by Petra Sittel
hono = bay, gulch, valley;
as a part of place names such a Honolulu, Honokohau, Honoli´i, Honomanu;
kowai = bay of waters, waters that brake their way through the valley, wind borne waters, fulfillment;
A long time ago Honokowai belonged to the district of Hono- bays that were owned by chief Pi´ilani. He ruled the bays on Maui, Moloka´i and Lana´i that were visible from Lahaina (M.Kawena Pukui).
During the sugar cane era on Maui all streams of the vallies were used to water the plantation lands above the vallies. After the sugar cane industry went down the land has been sold. Since 8 years now there has been an ongoing open discussion between Hawaiians that feel responsible for their ancestors´ lands and the new owners how the land will be divided into parcels and sold as agricultural lots. That implies, how to preserve Hawaiian ancient sites on the property, open the land to public, etc..
Roselle took us to one of those meetings. It was very interesting to study all the human beings gathered and how they were very friendly with one another and had great sushi and KFC snacks, trying to find solutions for their different approaches and interests…..
At the end of that meeting, I was almost a frozen ice cube, Roselle´s brother Ed Lindsey asked for support and ideas on funding money to buy their own tree chipper machine. I wondered for what he needed a tree chipper?! I should have an answer to this question a few days later.
We met with Ed, Puanani, their dog Kaea, Andy and a young Archaeology student Saturday morning at the Lahaina train station where only four wheel drive cars went further up the dirt road through the old sugar cane fields into Honokowai valley. After we parked our cars we unloaded the gardening tools, racks of seedlings and our lunches and started downwards on a narrow trail next to the road.
After a few steps Ed asked all of us to stop. He did a pule (prayer). Then we Malihini (foreigner) were asked to do the Oli Kahea (we successfully mumbled our way through, thank goodness we had had one practise at Sharon´s hula class the other night and Roselle didn´t hear us ☺ ). Puanani kindly did the Oli Komo.
Dominik and I were stunned when we looked down into the valley and saw all these ancient sites that are visible thanks to many hours of man power chopping down huge trees, weeding, planting and watering the new seedlings.
The entire valley bears yet undiscovered archaeological sites. For 3 years Ed and his wife Puanani together with their family, many friends and volunteers have been clearing the wilderness in this valley along the main river and replanting indigenous and endemic Hawaiian plants. What lies hidden under the trees, bushes and ferns are very well preserved foundations of ancient villages, houses, farmlands (such as taro patches), water wells (Hawaiians were famous for their irrigation plants), heiau (temple, place of worship) and much more that today can only be guessed or tuned in about what their uses or meanings were.
We were so moved about the beauty and aliveness of this valley that we didn’t even think of taking any pictures. The next day Ed offered one to us and since Roselle had asked if we wanted to write an article about Honokowai we gratefully took it so all of you can enjoy this incredible site.
While the others started working Ed took Dominik, the Archaeology student and myself on a tour throughout the huge area. He explained how important it is to study all of a place if you want to get a glimpse of how the ancient culture looked like.. Means not only to be keen on how many more stone walls can be found, but what their shape is, their positioning in the entire valley, where the irrigation plants are running, how they used the water to grow their fields, look at landmarks such as singular giant rocks, shapes of platforms, shapes of the surrounding mountains, star constellations year round, which plants grow well, which don’t (aside from too many enemies through exotic plants which will merciless take over again if you stop weeding), which indigenous plants survived etc. There are huge native Wiliwili trees (Hawaiian leguminous tree, lat. Erythrina sandwicensis) and their shining orange to red seeds are covering the grounds in some areas (one can make beautiful leis from them); there are old Kukui trees (candlenut trees, lat. Aleurites moluceana) with their silvery leaves and black, brown, greyish to white nuts once the fruit flesh has fallen off, beautiful ferns covering rocks (some of them were used as medicine) and many other healing herbs and colourful blooming bushes. The only herb I really remember is one used for sore throats: Hi´aloa or ´Uhaloa (lat. Waltheria indica). Puanani explained it to us and made such a sour face to show us how horrible its root tasted when they had to suck on it as kids or gargle with its dilution (mahalo, now I will for ever recognize this plant!).
We enjoyed a marvelous lunch together. Andy had even brought a white table cloth to our all surprise and luxury! At that time Walter Delos Reyes had joined us. He came down on his bike a little later than us and has been working many hours here with Ed and Puanani. His family used to live in this valley.
Then we were shown how and where to plant the little seedlings. That was when I finally found out for what the tree chipper was needed: Chopping down all the trees that were not native to the islands you had to find a way to still use them. Running them through the chipper and turning them into chips you can cover the soil around the planted seedling and will prevent weeds to push up again. Smart! It just took a while till I got it.
After we had planted all of them, watered and surrounded them with chips the heavens did the rest of the work, opening their gates and sending refreshing rain to all of us. That was our sign to gradually pack up and leave this magical place where time does not seem to exist, only peace, joy and awe of life and creation prevail. Grateful, quiet, a little tired and dripping wet we reached the top, sending our mahalo and a hui hou back into the valley when turning around and looking at it once more, with different eyes now. Andy said with a big smile on his face, he had never gotten out dry this year.
I am very happy to share with you this valley that has been recognized and acknowledged by the owners as an archaeological site and that it is prohibited to build upon it or destroy any of the ancient remnants. The former sugarcane fields above will be sold as agricultural lands and part of the land on the other side of the highway towards the ocean of Lahaina belongs to the public now.
Dear Ed and Puanani, mahalo for taking us on this wonderful adventure. Dear Roselle, mahalo for recommending to go there with them J. And dear Jim, mahalo for your wonderful four wheel drive car!!!