If there are sites across the state that are worthy of restoration, Kāneiolouma would be on the short list for most (and probably at the top.)
As noted by Henry Kekahuna in the late-1950s, “No such thing as a real, truly authentic Hawaiian village of ancient type exists anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands today. All attempts to produce anything of the kind have been merely superficial.”
“The island of Kauai should receive the honor of being the very first to produce the only true Hawaiian village of ancient character in the world … Such a project would keep old Hawai‘i, not only in inanimate form as at present, but as living reality.”
The “Po‘ipu Beach Park Mauka Preserve,” covering 11.04 acres, was created by the county in recognition of Kāneiolouma’s archaeological, historical and cultural significance to Kauai.
Kane-i-olo-u-ma translates as Kane-who-drove-and-pushed. Kāne is a principal god and associated with fresh water and it is his relationship with the other gods that brings forth life.
Lono, the god of agriculture, along with Kāne’s help, insures a life cycle and abundance to all animal husbandry and crops. Kanaloa, the god of the sea, also needs Kāne’s help in order to insure a life cycle for the fish. This is significant as these three components are represented at Kāneiolouma.
“The heiau was the principle medium through which all religious activities were manifested, and was therefore the most important representative of religion collectively in ancient Hawai‘i,” said Henry Kekahuna, a surveyor with more than 68 heiau to his credit, and a kahuna of note, in his presentation to the Kauai Historical Society in 1957.
“Such was the fundamental philosophy of the Hawaiians. All principle activities of their lives were necessarily parts of a whole, that whole being perfected in and through the heiau. Not merely was the heiau a place of worship. In the lives of the people, it also functioned as a mighty powerhouse of all spiritual life, human and non-human.”
As noted by Henry Kekahuna in his 1959 mapping of the Kāneiolouma complex, the Kāneiolouma heiau at Po‘ipu had three main sections (religion, agriculture and aquaculture (fish ponds.))
On the East side, there is a large sports arena where Hawaiian games such as forearm wrestling, or uma, wrestling, or hakoko, and deadly grappling, or lua, were carried on.
On the South side, there is a large fishpond where special fish intended only for the ali‘i were raised. The Waiohai spring is the center of this fishpond.
Extensive walled enclosures, alters, numerous bases for temple images, shrines, taro patches, irrigation ditches, a series of large fishponds, house platforms, extensive cooking areas, and terracing throughout make this complex ideal for rehabilitation.
Kāneiolouma is wahi pana, a storied place. It is considered sacred to the Hawaiian culture, as well as an important historic landmark for the residents of Kauai.
Within the complex, an intricate system of walls and terraces trace the architecture of an ancient way of life. Near its center, the complex contains what may be the only intact Makahiki sporting arena in the state.
The amount of monumental Hawaiian architecture represented here has the potential of yielding important information regarding ancient temple religion, agriculture and fishpond management.
The Kāneiolouma and agricultural site complex is part of a huge complex of agricultural and habitation sites ranging from Kōloa town to the coast of Poʻipū and ranging from the Weliweli area westward to Kukui‘ula Bay and the Kōloa Field System.
This site complex offers the only archaeological area that is not on private land. Eventually, this complex may be the only such accessible complex on the entire south shore of the Kōloa District.
Culturally, the heiau and agricultural site area could become a heritage place, a marker for the Native Hawaiians to identify with their prehistory and their ancestry; with clearing, preservation, restoration and maintenance it can serve as an interpretive park.
For more than a decade, Kauai locals have been working on stabilizing the Kāneiolouma complex. In 2009 they founded Hui Mālama O Kāneiolouma, an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
In July 2010 a landmark agreement with the Kauai County Council and Mayor Bernard Carvalho formally granted stewardship of Kāneiolouma Heiau Complex to the Hui under the County’s Adopt-a-Park program.
The agreement acknowledges the role of the Hui in the preservation, protection and enhancement of the complex, and for future development of the complex as an educational center for Kauai residents and the world.
Kāneiolouma is one of the featured Points of Interest on the Holo Holo Kōloa Scenic Byway and is an important part of the Byway’s Corridor Management Plan. We prepared the Byway’s Plan.
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