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Citizens Gain Stewardship of Po‘ipu Heiau

Source: Garden Island News – LIHU‘E — An agreement between the County of Kaua‘i and the Hui Malama O Kaneiolouma, Friday, will help breathe new life into the Kaneiolouma Heiau located in Po‘ipu.

Currently shrouded by screens of haole koa and guinea grass, the heiau is comprised of three components — religion, agriculture and aquaculture — and is under the jurisdiction of the county in the area known as the Po‘ipu Beach Park Mauka Preserve (near Po‘ipu Beach Park and the Brennecke’s Beach Broiler parking lot).
It is an important, multi-purpose heiau, according to historians of the place.

Rupert Rowe Sr., president of the hui, and Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. signed the agreement which addresses the malama, or care, preservation, protection and enhancement of the Kaneiolouma Heiau Complex by affording stewardship to the hui under the county’s Adopt-a-Park program.

The Po‘ipu Beach Park Mauka Preserve, covering 11.04 acres, was created by the county in recognition of Kaneiolouma’s archaeological, historical and cultural significance to Kaua‘i, states the agreement.
“We need to preserve these special places,” Carvalho said.

“When I visit Kaneiolouma, I could feel it. It’s special. This is a big step for all of us to move forward and see this incredible cultural site come to life.”

This site also contains the sacred spring of Waiohai and, in the agreement, states the amount of monumental Hawaiian architecture represented here has the potential of yielding important information regarding ancient-temple religion, agriculture and fishpond management.

The heiau contains extensive walled enclosures, altars, numerous bases for temple images, shrines, taro patches, irrigation ditches, a series of large fishponds, house platforms, extensive cooking areas and terracing throughout, making this complex ideal for rehabilitation, states the agreement.

Under the agreement, the hui will maintain the grounds within the boundaries of the Kaneiolouma Heiau Complex, Po‘ipu Beach Park Mauka Preserve, and restoration work is subject to plans approved by the County of Kaua‘i with consultation from the Kaua‘i Historic Preservation Review Commission and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources State Historic Preservation Division.

The Kaneiolouma and agricultural site complex is part of a huge complex of agricultural and habitation sites ranging from Koloa town to the coast of Po‘ipu, ranging from the Weliweli area westward to Kukui‘ula Bay, states a report accompanying the agreement.

It further states that most of the estimated 1,000-plus features have been destroyed, the number of sites remaining being around 100.

The report further states this site complex offers the only archaeological area that is not on private land and, eventually, this complex may be the only such accessible complex on the entire South Shore of the Koloa District.

“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 Kaua‘i 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.”

Kekahuna, in an Oct. 21, 1959 article in The Garden Island , said, “The Kaneiolouma heiau at Po‘ipu had three main sections. 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.”

In that same year, Kekahuna wrote in “A Genuinely Authentic Hawaiian Village for Kaua‘i” an outline in detail on creating an authentic Hawaiian atmosphere at Kaneiolouma.

“The island of Kaua‘i should receive the honor of being the very first to produce the only true Hawaiian village of ancient character in the world,” Kekahuna said in the outline.

“It is planned that someday the sizable tract in Waiohai, Po‘ipu, Koloa that contains the remnants of the heiau of Kaneiolouma, especially dedicated to tournaments of sports and combat, and also to the replenishment of vegetable food, or ho‘oulu ‘ai, and of fish, or ho‘oulu i‘a, shall be made a State Park.”

“Let this great work begin at Koloa,” Kekahuna said.

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