Kahikinui is a land district that is approximately 22,860 acres between Kipahulu and Kaupo on the southeastern side of the island. It is bound to the north by Haleakala National Park, to the west by Ulupalakua Ranch and to the east by Haleakala Ranch. The Pacific Ocean laps along its southern boundary.
This YouTube video, “Kahikinui,” was published by Jeremy Johnson using his drone and gives a taste of the sheer expansiveness of the place. (The music is “E Nihi Ka Hele” by the legendary Hawaiian musician Gabby Pahinui)
THE MANY-STORIED LAND
Kahikinui can be a harsh place, a dry and rocky place full of thorns, feral goats and axis deer, and it is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful of Maui’s treasures. The land is mostly undeveloped because of the shortage of water there. Some see it as a good place to put up huge windmills for energy.
Kahikinui is the back of beyond…a hinterland that was inhabited since the early fifteenth century by na kua’aina, the country people. Later planters transformed it into what was called the “greatest continuous zone of dryland planting in the Hawaiian islands.”
It sits mostly empty of people now, but at one time there was a fairly large population. Ruins of old houses, trails, small farms, and a complex system of temples and shrines are scattered throughout the area.
Kahikinui was the subject of a 17-year-long study by anthropologist Patrick Vinton Kirch and his students. He wrote a book about it, KUAAINA KAHIKO, Life and Land in Ancient Kahikinui, Maui. It is an amazing book.
One reviewer calls Kirch “an academic archaeologist who tried to be pono at a time when to be an archaeologist in some circles was to be a social pariah.” Interwoven throughout the book are stories about his relationships with a dedicated group of passionate homesteaders, Ka ‘Ohana o Kahikinui, who were allowed by the Hawaiian Home Lands Commission to set up for a bare-bones homesteading effort.
The Hawaiian Home Lands Commission is a State agency that oversees the distribution of (usually third-rate) farming land to Native Hawaiians, as mandated by the Federal government. That’s a whole, other, very long story fraught with controversy and politics.
The members of the Kahikinui ‘Ohana were willing to do what they had to do to bypass the long, long wait for the government resources to become available to develop the infrastructure that is officially deemed necessary for the people to move back onto the land.
My husband Fred and I were interested in becoming homesteaders there. Two years after Fred died, the land became available. I was offered a chance to acquire a lease for land there, a posthumous award to my husband.
I had to refuse the offer. By myself, I did not feel able to do it. In gratitude, however, I made a prayer/poem for the homesteaders there.
When I gave it to him, this poem made Mo Moler, the charismatic leader of the group, cry. I was very proud of that. Mo is one tough guy, a Vietnam veteran and a wild man. It is not often that he lets himself cry.
Here’s the poem:
E Akua, hear me.
This is your child who calls you.
Our thanks to you for this land:
For the great bowl of sky and the beauty around us,
For the cool of the mountain, the abundance of sea,
We come together now to talk about this land,
This land that needs us as we need this land,
So the land may live,
So we may live.
Help us guard our mouths.
Let our words bring light, not darkness.
Help us clear our na’au and hold to our purpose,
So we can resolve our problems
Let us put our minds together and pool our mana’o
And see what we will make together for our keiki.
Help us hold this land as witness to the beauty that was,
To the beauty that is,
To the beauty that can be.
Let us make from this land more beauty,
And with that beauty we will feed our souls.
Help us remember that we are the bridge between
Those who come before us
And those who come after us.
Let us be strong and true to that memory.
Help us remember who we are,
That we are yours as you are ours
And we are all together.
E Akua, hear me.
This is your child who speaks.
To you we offer the glory of this work we do.
It is yours, all yours.
Let the work be pono.
Let the land be pono.
Let us be pono.
E Akua, be with us.
We who are yours,
by Netta Kanoho
E Akua is a calling out to the Creative and to the ancestors. Na’au literally means “guts” – a person’s center, where all of the emotions and subconscious thoughts and feelings are held – and where Hawaiians feel the human “mind” is really situated. Mana’o is “knowledge.” Keiki is “children.” Pono means being balanced and being righteous.]
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