The moku (district) of Honuaʻula includes the Southeastern portion of the island of Maui from the coastal bay of Keawakapu (modern day South Kihei area) to the rocky shoreline of Kanaloa point, seven miles south of Keoneʻoʻio (La Perouse) Bay.
The moku of Honuaʻula extends inland to what is now the southeastern face of Haleakala National Park and includes the upland regions of Ulupalakua and Kanaio. It also includes the Island of Kahoʻolawe a few miles away across the ʻAlalakeiki channel (the “rain shadow” of Maui’s Haleakalā, a “cloud bridge” connects Kahoʻolawe to the slopes of Haleakalā.)
The upper areas were in sandalwood and koa forests. Prior to European contact, early Hawaiians farmed sweet potatoes, dry land taro and harvested wood, birds and pigs from these forested areas.
Researchers believe that in the era from AD 1300 to 1800 native forests in southeast Maui areas like Honuaʻula began much lower- around the 2,300 to 2,800 foot elevation. These views are based upon analysis of bird and snail remains, common species represented in studies of Honuaʻula’s neighboring moku (district) of Kahikinui.
The areas below the west and south slopes of Haleakalā (Kula, Honuaʻula, Kahikinui and Kaupo) in old Hawaiian times were typically planted in sweet potato. The leeward flanks of Haleakalā were not as favorable for dry or upland taro. However, some upland taro was grown, up to an altitude of 3,000 feet.
The district was one frequented by droughts and famines. Hawaiians supported themselves by cultivating in the uplands, and fishing, with some lowlands agriculture when rains fell. They also traded woven goods and other items for kalo from Na Wai ʻEhā (Waikapū, Wailuku, Waiʻehu and Waiheʻe.) (Maly)
Archaeologists have proposed that early Polynesian settlement voyages between Kahiki (the ancestral homelands of the Hawaiian gods and people) – Kahikinui, the district neighboring Honua‘ula to the south, is named because from afar on the ocean, it resembled a larger form of Kahiki, the ancestral homeland. (Maly)
Honuaʻula (literally, Red-land or earth) is comprised of twenty traditional ahupuaʻa. Honuaʻula was a legal-judicial district throughout the nineteen century. In modern times, Honuaʻula has been joined with portions of the traditional moku of Kula, Hamakuapoko and Hamakualoa to form Maui County’s Makawao land management district. (de Naie)
The Honuaʻula lands are tied to the legend of the great voyaging chief, Moʻikeha, who sailed to Kahiki (Tahiti) after the devastation of his homelands in Waipiʻo Valley on the island of Hawaiʻi. One of Moʻikeha’s voyaging companions, a chief named Honuaʻula, is said to have given the Maui district its name when he asked to be put ashore there. (Fornander)
“Where the wind dies upon the kula (plains) is the sub-region of Makena and Kula, where the mists are seen creeping along the plain. This is a land famous with the Chiefs from the distant past.” (From the tale of Ka-miki, Maly, de Naie)
Because of its proximity to Hawaiʻi Island, favorable wind conditions, long coastline with sandy beaches and several sheltered bays, it is likely that the Honuaʻula district received voyagers from these early excursions. Perhaps this is why it was described in the ancient (AD 1200-1300) name chant of Ka-miki as being “a land famous with the Chiefs from the distant past.“
“In ancient times, the land was covered with people. From the summits of the mountains to the shore are to be found the remains of their cultivated fields and the sites of their houses.” (Kamakau, de Naie)
Honuaʻula’s earliest history is tied to the importance of Puʻu Olaʻi (“Red Hill” and “Miller’s Hill”.) Puʻu Olaʻi has its origin in the legendary battle between the volcano goddess Pele and the local moʻo (supernatural lizard) goddess Puʻuoinaina.
Puʻu Olaʻi, a 360-foot cinder cone forms a point and separates Oneloa “Makena” Beach from Oneuli “Black Sand” Beach. A portion of Puʻu Olaʻi further divides Makena Beach into ‘Big Beach’ and ‘Little Beach.’
Honuaʻula is also home to a number of traditional Hawaiian fishponds, most adapted from natural wetlands along the shore. Three of these are shown in old maps in the Honuaʻula, and several more were shown just to the south of Puʻu Olaʻi.
Based upon this cultural view, the earliest population levels of Honuaʻula would have been linked to availability of food from the sea and the land and fresh water resources, as well as the influence of spiritual forces and familial ties.
The presence of trade resources such as dried sea salt, volcanic glass and canoe building materials as well as safe landing areas and favorable currents would all be part of the mix of conditions to determine the extent of population.
In 1789, Simon Metcalf (captaining the Eleanora) and his son Thomas Metcalf (captaining the Fair American) were traders; their plan was to meet and spend winter in the Hawaiian Islands. After a confrontation with a local chief on Hawaiʻi Island, Simon Metcalf then sailed to Maui and anchored the Eleanora off shore, probably at Makena Bay.
Someone stole one of Metcalfe’s small boats and killed a watchman. Captain Metcalfe fired his cannons into the village, and captured a few Hawaiians who told him the boat was taken by people from the village of Olowalu.
He sailed to Olowalu but found that boat had been broken up, enraged, Metcalfe indicated he wanted to trade with them; instead, he opened fire, about one hundred Hawaiians were killed, and many others wounded. Hawaiians referred to the slaughter as Kalolopahu, or spilled brains; it is also called the Olowalu Massacre.
From 1800 to the 1840s (in the period prior to the Māhele ʻĀina), the land here was managed for members of the Kamehameha household and supporting high chiefs by konohiki—lesser chiefs appointed by Kamehameha III and Ulumäheihei Hoapili. (Maly)
Up to the early 1840s, land use, access, and subsistence activities remained as it had from ancient times. But by the middle 1840s, land use transitioned from traditional subsistence agriculture to business interests, focused on ranching and plantations (the latter occurring in the cooler uplands).
Modern agricultural began on the slopes of Haleakalā in 1845 when Linton L Torbert, an active member of the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society, farmed potatoes and corn, primarily to supply island merchant ships and California’s ’gold rush’ era. He later planted sugar. (The 2,300-acres had first been leased from King Kamehameha III in 1841.)
On January 23, 1856, “Kapena Ki” (Captain James Makee) purchased at auction Torbert’s plantation. He sold his Nuʻuanu residence. (He was active in Oʻahu business and, later, was the Kapiʻolani Park Association’s first president (they even named the large island in the Park’s waterways after him.))
The Stone Meeting House at Keawakapu (also called Honuaʻula or Makena Church) was completed in 1858. In 1944, the church known as the Stone House, Honuaʻula, Keawekapu, Makena and Kaʻeo was renamed Keawalaʻi – the name it retains today. (Lots of information here from ‘Project Kaʻeo’ (de Naie, Donham) and He Mo‘olelo ‘Āina No Ka‘eo (Maly))