“So, for all of you who embark upon this odyssey through the land of Ha‘ena, land of the fire goddess Pele, land of the leaping fire, land standing under the wind watching the sun go to rest in the west, let us venture there and discover what the land itself has to tell us” (page xviii).
Written by Carlos Andrade, “Ha‘ena: Through the Eyes of the Ancestors” (2008) is a personal, eloquent, and poignant account of land tenure in Hawai‘i. Based on oral stories, newspapers, and archives, it was written to preserve the heritage of kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiians), record the history and stories of Ha‘ena, and address misconceptions about Hawai‘i’s land privatization.
“Ha‘ena” begins with the intimate, constant connection between Native Hawaiians and the ‘aina (the land, that which feeds), “the foundation for their physical, mental, and spiritual relationships with the world” (page 3). In old Hawai‘i, mokupuni (islands) were divided into moku o kolo (districts) and ahupua‘a (land divisions usually extending from the uplands to the sea). The people followed sustainable practices – only enough to eat, only what you need.
The Mahele of 1848 and the Kuleana Act of 1850, signed into law by Kamehameha III at the urging of haole (foreigners), changed everything. It was meant to divide the land into thirds: one-third each to the Hawaiian government, the ali‘i, and the maka‘ainana. In fact, less than 1% of the land went to the maka‘ainana. Land privatization severed the traditional kinship ties between mo‘i, ali‘i, and maka‘ainana; constrained their freedom of movement and access to natural resources; and forced Native Hawaiians to enter the cash economy to pay taxes.
Ha‘ena, on the northern coast of Kaua‘i, was an ‘aina momona (a fertile land of abundant waters) and said to be the last gathering place of the Menehune. It was small ahupua‘a with many natural resources, dominated by a peak called Makana (gift), once famous for the hala groves of Naue (now part of Wainiha) and favored with a bay and fishery at Makua. It contained extensive lo‘i (irrigated terraces for growing taro) and an intricate network of ‘auwai (waterways) in Manoa and Limahuli valleys; and a strong connection to the hula at the heiau at Ke‘e.
After the Mahele, Ha‘ena was awarded to Abner Paki, father of Bernice Pauahi Bishop. In 1875, Hui Ku‘ai ‘Aina o Ha‘ena (a cooperative to buy land in Ha‘ena), composed of 38 members, purchased about 2,500 acres of Ha‘ena and was owned in common until 1955, when two wealthy foreigners filed a suit to partition the hui.
Today, Ha‘ena is a site of vacation rentals and wealthy residences, but kupuna (elders) like George Ka‘eo, Samson Kapae Mahuiki, Kaipo Chandler, John Hanohano Pa, Barlow Chu, and Thomas Hashimoto keep the memories of Ha‘ena alive.
Andrade concludes by encouraging us to remember the Native Hawaiian place names and their accompanying stories, resist renaming places, seek out our own storied places, and cherish the wisdom of our kupuna.
Carlos Andrade is an inspiring man, the descendants of Hawaii, the Madeira Islands, and Portugal. He has lived as a subsistence farmer and fisherman; and worked as a musician, boat captain, and construction worker. Today he composes songs, writes stories, builds and sails canoes, teaches traditional navigation and astronomy, and works with Native Hawaiian elders to preserve Hawai‘i’s history.