.
Waipiʻo was a fertile and productive valley that could provide for many. Reportedly, as many as 10,000-people lived in Waipiʻo Valley during the times before the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778.
Kalo cultivation and poi production in traditional Hawaiian was the mainstay of the Hawaiian diet. In the later part of the 19th-century and early half of the 20th-century its commercial manufacture became an important economic activity for the residents of Waipi‘o Valley.
William Ellis in 1823 described valley walls that “were nearly perpendicular, yet they were mostly clothed with grass, and low straggling shrubs were here and there seen amidst the jutting rocks.” The valley floor he described as “one continued garden, cultivated with taro, bananas, sugar-cane, and other productions of the islands, all growing luxuriantly.”
Workers were seen carrying back “loads of sandal wood, which they had been cutting in the neighbouring mountains.” Isabella Bird, viewing the valley from the pali above in 1873, described “a fertile region perfectly level…watered by a winding stream, and bright with fishponds, meadow lands, kalo patches, orange and coffee groves, figs, breadfruit, and palms.”
Waipiʻo was the greatest wet-taro valley of Hawaiʻi and one of the largest planting areas in the entire group of islands. In 1870, the Chinese started rice farming in areas which were previously cultivated in taro. In 1902 Tuttle estimated 580 acres cultivated in rice and taro in Waipiʻo. Rice crop production came to an end in 1927 when it could no longer compete with the lower-cost California rice. (UH DURP)
By 1907, Waipiʻo Valley had four schools – one English, three Hawaiian. It had five stores, four restaurants, one hotel, a post office, a rice mill, nine poi factories, four pool halls and five churches. (UH DURP)
Tidal waves came in 1819 and 1946 destroying crops, destroying the fertility of the land with salt intrusion and in 1946, destroyed the people’s spirit. “The brutal 55-foot waves … came in at an angle, hitting the Waimanu side of the pali, deflecting up the flat and then circling down the Wailoa River in torrents” (UH DURP)
There is limited access (due to the steep and narrow roadway) into the valley. Warning signs at the top of the extremely steep and narrow Waipiʻo Valley access road restrict use to 4-WD vehicles in low range to keep a reduced speed and to save your vehicle’s brakes.
The image shows horseback riders heading down into Waipiʻo Valley in 1909 (the present access into the valley is near the ocean.) In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.